Celebrating Shaun the Sheep with Peter Lord

Peter Lord is a legend in the world of animation, one half of the team behind Aardman Animations, Peter is responsible for the likes of Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run, and, of course Wallis and Gromit. A few years ago I was lucky enough to interview Peter when his exhibition ‘The Pirates, an adventure with Scientists’ was residing in Birmingham’s Think Tank. I chatted to Peter about all things animation, including the then upcoming Shaun the Sheep movie which has just been released in cinemas. Here is part of the interview (the full piece appeared in Primary Time West Midlands and Derby editions).
FM: You talk a lot about inspiring young animators to have a go – what advice would you give to those who want to have a go?
PL: The easy advice is to try it, just get started. When you first try animation you don’t need to plan, just get some playmobil, some lego and a camara – you can even do it on your pone these days. Start, and see the magic for yourselves. You actually make something live, something come to life. That alone should be enough to get you interested.

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With Peter Lord at Birmingham’s Thinktank

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Peter Lord helps Joe make his own movie.

FM: I think most people first became really aware of Aardman Animations through the Creature Comfort adverts. Where did the idea behind those ads come from?
PL: We made a number of films in the 1980s, the big idea was to make plastic figures and make them look like they were talking, which was quite revolutionary then. We decided on animals and then thought ‘wouldn’t it be funny to use normal people’s voices to be the voices of the animals?’ There was just something really funny about the mixture of natural voices and the cartoony looking creatures. But because the voices were not from actors, we had to wait ages for them to say something funny – it really did take some time!

DSCN21671FM: Wallace and Gromit have been supremely successful – was Wallace based on anybody?
PL: Nick Parks (the main force behind Wallace and Gromit) always says that Wallace is sort of based on his own dad, because his dad was an inventor, just like Wallace in the films.

28741FM: Are there any more plans for Wallace and Gromit? Any more plans for further movies maybe?
PL: Yes, but not right now. One of the greatest things about animation and animated characters is that they never age. Animation never really grows old, which means you can wait for a while and then return to it. So yes we will return to Wallace and Gromit, but just not right now.

FM: Do any of your characters or films have a particularly special place in your heart? Do you have a favourite?
PL: Morph! It’s where I started and so I have huge affection for it. Morph never really gets old for me.

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FM: What’s next for Peter Lord and Aardman Animations?
PL: For Aardman, we are now doing some more episodes of Shaun the Sheep for our younger fans, we really love this character and are loving doing this. Even more exciting is that we are also preparing for a Shaun the Sheep movie, to come out in 2015. That is still two years away so it shows you what a slow process animation really is. We are also working on more films – so you need to watch this space.

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Shaun the Sheep Movie is now at Cinema’s across the UK.

Press Review – The Pirates! In an adventure with Scientists!

Last Thursday I was invited to get my ‘swash’ and ‘buckle’ on with the chance to preview a brand new, and very special exhibition that is invading Birmingham’s ThinkTank this summer. A part of the Thinktank museum has been transformed into the world of ‘The Pirates’, the Academy Award nominated film from Sony Pictures and Aardman Animations, and I was lucky enough to get a peek at what was happening behind the scenes, before the exhibition actually opened. I was very excited by this, but not being an expert on all things ‘Pirate’, I thought it best to call on an expert I know very well, so I also took my four-year old, Joe along for the ride.

The exhibition is the first time that the exquisite sets and puppets from the film have toured, and is both exhilarating fun for children, and a show of expert mastery of set design and creation for adults. The piece de resistance is the beautiful pirate ship, which is quite simply alive with detail – there is simply so much to look at and notice.

The smaller set pieces were equally fascinating. I personally loved the setpieces that showed the ‘Rare Creatures Dining Club’ at dinner, complete with the tiniest of details like goblets of wine, and individual knives and forks so small as to almost require a magnifying glass. Joe was a little obsessed with the sea creatures and bugs,  loving the grasshoppers, and making me giggle when he referred to the sea anemone as a squidgy ball. And of course, there was the Dodo…

Polly is the Dodo in the film who thinks she is a parrot, and in honour of this, the famous Oxford Dodo is paying a visit to Birmingham, coming from the Oxford Museum of National History. This reconstruction of the extinct bird totally fascinated Joe, who asked numerous questions about what happened to this bird, and why he wasn’t around anymore. Which, to my view, is what a great exhibition should do – make little ones ask questions and become interested in learning new things.

Peter Lord, the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Aardman Animations was at the launch on Thursday, and I was lucky enough to interview him about the project, and his other famous works including Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Creature Comforts. I will post a link to the interview later next month, but will say that I was thrilled to hear that Morph is still his favourite character, one close to his heart.

Even more thrilling was seeing Peter show Joe how to make simple animations using a computer and Playmobil. Joe was just fascinated to see how the figures could be shown moving around and actually doing things – how you could actually make your own film. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to try this for themselves, as well as other form of animation like flicker movies using paper and light sources.

‘The Pirates!’ is a fabulous, fun exhibition which will truly appeal to swashbucklers of all ages. It is open until September and I would definitely recommend you pay a visit. If you don’t, you may just be forced to walk the plank…