It began, as most successes have, in a garage. The studio's name comes from the title of Sproxton and Lord's first traditionally-animated short, "The Aardman," about a superhero who evoked stereotypical western English machoism (in other words, "an 'ard man)."note When it came time to deposit their check for the film, they realized they needed to create a new bank account for it, which became the Aardman Animation account. Several other films commissioned by The BBC, as well as hugely popular TV ads, would follow throughout the decades.
In the '80s, they began by producing The Amazing Adventures of Morph, a claymation series of children's shorts. Around this time, they hired a fresh-faced film school student named Nick Park to work for them on Peter Gabriel's famed "Sledgehammer" video while he finished his thesis film, A Grand Day Out. Park not only earned the studio its first Oscar with Creature Comforts (which was nominated against A Grand Day Out), but the characters from his thesis would become the first of the studio's Flagship Franchise, Wallace & Gromit, for which they would later produce three more shorts and a feature film, earning several more Oscars in the process.
In the late 90s, Aardman partnered with DreamWorks Animation for a five-picture American distribution deal, which began with Chicken Run and, after some ugly behind-the-scenes politics, abruptly ended with their third film, Flushed Away. They tried again a few years later with Sony Pictures Animation, but ran into similar problems and broke it off after two films. The studio currently has a distribution deal with fellow European company StudioCanal, with Lionsgate handling US distribution. They have also done the English dubs for the Belgian-produced A Town Called Panic.
Works include the following:
- Wallace & Gromit:
- A Grand Day Out, the first Wallace & Gromit short, it was released in 1989. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Animated Short Film, but lost to Aardman's other work, Creature Comforts.
- The Wrong Trousers, a 1993 short, it won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film that year.
- A Close Shave, released in 1995, it won the 1995 Academy Award for Animated Short Film.
- Cracking Contraptions, a set of 10:30 shorts that were released on the Internet, then later as a limited edition Region 2 DVD, and again as bonus material on the Curse of the Were-Rabbit DVD.
- The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, a theatrical release full-length feature made in 2005. It is the first Wallace & Gromit entry that isn't a short, and it won not only the Academy Award for "Best Animated Feature", but also the British Academy Film Awards' "Best British Film", the British Comedy Awards' "Best Comedy Film", and the Hugo for "Best Dramatic Presentation - Long Form", among many others.
- A Matter of Loaf and Death, short film released in 2008, Academy Award nominee for Animated Short Film the following year.
- Wallace and Gromit's World of Inventions, an educational TV program that started airing in 2010. Wallace talks about famous or revolutionary inventions with Gromit's assistance.
- Morph, a plasticine man who spoke in gibberish and could change into shapes. He originally appeared in 1977 during one-minute shorts on Take Hart and later his own shows. Was revived as a YouTube series in 2014.
- Spitting Image: Some stop-motion sequences for a few episodes and the 1987 Christmas special.
- Creature Comforts, a 1989 Academy Award winner for Animated Short Film, later adapted into a 2003 television series, with an American version in 2007.
- Not Without My Handbag, a 1993 short.
- Pib and Pog, a 1995 short.
- "Wat's Pig", a 1996 short.
- Rex The Runt: The studio's first primetime animated series, with two 13-episode seasons shown between 1998 and 2001 on BBC 2. Has become something of a Cult Classic.
- Chicken Run: The studio's first full-length feature, and the first of a planned 5-film collaboration with DreamWorks Animation (which was cut short after three films). Distributed by French studio Pathé in Europe.
- Flushed Away, first CGI feature, and their last film made in cooperation with DreamWorks.
- The Penny cartoons seen on Pee-wee's Playhouse.
- Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" and "Sledgehammer" videos.
- Shaun the Sheep, a television series that began in 2007 with a 40 episode season. It's a Spinoff centered on the character of Shaun, the sheep from A Close Shave. It does not feature Wallace or Gromit, though. It has currently finished its fifth season, and in 2008 won the Emmy for "Children's Production." A feature film was released in 2015, with a sequel due in 2019.
- Timmy Time, a spin-off of Shaun the Sheep featuring Timmy the lamb and his friends at preschool; aimed at a younger audience than the previous examples.
- Arthur Christmas: Their second CGI feature and first collaboration with Sony Pictures Animation, starring James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton among others.
- The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!: their second work with SPA, based on the first in a series of books by Gideon Defoe, starring Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Salma Hayek, BRIAN BLESSED, Jeremy Piven, and also Imelda Staunton. Outside the UK, it was called The Pirates! Band of Misfits.
- World's Funnest: A series of shorts starring childlike version of Batman and Superman for Cartoon Network's DC Nation block.
- Chop Socky Chooks, a short-lived TV series for Cartoon Network featuring kung-fu chickens (really)
- Angry Kid, a web series originally hosted on Atom Films about the daily misadventures of a bratty adolescent.
- Stage Fright, 1997 BAFTA-winning short.
- The Presentators, a series of shorts commissioned by Nickelodeon UK from 2002 to 2004, starring the same three characters from The Deadline, a 2001 award-winning short about three animators of indeterminate species apologising for missing their deadline.
- Early Man, the studio's second attempt at the story that eventually became The Croods had Aardman and DWA not broken off their contract early.
Tropes Associated With This Studio
- Affectionate Parody: Their films lovingly reference and even satirize movies and other stuff.
- Signature Style: Quirky and colorful stop-motion family films with charming characters and inventive British humor.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: All their films head more towards the idealistic and heartwarming.
- Something Completely Different: Arthur Christmas is quite different, at least in look and style, from their stop motion films with large mouths and a particular, recognizable style. The film is still as heartwarming, complex, and relatable as their other ones are.