Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Wallace & Gromit Claymation and other Aardman Productions

The British clay-animation studio Aardman Animations was most famous for the Wallace and Gromit series of shorts [Wallace was a befuddled, cheese-addicted Englishman inventor, with a silent, wily companion dog named Gromit]. Before becoming recognized, Aardman produced by a series of popular television ads featuring singing California Raisins (named A.C., Red, Stretch and Bebop).

Aardman's writer-director Nick Park was responsible for these hits: Creature Comforts (1989) which examined how zoo animals felt about being placed in confined locations; the thirty-minute Wallace and Gromit - The Wrong Trousers (1993) with a frantic toy-train finale - the 1993 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short Film.

And then along with DreamWorks, Aardman produced their first feature film - the remarkable prison-break parody Chicken Run (2000) about an imprisoned group of egg-laying chickens plotting an escape. Mel Gibson starred as a cocky Yankee rooster. Its denial of a Best Picture nomination led to the creation of the Best Animated Feature category - first available for eligible films in the year 2001. The horror spoof Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) was the first feature-length film starring the pair, and the first stop-motion/'claymation' film to win the Best Animated Feature Academy Award.

The animated comedy Flushed Away (2006), was co-produced by Aardman Feature Films and DreamWorks Animation - it was Aardman Films' first completely CGI film about an aristocratic rat named Roddy (voice of Hugh Jackman) whose life was ruined by a low-brow ruffian rat named Sid (voice of Shane Richie). The film was originally to be stop-motion claymation, but due to the abundance of water effects, the entire film was transformed into CGI -- however, the characters still resembled Aardman's trademark plasticene characters.

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