Aardman co-founder Peter Lord welcomed us to an exclusive footage screening from Nick Park’s animated comedy EARLY MAN starring Eddie Redmayne who was not in attendance, but introduced the clips via a video message.

Director Park and cast members Tom Hiddleston and Maisie Williams were present for a Q&A following the screening. The event also allowed us to see the sets used in production and get involved in a model making workshop to create our very own Hognob! Check out the footage from the Q&A session in the video player above.

Park had been working on the idea of Early Man for “about four or five years at least”. He loved the idea of cavemen and felt that the medium of clay suited them. “And then I started riffing with my amazing writer Mark Burton about football, and the tribal aspect of football seemed to lend itself,” said Park. Creating a new world was inspired by ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., with two dinosaurs who are seen at the start of the film named Ray and Harry, a tribute to Ray Harryhausen. When it came to finding voices for the characters, Park was looking for “someone very versatile and funny” which he found in Williams and Hiddleston.

Williams “had the best time”, referring to her character as “fantastic”. She expanded on her experience: “Initially I was just really excited to work with Aardman and with Nick and to do a claymation film. When I was younger I used to do little stop-animation, claymation with my friends. We’d go to his house and make a little animation set, that was really, really exciting. And then in terms of, like, doing the job at hand, it was really different to anything that I’ve ever done. To take away all your other tools and only have your voice to portray a character and to tell the story, it was a real challenge for me as an actor. And the way that Nick works is just incredible, and he’s very willing to give you, like, a line reading which I find really helpful. There’s a million and one ways in which you can say a line, and so when you strip everything back and that’s the only tool that you’re using or the only tool that counts it can get very intricate.”Hiddleston was “honoured to be asked to be involved” in an Aardman animation, mentioning that WALLACE AND GROMIT was part of his childhood: “Nick’s work and Aardman’s work is so distinctive and so unique and has such a particular British charm, and when this came towards me it was a package; It was a script and a little sketch of Nooth and a 3D model that hadn’t been painted yet. And I read it very quickly and it made me laugh.” Hiddleston described his character as an “overweigh, frustrated middle manager with small hands,” adding “And I thought, Nick Park is the first director to really see me as I am.” Park joked, “It was watching the NIGHT MANAGER that really nailed it for.”Hiddleston reflected on his first session where he “basically tried to make Nick laugh” while finding the voice for Nooth: “Nick had lots of ideas. And the first thing I remember he said was I think you should do it in French, but it was a sort of “‘allo-‘allo” school of French, wasn’t it, in that Nick was always chasing the funniest version of the line reading, it was just trying to make it sound funny and silly.” Williams, however, thought she was doing “an awful job”: “I wanted to go in there and get the lines right and then leave, but that’s not really the way it goes because there’s multiple different ways in which you can read a line, and it isn’t until they fit them all together with whoever else is in the scene and start animating that they know which one is correct.” Park explained the process of finding synergy between the voice and the character: “The characters are being designed to start with, but as soon as we record any of the actors that then changes something a little for the animator. We adjust the mouth depending on how you’ve said something or how you speak, it implies certain gestures.” In one clip that was shown, Nooth is massaged in a bathtub by Hognob, Hiddleston revealed that Nick really massaged him: “I thought it would be funny because I’d seen the sketch of him sitting in the bath, spread out, and I just thought it would be funny to have all those sort of awkward noises because he thinks that he’s with Stefano, but he’s with a pig.” Park added, “It was a strange feeling, massaging Tom Hiddleston’s shoulders thinking how many people would pay to do this.”

EARLY MAN is in cinemas January 28th 2018. 

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