Amazing Aardman Antics


My regular followers may recall a post a few days ago about the puppet place animation festival happening this week in and around the tobacco factory in Bristol. So far this festival has been absolutely brilliant and its on for the rest of the week , so still plenty of time to go and see whats going on. On Saturday they had open doors event at the puppet place hq , giving you a chance to see professionals at work. The place was full to the brim with fantastic animatronics , puppets , robots , an interactive screen , cakes and much much more. I then went along to the tobacco factory where they had a fantastic exhibition called morph vs madussa , a very exciting collection of early Aardman and Ray Harryhausen puppets, these included a bronze statue of madusa , he big dragon , puppets of a king from one of harryhousens fairy tales complete with replacement heads, of course good old Wallace and Grommit also had an appearence along with a few creature comfort pals.

This was all very exciting but nothing compared to Monday. On Monday me and a few friends paid to go to the Aardman model making workshop which was run by one of Aardmans lead model makers Jim Parkyn. we learned so much on this day , we made creature comfort mouths out of plasticine from the actual moulds used for the show!  I made part of a beaver mouth and also Ricky the alligator ( kind of had to really after my own crocodile film I did for uni )


(above is me with the farmer and pig from shaun the sheep )

In the afternoon we had a go with different hand armature styles and sculpted plasticine around them. we tried doing some free hand , wire hand armature making , and then Jim bought out this nifty little template device which helped get really good hand shapes out of wire which worked really well for such a simple idea. We all also went home with some materiel goods such as plastazote , wire , plasticine and bits and bobs all in all it was A GRAND DAY OUT 😉


6 responses »

  1. V happy to have happened upon your blog. The workshop sounds brilliant! I’ve been trying to make hands for my armature – all on a tight budget! I’m intrigued by the template device thing Jim suggested – could you let me know more? Sounds like it could be just the job! Thanks, Emma 🙂

    • Hi Emma , glad my blog is of use to you 🙂 the hand template was quite basic and is easily made at home on a cheep budget. It was basically a hand, drawn on to a piece of wood. There were then nails hammered into the wood at the top and base of the fingers and wrists which you can then use to guide copper and aluminum wire around the nails , if you look at the picture above with the wire hands you will see a stronger aluminum wire making a basic circle , this was achieved by guiding the wire around just the wrists and the nails at the base of the fingers , the second wire , a copper one makes the shape of the thumbs and then mirrors the first wire , the third wire another aluminum wire but slightly thinner goes round all the nails ( bar the thumb ) to create the fingers. I thought I had a picture of the hand template somewhere but can’t seem to find it – hope this comment has helped let me know if you have any other questions.
      Abi x

  2. Thanks so much Abi, that’s incredibly helpful. I will def give it a go. Just wondering about the choice of copper wire for thumb. Was it just for the workshop purposes, so that you could distinguish between it and the fingers? Or is does it some how make it easier to animate? I though that type of wire was quite weak.

    How I wish I could’ve gone to the workshop – v envious! I actually went to the festival, and to a kids’ workshop with Jim Parkyn, but it was nothing like this. Didn’t see it advertised, bah. What a treat it must’ve been! Do you still happen to have his instruction sheet on armatures? If so, I wonder if you’d be kind enough to email it to me. I could do with all the help I can get as my armatures so far have not been strong enough to withstand the rigours of animating. Any top tips from Mr Parkyn would be very welcome. E x

    • I think copper wire is best used accompanied by aluminum as copper wire ( i think one or some of the hands above have both copper and aluminum for the thumb ) – as you’ve probably found copper is quite weak. The purpose of the copper wire is sort of a fall back , so if the aluminum wire brakes in the middle of a shoot you might just get away with having the copper wire for the rest of the shoot ( if your lucky ) It was a fab workshop literally the whole day which was brilliant – we did get work sheets which I have got somewhere ( bit of a disorganized room at the moment ) it was just the hands we covered though , we didn’t do any other armature work. Unfortunately it is the nature of wire armatures to snap after fair amounts of animating however well you make them. There was a really good book which I pretty much permanently had out the library whilst at uni , called the complete animation course by Chris Patmore , that if I remember rightly had really good diagrams ect for armatures and model making, which I’m planning on getting in the near future so would be happy to email you any pictures from that. So far ( as much as it pains me to say it ) the best armatures I have ever animated with are ball and socket ones which are quite pricey but worth saving up for in my opinion , I got mine from they have a basic wire armature on there which in my opinion ( although i never ordered a basic one ) looks quite similar to a wire one you could just make yourself I went for the standard one which is the next one up but worth the extra saving!

      • I’m thinking about getting an AnimaSapien armature, though inspired by these two talented brothers, looking into making a custom one myself on the cheap:

        One of my characters has rather a large head in comparison to his body. It’s a challenge deciding on what to use as the core. I guess these challenges, trying to be inventive with whatever you can find, are one of the reasons I love stop-motion so much! Hope your animals are coming along!

        If you manage to find Jim’s sheets & can send them, that would be ACE.

  3. Just checked out the AnimaSapien armatures , they look ace and they’re cheaper too! wish I’d known about them before but ahh well I might try one next time I need a new armature. Thanks for sharing that blog post – his armature is amazing I wish I could make something like that.
    just a thought , had you thought of using styrofoam for your head – It depends weather you can get it locally to you – I used it quite a lot at uni and I used to be able to get a good block of it for about £2 you can get it online but it seems to be quite a lot more expensive – its quite easily sculpted with a scalpel ( or if you happen to have access to a hotwire sculpting tool even better ) But yeah its a good material to use if you want something bulk something out a bit but keep it light weight – another material which Jim parkyn showed us , is plastazote which is quite similar to styrofoam but alot harder , you can still cut into it with a scalpel but I think he said best not to hot wire it because the fumes it lets off are really toxic also plastazote seems to cost quite a bit more. hope thats of use anyway – I can’t believe I’ve misplaced the sheets but I know they will be around somewhere – will email them to you when I find them. Do you have a blog by the way ? Its quite useful to have somewhere with all your current work on because you can put the address on buisness cards and c.v’s that you hand out to potential employers – good luck with your character !

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