Aardman have been producing lovable characters with their distinctive stop-motion animation utilising clay for nearly 50 years now. Whether it be the old-school days of the original Wallace and Gromit TV shorts or even the cheeky Morph character from the 70s, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t fallen for one of their characters. With the upcoming release of their latest instalment Early Man, we have decided to look at some of the best characters Aardman have created since their clay creations hit the big screen…
6. Mr Bobo – The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012)
The studio clearly has a soft spot for animated animals as in all of their feature films they are depicted with human levels of intelligence. In fact, as with Mr Bobo in The Pirates!, our furry friends are often given a superior level of wits and capability than their human counterparts. As the mute but loyal sidekick to the genius historical figure Charles Darwin (David Tennant), Mr Bobo’s unflappable countenance and exhausting use of cue cards to communicate is a great source of humour throughout the film. Much like the iconic Gromit figure, a look from Mr Bobo acts as a gentle reminder that mankind are, often, complete idiots.
5. Rita – Flushed Away (2006)
When posh pet-rat Roddy (Hugh Jackman) is flushed into the London sewers and bumps into street-rat Rita an adventure of epic proportions begins. But it is the contrast between upper-class Roddy and sewer-dwelling Rita – voiced by Kate Winslet (keep the Titanic jokes to yourselves) – that lies at the heart of this tale. With her sarcastic wit and no-nonsense attitude, Rita shows Roddy how to survive in the real world and, in doing so, wins over his heart (aw). A bold risk-taker and heroine in her own right, Rita may have some intimacy issues, but she is one tough cookie – well, she did grow up with 36 brothers.
4. Grandsanta – Arthur Christmas (2011)
Grandsanta (Bill Nighy), like every atypical grandfather, is a big advocate of everything being better in his day and is reluctant to take on new technology – sound familiar to anyone? Proud of his traditional methods, Grandsanta is nostalgic about his sleigh pulled by eight reindeer and his epic flights through history. Whereas a more traditional movie may have insisted on a moral message which sided with his old-fashioned methods, Grandsanta’s will to prove his way is the best way lands him and his grandson Arthur (James McAvoy) in big trouble. However, when the time comes, Grandsanta abandons his sleigh in order to help save Christmas. Although not the central protagonist of this film, Grandsanta goes on his own story of revaluation and change which is perhaps more of a milestone than anyone else’s – proving that an old leopard, can indeed change its spots.
3. Ginger – Chicken Run (2000)
Receiving favourable reviews from critics and audiences alike – Chicken Run was Aardman’s first feature film and a huge milestone in the studio’s history. Ginger (Julia Sawalha), a beanie wearing Tom-Boy who has long held dreams of escaping the prison-style chicken farm is the film’s intelligent and rebellious heroine. Perhaps it’s the way in which her weakness shows when she is temporarily blinded by the utterly useless (but ultimately heroic) Rocky the Rooster (Mel Gibson) that adheres us to her the most, as his American charm seems to impede her judgement. However, it isn’t the American Rockstar with the glowing charisma, but humble Ginger with her overbite and terrible neckerchief that saves the day. Ginger is not only smart, but she is also a great leader who never gives up and coordinates all the other chickens (some of whom are hilariously gormless) to outsmart the humans and escape being made ruthlessly into a pie. We’re starting to think the whole of Aardman might be vegetarians…
2. Gromit – Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
With a running theme of animals that are smarter than their humans, it seems only fitting to recognise the original. Yes of course, it is Gromit – so much more than a man’s best friend, but more an icon of few words and a million teenage-style eye-rolls. In their first feature film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Wallace and Gromit fulfil their usual roles with Gromit wearily busying around the disastrous Wallace (Peter Sallis) like a maid until Wallace creates a catastrophic invention. Gromit is not only a great sidekick, friend and parent-figure to Wallace but Aardman have also succeeded in making Gromit an identifiable and aspirational character in his own right – quite the achievement when you consider he doesn’t make a sound. There is something we have all grown to know, love and even understand in his wide-eyed panic, odd contemptuous side-eye and resting bitch-face.
1. Shaun – Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)
Shaun the Sheep, whilst perhaps not the most prominent Aardman character, is a beautiful combination of the studio’s best loved characters and themes. Originating in the Wallace and Gromit TV shorts in an episode titled ‘A Close Shave’, Sean was brought back by popular demand for his adorable bleating and plucky attitude. Like Ginger from Chicken Run, Shaun demonstrated his quick thinking and ability to rally the troops of his fellow but less-intuitive wooly friends on the farm – in the Shaun the Sheep TV series. In this series, Shaun hatched the masterplans to overcome and generally annoy the human farmer and it is no wonder this was soon picked up for a cinematic version. Much like Gromit or Mr Bobo, Shaun’s is a wordless creature who Aardman have managed to create as a unique and lovable character through facial expression and mannerisms alone. With the Shaun the Sheep movie proving a hit in 2015 – Shaun is an example of how Aardman create characters that stand the test of time and will continue to connect with audiences of the future.
Has that got you excited for the release of Early Man or are there any characters you think we missed. Let us know in the comments below.