A Short Ride to the Dark Side

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Best known for cute and cuddly characters in films such as Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Chicken Run, Aardman Animation's latest project has been turning heads with what a film festival blurb called "a black tale of love, loneliness, guts, gore, nudity, violence, smoking and cups of tea." Aardman director Luis Cook's short animated feature The Pearce Sisters in fact won the Jury's Special Award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June, then went on to nab Grand Prix and Best Art Direction honors at Portland's Platform Animation Festival earlier this month.

The film, based on a short story by Mick Jackson, follows what Cook calls, "two hideously ugly, weather-lashed spinsters" as they go about their daily routine of fishing and being hideously ugly. When they rescue a not quite drowned sailor from the sea, the story takes a decidedly darker turn. It's not just the mood of the piece that seems un-Aardman; rather than sticking with 3-D CG, Cook and his team designed the basics in CG and printed them out to apply the finer details in 2-D in order to achieve this grim aesthetic. "We'd never really done this before, so it was complete guesswork," says Cook. "We do 2-D all the time in commercials, but our well-known stuff is clay and plastercine model work. So I wanted to do something that had CG and 2-D and didn't go anywhere near plastercine." The film was made specifically for the festival circuit, notes Cook. "We do series work, and the features we're known for, but the smaller, auteur pieces weren't getting made," he says. Projects like these "are good for the studio, because it helps keep everyone here creatively buoyant."
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