studio. The studio has achieved
widespread acclaim for their claymation
famously the Wallace and Gromit short
s and the Dreamworks
Founded in 1972 by David Sproxton and Peter Lord,
who had started producing cel-based animation with a 16mm
They set up in Bristol, UK, where they are still based, because
their earliest commissions were from the BBC units based in
the city. These included Morph, which appeared on the children's
art show Take Hart. Morph was based on Lord and Sproxton's first commission, a mostly featureless superhero called Aardman produced for Take Hart's predecessor, Vision On.
The big break for the company, and
their first Oscar, came from their Lip Sync project, which
matched interviews with real people to animated characters. The most
memorable of these was Nick Park's Creature Comforts, which took the form of
interviews with animals in a zoo. This was later remade by Aardman
for a spectacularly unsuccesful series of commercials for
the Electricity Association. Although the adverts were excellent, everyone thought they
were for gas. Offers of work were
soon flooding in, including a stunning promo for Peter Gabriel's
Sledgehammer. Much of the studio's bread-and-butter work is in TV commercials, for which they are in constant demand.
With Nick Park's 30-minute A Grand Day Out, Aardman launched
their most successful creations, Wallace and Gromit onto the world.
Two follow ups, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave won Oscars for
the studio, and soon built up successful merchandising revenues. Further projects included Rex the Runt, a sitcom commissioned by the BBC, and Angry Kid, released on the internet and spread virally. They
also signed a five picture deal with Dreamworks, with their first
feature Chicken Run starring (the voice of) Mel Gibson, being released
in summer 2000, to large commercial success.
Aardman faced major problems during the making of their second feature, the first feature length Wallace and Gromit film. It was over five years in production and at one stage looked to be in jeopardy. First drafts of the script did not meet their high standards, and necessitated major re-writes. They suffered pressure from Dreamworks to deliver
a picture or return the money they had received. This risked bankrupting the company,
or the loss of control of their prize properties, Wallace and Gromit. Jaffrey Katzenburg took to phoning daily, and making regular trips to Bristol in his private jet. Eventually the creases were ironed out and the Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was released in October 2005 to critical and commercial acclaim.
In the early hours of 10th October 2005 the fire brigade were called to a blaze at Aardman's warehouse near Bristol Temple Meads Station, used as a storage facility for the studio's older creations. Firefighters struggled to tackle the blaze as a risk of structural collapsed prevented their entering the building. On a day when the studio should have been celebrating a weekend at the top of the US box office, much of their history was being destroyed as the warehouse burnt to an empty shell. The fire took over 24 hours to extinguish, taking with it most of the studios models and sets. However those from the lastest movie were spared, as they were being displayed in an exhibition at the city's At Bristol museum. Speaking days after the Kashmir earthquake, Nick Park put the fire into perspective, "Even though it's precious stuff and nostalgic - and it's dreadful news for the company, in the light of other tragedies it's not a big deal.".