Aardman Animations has recently launched a new, self-funded short film programme to showcase the talents of its directors and the first two films have been released.
Fly, shown above, tells the story of a pesky insect that gets in the way of a couch-potato enjoying quality time with his TV. It is directed by Alan Short, who says: “This set up is the premise for a series of silly gags, in the style of a homage to such animation greats as Tex Avery and Chuck Jones.
“The character design is extreme to say the least,” he continues. “Both the man and dog are each the result of just one or two quick drawings – I’m not a fan of over-designing, I prefer the freshness that you get from working quickly and loosely. The intention was for the characters to look funny in their own right yet not over-shadow the humour of the performances.
“We experimented with the look of the environment, as we initially thought that the extreme design of the two hero characters would need an equally stylised apartment to live in but, in actual fact, we found that a fairly realistic-looking set worked pretty well in the end.
“The crazy 1970s style patterns helped a lot, with horribly clashing wallpaper and carpet. We liked the idea that the flat hadn’t changed in years, yet the man has a brand new and contemporary television set, suggesting that he cares nothing about lifestyle and soft furnishings but TV is a very important thing in his life!” The film was made using Maya and After Effects.
Blind Date is by Nigel Davies, and tells the story of a lighthouse keeper’s search for true love. “Internet dating has boomed in popularity and become the source of fascinating tales of mis-matched dates,” says Davies. “I set the film in a timeless place where there are Victorian piers, wind farms and lighthouses still inhabited by people who dress for dinner and have broadband internet connections.
“I wanted the visual style to be sketchily drawn, a bit scribbly, scratchy, rubbed out and smudged. Early designs included using charcoal, but a combination of soft pencils, hard pencils and smudge-sticks worked best; a celebration of the tactile quality of pencil on paper. The characters were animated traditionally so that the graphite could be smudged into the ‘tooth’ of the paper. The drawings were then scanned and coloured in Digicel’s Flipbook software and output as targa files for compositing.
“A consequence of an early exploration into an all CGI treatment was incorporated in the environments. Drawn background layouts were projected onto geometry in Maya, this gave us the possibility to use 3D camera moves in some shots and a 3D quality to selected background elements. From these Maya scenes line, depth, colour and shading passes were rendered out; these were combined in After Effects with the drawn character layers.
“It has taken over two years to complete this three-minute short, squeezed between and dotted around commercials. This made maintaining a momentum to the production difficult, but then it acted as a great contrast to the usual quick turnover, high pressure commercial work.”