The Art of Aardman
Animation archive The maker of Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Morph reveals the concept work behind some of its most famous projects
Concept work from some of the studio’s famous projects, such as Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Morph.
Famous around the world for its stop-motion animations, Aardman Studios has entertained generations of viewers with its distinctive and whimsical films. The Art of Aardman gives readers a glimpse into how the company develop its iconic characters and sets, by sharing a wealth of concept art, sculptures and sketches.
This is the studio’s first combined collection of artwork, and it opens with separate introductions by Aardman’s co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton, charting their lifelong journeys as animators and filmmakers. These short introductions are the bulk of the book’s text, but they give a good-enough impression of how writers and artists develop stories and characters, as well as how the studio overcomes challenges and adapts to technological advances.
The book is split into six chapters covering an animator’s main tasks: shaping an idea, designing characters, creating worlds, preparing props, making machines, and lighting a scene. Through doodles on scraps of paper and photos of completed models, chapters chart the development of relatively small projects all the way through to feature films.
However, a lot of the images look as if they’re near the end of the creative process. Concept sketches of the villainous penguin from The Wrong Trousers, or the escapee chickens from Chicken Run, appear very similar to what we see on screen. Without explanatory notes, it’s unclear how many iterations were worked through before these designs were settled on.
Sometimes you see character development, such as pencil sketches revealing the evolution of Lady Campanula Tottington’s hairstyle and the shape of the Were-Rabbit. Yet the images themselves are left to do all the work, and for readers looking for more in-depth artistic insight this may prove frustrating.
There is interesting minutiae to be found in pencil sketches and ink drawings of characters including Morph, and Wallace & Gromit. Here, comical details such as Wallace watching Coronation Street in his spaceship and Morph’s shape-shifting antics reveal the character and humour that have helped Aardman become the successful studio it is today.
The Mind Manipulation-O-Matic: a production still from The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
Gromit in the Greenhouse, from The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, 2005.