We all yearn for that nostalgic feeling from our childhood and when I think of Christmas, I’m personally reminded of the old-style cards with sparkly glitter and 1960’s tree decoration characters that I used to nick off the tree and play with. This combined with the memory of hearing Roni Spector pronounce Frosty as “Fworrrsti…” and I’m magically transported back in a reverie. It might seem strange to be speaking about Christmas in June, but as the festive scripts start rolling in this time of year, along comes that feeling.
Stop-motion animation has a magical nostalgic quality that links perfectly with Christmas. You can create refreshing, stylised worlds that feel familiar and parallel our own. I never tire at how magical it can be – when you breathe life into an inanimate object, and it comes alive for the first time. At Aardman, we specialise in stories and characters with humour in, and it’s often the scripts that give us the space to create extra funny moments that work the best. Usually, these moments are created in the storyboarding and animatic stage, where we visualise the script then embellish it. So often it’s what’s not in the script - it’s the gaps and the chance to create extra moments that excites us the most. If the script is wall to wall with action and dialogue and is not open to some kind of interpretation, it can be hard to add that special magic.
A few years back we did a Christmas campaign for Myer - a big Australian flag-ship department store based in Melbourne. We used traditional stop-frame animation to bring a set of nostalgic-looking Christmas decorations to life (yes, I channelled the old retro ones from my mum’s Christmas tree). The point of using stop-motion was to create vintage looking toys but with a fresh modern twist. The characters were made from a mixture of hard cast plastic, wool, paper, material and traditional flock. You may be surprised to hear that no clay was used in the making of Myer – which is the case for a lot of our commercial work.