Aardman's adeptness of engaging audiences with compelling stories told through animation, has earned the company a deserved worldwide reputation. Their award-winning work produces a unique brand of independent film alongside work for broadcast and advertising spots. The studio has had ten Oscar® nominations, and has won four.
Peter Lord and David Sproxton began their animating partnership at school. In 1972 they registered the name Aardman Animations. After graduating, they moved to Bristol in 1976 where they produced their first professional production, creating Morph for the children’s programme 'Take Hart'.
From the start Peter and David were interested in developing an adult audience for model animation. Conversation Pieces commissioned by Channel Four Television in 1982 enabled the pair to develop its innovative technique of animating puppet characters to real-life conversations. With films like Early Bird (set in a local radio station) Aardman demonstrated that real people could be characterised with insight, humour and sensitivity.
Peter and David met Nick Park at the National Film and Television School when he was working on his student film A Grand Day Out. He joined Aardman full time in 1985.
In 1989 the studio was again commissioned by Channel Four Television to create a series of five 5-minute films, Lip Synch. This ground-breaking series further explored the world of animation based on true characters and real voices and included Peter Lord's War Story and Going Equipped, Barry Purves' Next, Richard Goleszowski's Ident and Nick Park's Creature Comforts, which went on to win the 1990 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
In 1995 Aardman produced Nick Park's third Oscar winning film A Close Shave. An immediate success, it confirmed the studio’s reputation as well as establishing Wallace and Gromit as household names. In 1996 the studio produced Peter Lord's Oscar nominated 11 minute short film, Wat's Pig (for Channel Four) as well as a children's series based on Morph, The Morph Files.
In 1998, Aardman won a BAFTA for Stage Fright, an 11 minute short film commissioned by Channel Four Television. Steve Box, Nick Park's key animator on both The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave, directed Stage Fright.
The studio’s first animated television series for youth and adults, Rex The Runt, created and directed by long time Aardman associate Richard Goleszowski, was first shown on BBC2 in 1998 and garnered many top international awards. A second series was commissioned and shown on BBC2 in 2001. Angry Kid, directed by Darren Walsh, was Aardman’s first series released exclusively on the internet via Atomfilms.com. BBC Three commissioned a second series which played a major part in the channel’s launch.
Chicken Run was Aardman’s first full-length theatrical feature film to be funded by DreamWorks. Directed by both Peter Lord and Nick Park it was released in June 2000 in the US and UK to excellent reviews and outstanding box office receipts. Chicken Run has grossed over $220M at the worldwide box office.
In autumn 2002 Aardman released Cracking Contraptions, a series of 10 x 1 minute Wallace and Gromit films. The films debuted on the Internet and were viewed by hundreds of thousands of people world-wide. All 10 films were then shown on BBC1 over the 2002 autumn and Christmas schedule. The films were also released online in the US via AtomFilms who went on to offer a subscription package for all ten.
As the success of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit reverberated around the world a fire swept through a storage warehouse containing models, props and many other treasures created by the animators and designers at Aardman.
Flushed Away, the studio's first CG film was released worldwide by DreamWorks in November 2006, it was nominated for a BAFTA in 2007.
Aardman's television series, Shaun the Sheep debuted on BBC1 and CBBC in March 2007. Inspired by Nick Park’s 1995 Academy Award winning short film A Close Shave, the series has been sold worldwide. Also in 2007 Aardman produced a US version of Creature Comforts. The studio began to expand with the founding of a brand new Digital department, a division dedicated to producing digital content and creating engaging online communities, teleporting Aardmans entertainment expertise into the virtual world.
Wallace and Gromit’s A Matter of Loaf and Death was broadcast on BBC One on Christmas day 2008 and enthralled a record audience of 16.15 million. It was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Short Animated Film category and went on to win the BAFTA for Best Animated Short Film. Every Wallace and Gromit adventure has now won a BAFTA and they have all been nominated for an Oscar.
In 2009 Wallace and Gromit featured in ‘The World of Cracking Ideas’ a major exhibition held at the Science Museum in London that attracted over half a million UK visitors to date. Timmy Time, Aardman’s first pre-school television production debuted on CBeebies and the much anticipated second series of Shaun the Sheep began broadcasting on BBC One.
Later that year the studio partnered with Tate Museums and Legacy Trust UK on a major filmmaking project, a challenge to get children across the UK to come together and contribute ideas for an animated movie via a successful online community. The Tate Movie Project was the first of its kind, and on the film’s release in 2011 set a new Guinness World Record for the ‘Largest Number of Contributors to a Film Production’. The project won a number of innovation and interactive awards including BAFTA for Best Interactive. The company now holds three unbeaten world records.
In 2010 a new six part TV series - Wallace and Gromit’s World of Invention was produced and broadcast on BBC One – an accompanying website and game were developed, extending the viewer’s experience across multiple platforms and went on to win the company its first BAFTA for New Media.
As part of the studio's feature film deal with Sony Pictures Animation (SPE), Arthur Christmas – an action-adventure comedy set on Christmas Eve was released in November 2011 and The Pirates! - In An Adventure With Scientists — a delicious confection of piracy on the high seas, was released in March 2012 and received an Academy Award nomination the following year.
2013 saw over 80 giant Gromit sculptures decorating the streets of Bristol for 10 weeks in the Gromit Unleashed trail. This was one of the highest-profile charity arts-trails the country has ever seen. The phenomenon boasted an eclectic line-up of artists, celebrities and fashion designers who created designs for the 5ft Gromits, attracting over 1.2 million visitors and reportedly contributing a massive £120 million to the Bristol economy. The trail culminated in an exhibition in September, and a thrilling auction, led by TV celebrity auctioneer Tim Wonnacott, which raised a huge £2,357,000.00 for Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal and Bristol’s Children’s Hospital.
This unique charity initiative was replicated with Shaun in the City, where 120 giant Shaun the Sheep sculptures decorated the streets of London and Bristol in the Spring and Summer of 2015 which went on to raise over £1,000,000 for children’s hospitals throughout the UK.
In April 2013 Aardman announced an exciting new independent filmmaking partnership with StudioCanal to create the first feature length Shaun the Sheep movie which saw a worldwide theatrical release in 2015. Following the success of their first collaboration, Aardman and StudioCanal have gone into production on a new film from Academy award-winner Nick Park, a prehistoric adventure titled Early Man which will be released in 2018.
Production continues at the studio, with the fifth series of Shaun the Sheep in production, a half hour special Shaun the Sheep: The Farmer’s Llamas being produced for Christmas 2015 and a number of feature films projects in development.
As the studio’s reputation has grown both in the UK and overseas, so has the demand for its commercials, branded content and digital work. Agencies appreciate the contribution that Aardman’s directors and creatives can make to an original idea and the company has built up an impressive client list including Chevron, BBC, Serta, Department of Health, Nike, McVities, Kellogg's, Macmillan and Cartoon Network to name a few.
This work has continued to diversify with innovative high profile content created for the Imperial War Museum, unique BBC Radio trailers, Google Spotlight technology and the first ever global cinema ad for Project Everyone’s Global Goals campaign.
Aardman continue to develop its attractions and live events business across the world, with an ever expanding portfolio of interactive experiences, theme parks, live shows and exhibitions in development.
In March 2015, an exhibition celebrating the art of Aardman opened at Art Ludique in Paris ahead, of the company celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016.
Their work continues to be both innovative, entertaining, brilliantly characterised and full of charm, reflecting the talent, energy and personal commitment of all the people who comprise the Aardman team.