ANNECY — As Aardman Animations gears up to shoot “Early Man,” one of the biggest animated features coming out of Europe, co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton accepted MIFA and Variety’s second Animation Personality of the Year Award at a ceremony June 15 at the Annecy Festival. The occasion was inevitably laced, the awardees being Aardman, with a large dose of humour. They followed in the footsteps of Chris Meledandri and Illumination Entertainment, the 2015 winners of the plaudit.
Mickael Marin, head of Annecy’s MIFA’s market, and Peter Debruge, Variety’s Chief Film Critic, presented the award, with Debruge delivering what he termed a personal reflection. It will however resonate with many film lovers.
“We all grew up loving animated movies, Disney movies, whatever, but Aardman, which I discovered at junior high, bridged the gap and gave me permission to love animation all my life.”
Since then, Debruge added, “this tiny group of creative, nutty guys have conquered the world, and we’ve seen this not just in feature films but TV and advertising.”
Netting $106.8 million back in 2000, Aardman’s “Chicken Run” indeed remains one of the highest, if not the highest-grossing of European animation productions in the U.S. Nearer the present, Aardman produced two of the four biggest European animation hits in Europe over 2010-14: “Arthur Christmas” and “The Pirates: Band of Misfits.”
“There are few companies in Europe which have created movies where all generations can have fun and Aardman is one of them,” Marin opined.
40 years in the business, Aardman has always, however, worn its greatness lightly It was most certainly not going to change when accepting the Mifa-Variety 2016 Animation Personality of the Year Award.
“The prize says ‘Personality of the Year’ and my theory is this should go to Aardman himself,” Lord said of the hopeless hero of the company’s very first movie. He added: “In the world of animation, you don’t get many big egos, outrageously colourful personalities, you get many decent, hardworking people who love what they do. This award isn’t just about Dave and me – though obviously we are pretty spectacular.”
“It’s all about the staff we have at Aardman. The Award should say ‘Personalties’ to recognize all the hard work all our people do back in Bristol. Thank you hugely,” Sproxton concluded.