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Aardman Studios

Aardman studios in Bristol is one of the most successful animation studios. Watch creative director, Merlin Crossingham, talk about the company.
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Within Aardman, because of the range of things we do, we have two studios. We have our headquarters where we make our short films and commercial-style projects. And we also have a feature film studio, which is slightly on the edge of town, and is absolutely massive. And it’s huge because feature films and series production is a big thing. It’s hundreds of people coming together to create. On a feature film, you might have 40 stages. And some stages might only be tiny, but some of them are many metres across. It’s the same as making any film. Film takes a lot of space. Even an animated feature film, even though it’s smaller, it still takes a lot of space.
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As a director, I sit at the top of a big triangle of people on a production. I would work closely with a producer. And together we would marshall quite a large group of extremely talented people. So, in that list, you would have animators, directors of photography, and model makers. And model makers, for us, make the puppets. Then we’d have the art department. Art department is in charge of any scenery that you might see or the environment. Underneath the director of photography, you have spark, or an electrician as they might know, who prepare and look after all of the lights and the electrics that are involved in a shoot.
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Within the model making, you have people who specialise in foam latex, silicon, sculpting, armature making. And armatures are the skeletons inside the puppets. Inside the art department, you have people who are specialists in shaping landscape, making trees, props, practical elements that might have to move mechanically, and chippies. Chippy is another name for someone who works with wood. So, it just goes on and on and on and on. And there’s so many specialisms within filmmaking. And some people can do a little bit of everything. And some people really kind of focus in on one specific job. And I’m lucky enough that everybody here, who works with us on our projects, are masters at their own craft.
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And it’s very inspiring to work with other people who are really good at what they do. As a director, I don’t have to be an expert in any subject. I just need to have an understanding of what they do and help them get the best out of their own craft, so that it makes my project better. And I think that’s a wonderful thing to be to work with so many great people.
Animation is a methodical and time-consuming process. You can animate on your own but if you want to make ambitious projects then, as for any film production, you need a team of people working with the same purpose and vision.
Jobs in animation are usually clearly defined and often specialised.
Merlin uses his experience at Aardman studios to explain some of the jobs on a stop motion production. You only have to look at the credits on an animation film to grasp the sense of scale involved.

Is there anything Merlin says that surprises you?

What do you think the main considerations are when planning an animation film?

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Explore Animation

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