It’s 10 a.m. in an enormous studio in Bristol, England. For hours, a film crew has been adjusting lights and setting up cameras for the morning’s shoot. The stars of today’s scene are waiting off set, their intricate costumes receiving last-minute touch-ups, their stunt doubles ready.
Action time. The camera begins its journey down a railway-like structure, capturing the scene frame by frame. There’s silence on set. Then disaster strikes.
The ear of the leading lady has fallen straight off, landing on the set’s wooden floor with a soft “phut.” An assistant rushes over and the cameraman curses, knowing he’ll need to reshoot the scene. Everyone’s wondering the same thing: how easy will it be to reattach the organ?
Despite the chaos, there’s no blood. No ambulance is called, no movie contracts studiously examined. Why? Because the star of this scene is a clay puppet, whose movements are animated in meticulous detail by a team of professionals at Aardman Studios. Aardman is the home of stop-motion animation, also known as “claymation,” and the studio is best known for the creation of Wallace and Gromit, an eccentric inventor and his intelligent dog who, in the 1990s, became some of England’s most beloved characters.
Ahead of the release of the Aardman’s seventh feature film, Early Man, TIME visited their studio in Bristol. The family-friendly adventure comedy, which stars Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston and Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams and hits U.S. screens on Feb. 16, continues the studio’s long tradition of prioritizing a lovingly handmade feel even as the rest of the world goes digital.
Aardman’s origins: From a teenage hobby to the Oscars
Schoolmates Peter Lord and David Sproxton began animating together as a hobby when they were teenagers, using a 16mm clockwork Cine Camera belonging to Sproxton’s father, an amateur photographer and a producer at the BBC. The pair played around with cut-outs from magazine color supplements and chalk drawings, spending weeks making fun one-minute clips.
“Through pure nepotism,” according to Sproxton, their first work came with Vision On, a BBC show for children who were deaf or hard of hearing that ran from 1964 to 1976. Aardman Animations, named after an early character, was registered as a company in 1972, and the pair moved to Bristol around four years later.
Lord and Sproxton worked steadily, earning their first Academy Award in 1990 for their short film Creature Comforts (1989), in …
Source:: Time – Entertainment