Published 11th May 2023

Studio Spotlight: Zoe Critchley - Archivist

This week, we're shining the spotlight on Archivist Zoe Critchley, who shares her serendipitous journey to Aardman...

Jeadshot of Zoe Critchley, Archivist at Aardman 
Tell us about your role at Aardman:

One of the things I love most about my role is that every day is different! We are a small team – just Senior Archivist Tom Vincent and myself – and on top of managing Aardman’s physical and digital archive of assets, we support many departments across the company. This includes handling internal requests and queries, being involved in post-production and (sometimes) pre-production, and working with the Attractions & Live Experiences team to set up exhibitions. I also keep busy updating the archive databases and digitising artwork.

How did you get into the industry?

I actually got into it through the heritage industry. I studied BA Heritage, Archaeology and History at Bangor University and MA Cultural Heritage Management at the University of York with the intention of working in the archive or museum sectors. I worked as an assistant in the archive of a WW2 & modern history museum before taking some time out to travel.

I happened to be in Melbourne when the Art of Aardman exhibition was at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. I have always had a keen interest in the film and animation industries, and grew up watching Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run and Flushed Away with my sisters so of course I had to go! I remember sharing on social media how much I loved it and how amazing it was to see the sets, props, models and concept art. I also remember thinking what a dream job it would have been to work on that exhibition; a perfect combination of the heritage, animation and film industries.

Coincidentally, a couple of months later, I was back home in Yorkshire applying for jobs and Aardman advertised a position in its archive. The first time I came to Bristol was for the interview, and I moved down several weeks later for the job! It felt like one of those ‘meant to be’ moments – and still feels that way!

What’s your all-time favourite project that you’ve been involved with and why?

One of my favourite projects was working on the  Animating Early Man exhibition at the M-Shed in Bristol. With it being a large, local exhibition, it was the first Aardman exhibition I was thoroughly involved in throughout the whole process; the planning, installation and deinstallation. I ended up visiting it several times with different family and friends who wanted to see it, so was able to give them a pretty in-depth guided tour!

To date, what has been your biggest professional achievement?

One that immediately springs to mind was attending the Bristol premiere of A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon and seeing my name in the credits. A first film credit is an unforgettable moment for a film geek! It was such a joy to see my name on the big screen alongside all the supremely talented people I had and have the honour to work with.

Name three people who inspire you and why:

Other than my family and friends, who inspire me all the time, and the people at Aardman, who do incredibly inspiring work both within and outside of the company, I find the work of authors like Susanna Clarke and Neil Gaiman, and lyricists like Stephen Schwartz inspiring. I write in my free time, so have such admiration for all great worldbuilders, wordsmiths and storytellers.

Who is your favourite Aardman character and why?

I have two. A bit of a cheat I know. First off, I adore Gromit (who doesn’t?!) He’s smart, resourceful, loyal, super cute and so wonderfully expressive. I also love Ginger. Not just because she’s a fellow Northern lass, but because I admire her pluck, her ambition and her big heart. She’s not just a chicken, she’s a role model!