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Stop-Motion Animation

Feathers and Fuzz

Aardman Animations are coming back, with an unusual entry in their portfolio this time. Once again it’s stop motion animation — but in this one the characters are made of felt. Here’s what Animation World Network said: “Netflix has just dropped first look images and a teaser trailer for the upcoming stop-motion animation musical holiday special, Robin Robin, which will debut November 27. The special is produced by Oscar-winning Aardman Animations, stop-motion pioneers known for their animated movies starring fan favorite characters including Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. The 30-minute special, Aardman’s first original production done with Netflix, stars Golden Globe winner Gillian Anderson and Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant… In the special, when her egg fortuitously rolls into a rubbish dump, Robin is raised by a loving family of mice. As she grows up, her differences become more apparent. Robin sets off on the heist to end all heists to prove to her family that she can be a really good mouse – but ends up discovering who she really is.” Take a look at the preview video on YouTube also.

image c. 2021 Aardman Animations

Got a Snail of Tale to Tell Ya, Lads

Max Lang and Magic Light Pictures made a name for themselves more than ten years ago with an animated adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s picture book The Gruffalo. (Soon after, we and everyone else were talking about the film!) Well nothing breeds success like success, so now Magic Light is back with a new stop-motion/CGI adaptation of the author’s 2003 book The Snail and the Whale. “The film’s remarkably realistic and vibrant animation begins with a tiny peach-colored snail who longs to journey outside the confines of her seaport-adjacent rock home and see the depths of the sea and vastness of the wide world. Writing a note on her rock in glistening snail slime that she’s looking to hitch a ride around the world, the snail is visited by a large humpback whale who offers her a ride on his tail for the adventure of a lifetime. As the snail and the whale encounter warm beachside sunsets, brisk mountain ranges, rainbow reefs as well as dangerous storms and sinister sharks, the snail has an existential awakening about her place in the world and wonders what her purpose could be as a small creature on such a large planet.” Animation World Network has a whole lot more, including previews and a look behind the scenes.

image c. 2021 Magic Light Pictures

Careful — They’re Organized

Animation World Network let us know that a sequel to the hit animated film Chicken Run is finally in the works. (Did you know that Chicken Run was the highest-grossing stop-motion animated movie ever?) “The unnamed sequel is set to enter full production in 2021 with Sam Fell (Flushed Away, ParaNorman) at the helm. Aardman co-founder and creative director Peter Lord, long-time Aardman producer Carla Shelley (Shaun the Sheep Movie, The Pirates! Band of Misfits) and Karey Kirkpatrick (Smallfoot) are returning as executive producers; Steve Pegram (Arthur Christmas) is producing. The script is being written by Kirkpatrick, John O’ Farrell and Rachel Tunnard. Nick Park, the Oscar-winning creator of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, will consult on the film… The sequel will revisit the world of Ginger, who has finally found her dream – a peaceful island sanctuary for the whole flock, far from the dangers of the human world. When she and Rocky hatch a little girl named Molly, Ginger’s happy ending seems complete. But back on the mainland the whole of chicken-kind faces a new and terrible threat. For Ginger and her team, even if it means putting their own hard-won freedom at risk – this time, they’re breaking in!” Stay tooned for more information on a release date as we get it.

image c. 2020 Aardman Animation

Golden Dinosaur and Purple… Thing

More from Animation Magazine and Kidscreen: “London-based distributor CAKE has picked up international rights to stop-motion series Kiri and Lou… Featuring paper and clay stop-motion animation from Antony Elworthy (Coraline, Corpse Bride), Kiri and Lou is written and directed by Harry Sinclair and co-produced by Fiona Copland from indie production company Stretchy, and Heather Walker at  Yowza! Animation (Curious George, Welcome to the Wayne). Aimed at three- to six-year-olds, the show focuses on the friendship of a feisty dinosaur and a gentle creature—who are joined by an unlikely group of animal friends.” It also features the voices of Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords, Moana) and Olivia Tennet (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) as the lead characters. Visit the official web site to find out more.

image c. 2018 CAKE

A Little Green Slab of Clay

[Belated, but: Merry Christmas and a Blessed Solstice to all of you!]

He may have dropped below the cultural radar as of late, but there was a time when Gumby was the superstar of stop-motion animation. Now Dynamite Entertainment have brought together the story of Gumby, his friends, and their truly unique creator, Art Clokey. Gumby Imagined: The Story of Art Clokey and His Creations is a new 300-page hardcover book compiled by Art’s son Joe Clokey and daughter-in-law Joan Rock Clokey. “Clay animated superstar Gumby has made an indelible impact on our culture and continues to enchant and entertain generations. Filmmaker Art Clokey’s personal story is one of mystical adventure, tragedy, triumph, art, and most of all, love. This lavish career-spanning retrospective explores the legendary creator’s life and complete works. All of his many creations, including Gumby and Davey & Goliath, are interwoven with a rich tapestry of rare photos and stories — the ingredients for a fascinating tale.” It’s available now from Dynamite, Amazon, and elsewhere.

image c. 2017 Dynamite Enertainment

More Stop-Motion Canines from Wes

The animation community has been a-buzz following the announcement on several sites that Wes Anderson, direction of the Oscar and Ursa Major nominated Fantastic Mr. Fox, is developing another stop-motion animated feature film. About dogs. According to Cartoon Brew, “Details about his new canine cartoon are unavailable at this point. All we know is that it will be stop motion, and like Fantastic Mr. Fox, the production will take place in the UK. The Playlist pointed out the irony that Anderson would choose dogs as subject matter considering his fraught cinematic history with pooches. Dogs have been harmed so frequently in Anderson’s movies that the New Yorker once published a tongue-in-cheek commentary asking, ‘Does Wes Anderson hate dogs?’ Audiences may find out the answer soon.” We’ll have to hope that in this case he treats dogs more like he treated their foxy cousins.

image c. 2015 CartoonBrew.com

image c. 2015 CartoonBrew.com

Indie Animation Looking for Help

Jerry Beck’s Animation Scoop has an interesting article about a pair of independent animation projects in the works — both of which just happen to be very furry. First up is Ghost of a Tale, a new video game designed by Lionel “Seith” Gallat. Lionel has worked as a supervising animator at Dreamworks on movies like The Prince Of Egypt, The Road to Eldorado, Spirit, Sinbad, SharkTale, and others. More recently he’s been a director for Illumination on films like Despicable Me and The Lorax. Ghost of a Tale follows the adventures of a medieval mouse battling rat zombies on a mysterious island. In a very different vein is Dogonauts by Shel and Justin Rasch. “Mortal enemies, a Dogonaut Pilot and a Space Flea, shoot each other down only to awake, marooned side by side on an alien desert planet.” Justin is a stop-motion animator known for films like Paranorman. He and his wife Shel completed Dogonauts in their garage, all the while both of them working full-time jobs. Both of these projects are seeking crowdfunding help to move from their current levels of production up to the next, and hopefully get them out into the world. The Scoop article features trailers as well as the official pitches for each of these projects. Check ’em out.

Dogonauts promo poster by Paul Linsley

The Fantastic Mr. Fox is coming… from Fox!

People are talking about the new stop-motion animation film The Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the book of the same name by the late Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). The film is the first foray into animation for director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums), and it’s being released by (who else?) 20th Century Fox.  For those who don’t know, the story tells of Mr. Fox, who regularly steals chickens and ducks from three mean human farmers (named Boggis, Bunce and Bean) to feed his family.  When the farmers conspire to have them all killed, the foxes conspire right back with a group of badgers, moles, and other undergroud dwellers to take care of the humans once and for all.  The cast includes the voices of George Clooney and Meryl Streep as Mr. and Mrs. Fox, respectively, as well as Anjelica Huston, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Jarvis Cocker, Michael Gambon, Owen Wilson, and Willem Dafoe — several of whom have been frequent Wes Anderson collaborators in the past. The film is scheduled to be released on November 13th of this year, and the first trailers are scheduled to hit theaters on July 31st.