U.K.-based Aardman Animations has without question earned its reputation as one of the most the most successful stop-motion animation studios to descend upon Hollywood in the past three decades. Aardman director Nick Park alone has won four Oscars for his work, often dubbed as “claymation” (the studio calls the technique “stop-frame”) – one for the Best Animated Feature for The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, starring human cheese-lover Wallace (voice of Peter Sallis) and his silent but savvy canine companion Gromit; and three for Best Animated Short Films, two of which starred his dynamic man and dog duo. Plus, it’s quite likely that Park and co-director Peter Lord would have been a shoo-in for a Best Animated Feature for the 2000 smash Chicken Run, had the award been established by the Motion Picture Academy a mere year earlier.
Park will be back again in 2018 with the studio’s stop-frame animated feature Early Man, but unfortunately, Wallace & Gromit will not. That hasn’t prevented Aardman from employing the lovable characters in their marketing of the film, however. In a tweet Wednesday, some prehistoric “cave drawings” of Wallace & Gromit, along with Rocky from Chicken Run and the studio’s other wildly popular creation, Shaun the Sheep, are featured in the announcement for the drop of the film’s first full trailer Thursday for Early Man. The studio announced the pending trailer in historically appropriate fashion, prompting fans to get ready to “Meet the ancestors of Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep….”
In its announcement of release dates for Early Man, Aardman says the film, naturally, was set in the prehistoric era: “Set at the dawn of time, when dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures roamed the earth, ‘Early Man’ tells the story of how one plucky caveman sets off to unite his tribe against a mighty enemy and saves the day…”
As evidenced by a 16-second teaser of the film released in October, Early Man promises to have a Wallace & Gromit-type of character dynamic, since it pairs the plucky caveman Dug (voice of Eddie Redmayne) along with an animal companion – this time in the guise of what looks to be warthog named Hognob. Tom Hiddleston also stars as the voice of who Aardman describes as “the ridiculously pompous Lord Nooth, governor of the Bronze Age town – a money-loving tyrant and rival to the film’s Stone Age hero, Dug.” Game of Thrones star Maise Williams has also been cast to voice Goona, a “gallant and indomitable rebel” who befriends Dug.
While a small slate of international release dates has been set by Aardman, there has been no announcement when Early Man will open in the U.S. No matter which studio brings Early Man to the domestic box office, the film promises to be entertaining given Park’s impressive track record. While fans no doubt would like to see another Wallace & Gromit adventure, it’s a good move on Aardman’s behalf to introduce a new set of characters to its classic stable of clay performers to keep its offerings fresh. Plus, who knows? Maybe a secret Wallace & Gromit short is in the works to play ahead of Early Man to please the faithful while introducing them to a whole new – yet very, very old – world.
Early Man hits UK theaters on January 26th, 2018. We’ll let you know when a U.S. theatrical release date is announced.