Arthur Christmas: The Best of Both Worlds
Arthur Christmas truly benefitted from the best of both worlds in Bristol and Culver as the first collaboration between Aardman and Sony Pictures Animation. Aardman's wacky design and subversive sensibility married brilliantly with Sony's rich rendering of characters and environments.
In fact, it went a lot smoother than trying to deliver two billion presents in one night to all the children of the world.
"It's the first movie we've produced in our relationship with Sony, and therefore it's a testing ground of sorts for how that relationship is going to work," suggests Aardman co-founder and Arthur Christmas producer Peter Lord. Brilliantly is the short answer. They've given us the creative independence that we thrive on, and they've provided us with the highest quality people and pipeline to make our movie. Secondly, it's a film by a new director, Sarah Smith. It pleases me very much that she's come to us with all her creative talents and instincts already formed, but that she's produced what seems to me a very quintessentially Aardman film. Meaning what? Meaning very good-hearted in the world it creates and celebrates; very real and true because it's based on real characters behaving honestly and genuinely; very funny -- because we love to make people laugh; based on great performance both in animation and in the voice; beautiful to look at; and very British."
Indeed, Smith, who first came to Aardman to oversee development but wound up directing Arthur, found it an invaluable experience. "We never thought of it as a recipe," she says. "In a way, it entirely comes from the original concept of how could you really get the job done in today's world and what would it take? And then you come up with this brilliant and amazing high-tech operation: the idea that things have changed with the times. And in a funny way, it just seems incredibly obvious. And you think: Of course, why would Santa still be the Victorian [image]? He's moved as times change. But in the middle of that, when the high-tech operation fails, the only way to do it is the old way. It's not an either or and it's not a kind of formula to try and please the audience, particularly with the logic of the story, which is, when the big machine breaks down and all you've got is the sleigh in the shed to do it with. And the whole point of the movie is not that one way is good and the other is bad; it's that why of it all, really."
Aardman's senior animation supervisor, Alan Short, who has done CG commercials in Bristol for several years, adds that it was important to let the characters be flawed. "We let them have imperfections because they were flawed emotionally with the family dynamic. We wanted to reflect that in the design, so Arthur got a couple of zits, his ears are a bit wonky, he's got an odd smile, and it's a great way of giving them a family resemblance, although they all look different."