Aardman Animations’ next stop-motion animation feature Early Man has been acquired for domestic distribution by Lionsgate. Based in the UK, Aardman has created some of the most memorable characters in animation in the past 25 years, including the lovable man and dog duo Wallace & Gromit. Under the director of prolific Aardman filmmaker Nick Park, the Wallace & Gromit films earned Park three Oscars – two for Best Animated Short for A Grand Day Out and The Wrong Trousers, and a Best Animated Feature statuette for Curse of The Were-Rabbit –Early Man, as the title suggests, is set quite a bit earlier in time than its Aardman predecessors.
It only makes sense that Lionsgate picked up Early Man, since the studio also distributed Aardman’s Best Animated Feature Oscar-nominee Shaun the Sheep Movie in 2015. In addition to theatrical distribution rights, Lionsgate has licensing and merchandising rights for the films domestically, which could be boon for the studio – should the film be a hit and catch on with toy lovers. Judging by the Early Man teaser trailer, the film certainly appears to be action figure-ready for both collectors and kids.
According to Deadline, Lionsgate has picked up Aardman’s Early Man and will release it domestically February 16, 2018. Already dated for a January 26, 2018, release in the UK, Early Man stars the voice of Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne as a caveman named Dug, who with his warthog Hognob becomes a thorn in the side of the pompous, money-loving tyrant Lord Nooth (voice of Tom Hiddleston). Game of Thrones’ Maise Williams also stars as the voice of the rebellious Goona, who becomes an ally of Dug’s as he attempts to unite his tribe to take on his chief nemesis.
While the U.S. distribution seemed to be a given for Early Man, it’s great to see Lionsgates’ commitment to Aardman after the studio gained and lost distribution partners with the likes of DreamWorks (Chicken Run, Curse of the Were-Rabbit) and Sony (The Pirates! Band of Misfits). With a unique stop-motion technique often dubbed as “claymation”, the studio’s animated shorts and features have stood apart from other animated films since the studio’s inception, and it looks to do the same with Early Man.
In addition to Aardman, the release of Early Man is yet another vote of confidence for the stop-motion animated medium as a whole, since the number of stop-motion films – literally crafted by hand – pale in comparison to computer-animated releases put out annually. The good thing is, the art form is certainly still attractive to critics and industry awards voters, with the Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations of Kubo and the Two Strings and My Life as a Zucchini earlier this year serving as two shining examples. Given Aardman’s impressive track record, expect Early Man to be in that same company when Oscar voters cast their ballots for nominees in early 2019.