Regional Toon Spotlight: United Kingdom

Aardman alums expand beyond stop motion

Aardman is a tough place to quit. The Bristol-based studio, home of Wallace and Gromit, is good at hanging onto the outstanding talent it breeds.

“It’s an incredible, unique powerhouse of animation,” says Aardman’s former head of development, Michael Rose. “It has been hugely influential on the world animation scene, particularly in the way they have developed characters and made them come to life. It’s one of the best places there is to work, so a lot of people find it hard to leave. If the creative talent do go elsewhere, they often come back again.”

Nonetheless, Rose is proving there’s life after Aardman. He left after “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” to launch Magic Light Pictures in partnership with Martin Pope.

“I had a fantastic eight years at Aardman, but I wanted to run my own company and I was intrigued to do some live action. Also, I felt there was an opportunity in developing animated features for grown-up audiences,” he explains.

Rose is producing “Chico and Rita” by Spanish auteur Fernando Trueba, which marries Trueba’s passion for Cuban jazz with the visuals of world-renowned graphic designer Javier Mariscal. It’s a mix of 2-D and 3-D animation, produced partly at Studio Mariscal in Barcelona, and partly in a bespoke studio set up by Magic Light on the Isle of Man.

After winning the animated short Oscar in 2001, Claire Jennings joined Aardman to produce “Creature Comforts” and “Were-Rabbit.” She now works at Laika Studios in Portland, Ore., where she produced “Coraline,” which boasts several other ex-Aardman names buried deep in the credits.

Sam Fell worked his way up through the ranks of Aardman animators to co-direct “Flushed Away,” and then was drafted as the third and final director of Universal/Framestore’s “The Tale of Despereaux.” His “Flushed Away” co-director David Bowers originally came from the DreamWorks side to help storyboard “Chicken Run” and “Were-Rabbit,” and is now directing “Astro Boy” for Summit.

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