Watch & Learn: A Grand Night In — The Story of Aardman

by Manojna Yeluri

This is the story of how big things can happen, one tiny movement at a time.

What is this documentary about?

Made by BBC One in honour of Aardman Studio’s 40th anniversary, A Grand Night In — The Story of Aardman tells the story of the hugely successful Aardman Studio and their impact on the animation industry. Beginning with the tale of the studio’s origins, viewers are introduced to co-founders David Sproxton and Peter Lord, who, rather whimsically, started their work on the kitchen tables of their Bristol homes. The duo was intrigued by stop-motion animation, a cinematographic genre that would later become the signature style of Aardman Studios. The documentary also features interviews with several animators and actors, including Nick Parks (the creator of Wallace and Gromit, and one of Aardman’s most successful partnerships), Matt Groening (the creator of The Simpsons), and actors like Martin Freeman and Hugh Grant, who have been fans of the studio’s work and have also lent their voices to characters in Aardman-created films.

What are some of the things that stood out for us?

Aardman Studios has been responsible for some of the most important and enchanting films in the animation space, yet unlike other animation behemoths such as Disney and Dreamworks, very few people have actually heard of the Aardman brand. The studio has made some memorable films such as Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run and the entire Wallace and Gromit series.

Aardman Studios revolutionized the animation industry by combining charming storytelling with stop-motion animation techniques using clay and plasticine models. Because of their innovative animation style and vision, the studio’s fingerprints can be seen on a number of films, and interestingly enough, on a great deal of commercial advertising from the 80s and 90s, when television screens were bursting with ads created by Aardman for a number of leading brands. Aardman was even responsible for the incredibly popular video for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.

Why watch this film?

Aardman Studios is a wonderful example of an independent creative studio that rose to great heights while sticking to the essence of its creative brand; despite partnering with bigger studios like Dreamworks, Aardman has continued to retain a distinct identity and remain true to its creative integrity — a fact evident in the studio’s work. This documentary is a treat for fans of animation (and British humour). 

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