Video: Aardman Animations is one of only a few studios keeping the art of stop-motion animation alive. But for its latest feature, Early Man, even Aardman's talented animators took advantage of modern filmmaking tricks to help bring an entire stadium full of Bronze Age soccer fans to life.
Sometimes the best thing to do is just doodle. That's how longtime Aardman director Nick Park came up with the idea for the company's latest stop-motion animated film, Early Man. He knew he wanted to do something about cavemen but that was as far as the idea went. Then he started drawing.
Given the grand scope of Early Man, which takes place thousands of years ago when volcanoes were startlingly common, the film used more visual effects - including sets and characters - than any of Aardman's previous features to bring the prehistoric world to life. Stop-motion animation techniques were still used to bring Early Man's leading characters to life, but when you're only churning out about three seconds of footage every day, some shortcuts are necessary.
As this visual effects breakdown reel by Axis VFX reveals, not only were bluescreens used to extend the breadth and scope of some of the practical miniature sets built at Aardman's studios, even some of the claymation characters themselves were digitally realised to help make cities and other crowded locales feel more alive.
Is it cheating? If you're a stop-motion purist, you might balk at Aardman's use of digital filmmaking technologies. But the company simply wouldn't be able to stay in business if it had to animate thousands of soccer fans by hand. It would have taken a decade to get Early Man out the door, and then we'd have one less studio keeping this art alive.