Aardman is a British animation studio started in 1972 by Peter Lord and David Sproxton. One of their first notable pieces of work as a studio was the creation of Morph for the children’s program ‘Take Hart’.Morph is now a very famous character to a lot of people in Britain as ‘Take Hart’ was an extremely popular children’s television program in the 1960’s.
Despite aniamtion being largely popular with children, Lord and Sproxton wanted to develop an adult audience and so dabbled with more mature themes for their animations. Films such as ‘Early Bird’ showed people that real people can be given new depths by animating puppets in to real life conversations with them.
In the 1980’s Aardman collaborated with the director Stephen Johnson and the band Brothers Quay to make a rock video for one of their songs; ‘Sledgehammer’. Its unique style and visual flair was boosted by their oddball ideas which included a puppet’s face being pulled around as though his skin was loose. The video went on to collect almost every award available to it in the year of its release.
Aardman won an Academy Award in 1993 for its Lord and Sproxton’s work on the animation for Nick Park’s ‘The Wrong Trousers’. The film, half an hour long, won over thirty awards world-wide and is seen to be one of the most successful animated films ever made.
Aardman continued to have great success throughout the 1990’s, earning Lord and Sproxton producer credits for their work on Nick Park’s third Oscar winning film ‘A Close Shave’. It was at this time that Wallace and Gromit were becoming household names in Britain as the starring characters in Park’s greatly successful films.
In 1998, Aardman made a series aimed at kids as well as adults called ‘Rex the Runt’ and claimed an impressive amount of international awards. It was shown on the BBC and directed by long time Aardman associate Richard Goleszowski.
‘Chicken Run’ was released in 2000 and was Aardman’s first full-length film to be funded by Dreamworks. Both Lord and Park directed it. ‘Chicken Run’ was released in both the US and Britain and was reviewed excellently, grossing over $220M worldwide.One of their greatest commercial successes, ‘Chicken Run’ is still an extremely popular film to British audiences despite being 15 years old.
Aardman’s success with Dreamworks continued in 2005 as Wallace and Gromit’s first ever feature film ‘The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ was released in October. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and a BAFTA for Best British Film. It also did very well at the box office, topping charts and grossing healthily. As ‘The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ was released, a warehouse containing lots of models and props caught fire, creating a bittersweet ending to 2005 for Aardman.
‘Flushed Away’ was Aardman’s first ever CG film and their third collaboration with Dreamworks. It was nominated for a BAFTA. In the same year, ‘Shaun the Sheep’ debuted on British television. The series has garnered huge acclaim and is now aired world wide.
The studio has also made other films in the last 7 years, including ‘Arthur Christmas’ and ‘Pirates!’. They have also been doing work off set to promote animation and filmmaking. This has included exhibitions at the Tate Museums.
In 2015, ‘Shaun the Sheep the Movie’ is set to be released. This will be the first taste of the big screen for the character and is Aardman Studio’s most ambitious project yet.
Aardman’s characters and content have also created demand for huge commercials and branded content. This has meant that Aardman now boasts a considerably prestigious list of clients including Chevron, Nike, McVities and Kellogs.
Peter Lord and David Sproxton can be seen as real developers and pioneers of animation as they found ways to take stop motion and claymation into huge feature films. They helped to establish Wallace and Gromit as household characters and have created a simplistic style of characters.