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

ImagineFX - - Reviews -

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.

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