On 26th January, Aardman are set to take us way back in time to Neolithic Britain and the rise of the Bronze Age when their animated prehistoric adventure Early Man arrives in cinemas.
After seeing the trailer, however, you may have dismissed Early Man as 'just a kid's film, but we’d strongly advise you reconsider because under its claymation façade, it’s got a lot more going for it than you might think. Here are five reasons why you should be excited about Early Man...
It's from the creator of Wallace and Gromit
Although the name Nick Park might not immediately ring any bells, his creations are as famously British as afternoon tea or The Beatles.
You see, Park is the mastermind behind the misadventures of a certain cheese-obsessed inventor, Wallace, and his mute canine companion, Gromit. Park directed the early Wallace and Gromit short films, comprising A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave, as well as their Oscar-winning feature film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
Park’s also given us the critically acclaimed Chicken Run and the Oscar-nominated Shaun the Sheep Movie. Park has been at the top of his game for over twenty years and if Early Man’s first trailer is anything to go by, his signature animation style and off the wall humour are all accounted for.
It's got Newt Scamander and Arya Stark on vocal duties
It’s only fitting that a film with great British pedigree would have a cast that showcases our home-grown talent. The movie centres on tribesman Dug who, on the eve of the Bronze Age, must unite his people against the villainous Lord Nooth.
Lending their voices to Early Man are Tom Hiddleston (Thor: Ragnarok) as baddie Lord Nooth, Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them) as hero Dug, Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) as sidekick Goona, and veteran actor Timothy Spall (Harry Potter’s Wormtail) as Chief Bobnar.
It also wouldn’t be a British comedy without the right comedic expertise to lend their talents. Early Man also features comic institution Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd), stand-up and TV veteran Johnny Vegas, and comedy new-comer Gina Yashere.
It's both funny AND informative
Although there have been plenty of films set in prehistoric times, such as The Land Before Time, Year One, and The Croods to name but three, Early Man is mixing things up a little by being set in the relatively obscure period between the Neolithic era of the Stone Age and the Bronze Age. (In case you're wondering that would place the film around 2500 BCE.)
Aside from building a time machine, seeing Early Man is your best chance so far of experiencing this part of British history. However, don’t expect Early Man to be completely historically accurate (it is created by the same man who gave us were-rabbits and maniacal pie machines, after all).
The biggest – and funniest – historical inaccuracy is the movie's inclusion of football, which didn’t arrive in the UK until 1863, over 4,000 years after the Bronze Age swept the nation and over 100 years after the UK was formed.
This is by no means a bad thing. In fact, the wacky concept of contemporary football in a prehistoric setting is just the sort of off-the-wall humour we’d expect from the creator of Wallace and Gromit.
The humour is quintessentially British
Speaking of off-the-wall humour, the trailer suggests that Early Man will be just as hilarious as Park’s other projects. It's co-written by Mark Burton, who was nominated for an Oscar for Shaun the Sheep Movie, and John O’Farrell, who worked with Park on Chicken Run.
There really is some humour for everyone here. It has the traditional slapstick to keep younger audiences entertained alongside sharp wit that older audiences can appreciate. Park’s work has always perfected that classic sense of British silliness of the same ilk as Monty Python, which hopefully means we’re bound to spend the majority of Early Man laughing ourselves silly.
It's rendered in gorgeous claymation
Much contemporary animation is computer generated – Disney, Pixar, and Illumination all use this style and, as stunning as digital animation has become, it’s rare we see an animated film that uses a different style.
Studio Ghibli is perhaps one of the few studios still flying the flag for hand-drawn animation, but it’s even rarer that we see stop-motion animation. Aside from Laika (the studio that brought us Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings), Aardman is the only one consistently using this animation style.
Specifically, Park uses claymation (stop motion created with clay characters) and his talents are unmatched. Watching his work, it’s hard to believe it’s all painstakingly done by hand, particularly when noticing just how beautiful his films are. We’re thrilled that Park’s still continuing to produce claymation films and Early Man looks as amazing as we’d expect from him.
We can’t wait to see another claymation film on the big screen this January, but we know we’ll be wondering how he managed to animate half of the things we see – we’re still wondering how they animated the shower water in the trailer.
Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.