Aardman Director Bram Ttwheam talks us through the making of Time Flies – our watercolour style animated film for the RSPB, produced in collaboration with creative agency Catsnake.
It was a company called Catsnake who first approached us with this project. They do a lot of work with charitable organisations and produce pieces with strong narratives and a lot of heart.
The RSPB is an organisation with a proud history dating back over a hundred years. They’ve worked tirelessly with public and official bodies to mitigate damage and habitat loss caused by human activity. They also educate and inspire new generations in ways that are inclusive and future facing. Basically they care deeply and want to protect, preserve AND create new reserves for wildlife that we can all enjoy.
The brief had to communicate all this and remain engaging throughout which is quite a challenge in a 60 second spot. Catsnake came up with the concept of a time traveling bird which was a very rich seam to mine and lent neatly to a catchy title. We chatted about the possibilities and how animation could help a piece of such scope. It was a far ranging conversation that included many subjects like style, time-lapse, symbolism and much more. It was a great way to all get on the same page, share creative ideas and establish a healthy working relationship.
In the spot we tell the story of a fledgling who, encouraged by its parents, takes its first flight. Desperately trying to keep up with its parents we see through its eyes and the impact humans are having on the world. The landscape rapidly changes as though it’s flying through the ages to remain with its family. These changes provide obstacles and dangers to our little hero. Urban creep, technology, travel and pollution are separating the bird from its home. At last it spies a small garden – an oasis in a hostile world. The garden represents the small things we can all do to help and how the RSPB can offer guidance. Once refreshed the fledgling is able to continue the journey to a nearby future and a home in environments renewed by the work of the RSPB.
I found this project particularly attractive for a number of reasons. The narrative core being so rich and the chance to play stylistically were hugely appealing, but more than that it’s a cause I personally believe in. As a child I was a keen bird spotter and I’ve an abiding love for nature. The RSPB were an influence on me personally and I enjoy sharing my knowledge with my own family. Now, more than ever, this kind of work is vital. Every time we lose a species or a habitat is destroyed that loss will be felt by future generations. The damage is far more insidious than it may at first appear.
One of the earliest decisions was which species the bird should be. It had to be something easily recognisable to everyone and not just bird spotters. Robins were discussed but their association with Christmas meant that a blue tit seemed more fitting. They’re so familiar, cute and recognisable; they were perfect.
With over 20 years’ experience, Bram has worked for a number respected UK animation companies and has contributed to many features and shorts including four BAFTA winners.
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