Aardman Animations isn’t Pixar. To some that’s bad, but to others it’s very, very good.
For starters, they are British (based out of Bristol, several clicks west of London). Secondly, they’ve been around much longer – launching way back in 1972. And lastly, they work much slower than their animation counterparts at Pixar, preferring to put out a feature every couple of years … no matter how long it takes to get something just right.
At Aardman, the creative hands rely on stop-motion animation, a deliberate process of slightly moving clay characters so they can be photographed, thereby creating the illusion of movement. The painstaking process requires utmost attention to minute details, though the studio’s enormous effort has paid off in such brilliant features as Chicken Run and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – the latter featuring Aardman’s most popular characters, Wallace and Gromit.
On Friday, Aardman takes to the high seas with a band of merry treasure seekers for The Pirates! Band of Misfits
, which casts Hugh Grant as Pirate Captain, a leader who’d like – just once – to win a coveted Pirate of the Year competition. Grant told me in a recent interview that he was forced to change the tone of his voice in the sound booth at Aardman because the animators already had come up with the look of the character, and he felt compelled to alter his delivery to match their design.
“These animators do it differently from a lot of American cartoons now where these characters – the visual aspect of the character – are slightly modeled to look like Tom Hanks or Will Smith or whomever it is. They are more old-fashioned in England, and they’d already created [Pirate Captain], looking like he does, by the time they came to me. So I had to look at him and think, ‘I have to match my voice to that.’ So yes, I had to do a bit of acting.”
Grant’s comments inspired me to dig up a behind-the-scenes featurette Aardman had shared that shows exactly how they do things at the classic animation studio. I’m sharing it below. And once you’ve finished with that, be sure to read our very own Elisa Osegueda’s comprehensive set visit
to Aardman’s Bristol studio, where she reveals exactly how this unique type of animation comes together on screen.
Then take the kids to see the wildly amusing The Pirates! Band of Misfits when it opens in theaters on Friday, April 27. I can practically guarantee you’ll have yo ho ho and a bottle of fun.