If you’re a budding artist, model-maker or animator you can hone your skills with our activity sheets and ‘how to’ guides. Learn how to sketch your favourite Aardman characters, build the rocket from A Grand Day Out, or try your hand at our Animate It! animation app and bring your Wallace and Gromit models to life in your very own adventure!
There are also colour-ins and puzzles for a rainy day, while our school resources section features educational projects ideal for use in the classroom.
Quick fire questions
The great thing about starting to animate is you really don’t need lots of expensive equipment or room to have a go at making your first film. We have a website dedicated to animation, www.animate-it.com, where you can download a free software trial, watch tutorials and pick up lots of tips and inspiration.
To set up your own basic home studio, you will need:
A laptop, tablet or phone
A tripod or Aardstand to support your device
The Animate It! software or free app
If we are using modelling clay then we try and use our fingers and thumbs as much as possible. Small wooden tools are then best for refining the detail of the sculpt. Eyelids are best sculpted over a spare eyeball of the same size as the character you are working on, so many animators have a selection of resin eyeballs on sticks for getting the expression just right before they place it on the puppet.
For the metal and resin components we use workshops full of various tools, with good air extraction units for using resins and spraypaints. However most of the workshop tools are pretty standard.
Aardman’s models are made from a wide range of products, including plasticine, foam latex, wood, metal, silicone and resin. For our Wallace and Gromit models we use a stainless steel armature, with resin for Wallace’s tank top, both models’ eyes and Gromit’s shiny nose. For the rest of their external features we use a brand of modelling clay called Newplast, which is made by Newclay in the UK. Wallace’s trousers and boots are usually made from foam latex as it is more durable, and we use modelling clay for the close ups.
There are many variations in frame rates but the most common are 24 (for film) and 25 (for TV) so those are the frame rates we usually work to. However, we animate most of our films shooting ‘double-frames’, or on ‘twos’, as this technique is sometimes known. This is when our animators take two frames every time they move their model, meaning only half as many different images are needed for every second of film. We will shoot on ‘ones’ - or actual single frames - whenever we have a camera move or if the action is extra fast.
It varies depending on the project, but - as a rough average - somewhere around four seconds of footage per day would be considered a good day’s work!
Our standard Aardman kit features the Canon 1D SLR and Dragronframe software. We also use several editing software packages, including Final Cut Pro7 and Adobe Premiere Pro CS6.
You’ll often hear model-makers talk about ‘armatures’. This is a technical term for a mechanical skeleton that sits under the clay of many of our characters. The armature allows the model to be posed and to hold its position. Depending on the weight of the model (it might have a big head that needs special support, for example) a simple wire armature will be enough while heavier models may require a tougher rod and joint armature. Armatures also depend on the particular traits of your character; how active they will be, for example.
The design of the armature is usually made in-house and in conjunction with a local model engineering company who create a kit of parts for our model makers to make the ball and socket joints. Aluminium wire is used for the armature if it is a very simple puppet or only has to last for a short amount of shots as it’s not as durable as a ball and socket armature.
We usually tie the puppets down to the set by drilling a hole in the set floor and then bolting from the underneath into a threaded hole in the puppet’s foot. We refer to this method as ‘tie downs’. This method looks the neatest as it gives the impression the puppet is standing on its own.
If tie downs are not suitable we will ‘rig’ the puppet externally. This requires a metal frame to be created that will hold the puppet up as it moves. We ensure that the rig stays behind the character and does not cast any unwanted shadows. However the rig will be seen in the animated shot and therefore needs to be removed in post-production. We do this by filming a clean or empty shot of the set once the character animation is finished, we will then use the ‘clean’ version to get rid of the rig. This is a more expensive but often unavoidable method. We will always use this method if the character has to leave the ground for any reason.
Water and other liquids are really hard to simulate! One good method for creating a flat water for, say, a river or lake, is to use a Perspex sheet, sprayed with the colours you want, adding ripple effects for extra realism.
For the rain effect in The Wrong Trousers, the animators used little blobs of glycerine on glass and animated them by blowing them, frame by frame, down the glass.
For the foam in the window cleaning scene in A Close Shave, the animators used a combination of white hair wax dotted with glass beads to represent bubbles.