Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Escape Studios Visits Aardman Animation!

Hanging out with Shaun and Dad
Aardman animation is arguably our most famous animation company here in the UK - Britain's answer to Pixar or DreamWorks.  Aardman's films have a universal appeal, and characters such as Wallace and Gromit have conquered the box office all around the world. Shaun the Sheep is their latest success story, making $85m worldwide.

I was in Bristol on Friday to see Aardman's latest showcase of student work. Their twelve week animation programme, sponsored by the NFTS, is one of the few short courses in the UK that seriously teach the art of 3D character animation, not unlike the 12 week course we're running early next year.

Aardman is also the place where my father works. Dad has had studio space there for some years now, where he has been working on his latest short film - Prologue - which is now a contender for the Best Animated Short category for the 2016 Oscars.

So, a visit to Aardman is also a chance to catch up with him, and see his latest work. You can see a clip from Prologue in the short video below.

Dad has not been idle. With Prologue now completed, he is well into the first act of the full film. The work isn't going fast - but it looks beautiful.  His working title, half-joking, is "Will I Finish It Before I Die?".

Beneath the video at YouTube there are lots of positive comments from fans, many of them suggesting a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the project. Which sounds like a great idea, but I'm not sure if Dad could work any faster if he raised the money.

He could hire an assistant or two, but the film is so dependent on his personal style that I wonder if that could ever really work out.
Personalised sheep

Aardman, as a studio, has a great atmosphere. It's friendly and creative, with beautiful artwork all over the walls. They also take very seriously the business of nurturing fresh talent, and bringing up young animators.

When I got back to London I watched my DVD of the Shaun The Sheep Movie. It's a great film - a real animator's project. Because it's essentially a silent movie, the performances from the characters have to come through the animator's skill in mime and pantomime. Every shot is like a moment from an old Charlie Chaplin film. And even one of the characters, a stray dog, feels like an homage to the stock sad orphan girl character from the old silent era.

Of course, here at Escape Studios we don't teach the stop-frame animation that Aardman tend to specialise in. But they do 3D digital animation too, and increasingly this is a growing part of their business.

If you'd like to know more about our own short courses in 3D animation, follow this link.


PS Below is the demo reel of student work done at the Aardman Animation Course

2015 Aardman Academy NFTS Character Animation Course Graduation Reel from Katie Daniels on Vimeo.

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