November 14, 2005

Aardman, regular Brits give ‘Comforts’ to U.S

By Cynthia Littleton

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - One of the silliest,
most inventive and most artfully produced programs to come
along in years arrives in the U.S. next month on BBC America
from Aardman Animations, the British outfit whose feature
"Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" is playing in
domestic multiplexes.

Inspired by animator Nick Park's Oscar-winning short film,
the "Creature Comforts" series of vignettes are built around a
wonderfully simple concept: Everyday Britons provide snippets
of wacky dialogue for animal characters who are peppered by
unseen interviewers with earnest, documentary film-type

The animals respond mostly from the point of view of their
species but also with the human characteristics suggested by
their voices and real-world settings. Anthropomorphic hilarity

"Lovely bottoms," a rooster says when asked to name his
favorite turn-on. "I'm not bothered about the front bit, but
the bottom bit I do quite like."

An overweight, over-the-hill caged hamster uses his running
wheel like a Barcalounger, pontificating Archie Bunker-style on
the ways of the world. A New Age-sounding garden snake laments
that he can't fight his craving for bananas, no matter how hard
they are to swallow.

The segments, written by Park and directed by Aardman
veteran Richard Goleszowski, are particularly funny when
depicting married couples, i.e. a bickering pair of pigs --
she's whining about her long-lost figure, while he reads a
laddie mag -- or working-class urban rats. "It was the way he
ate his sandwich," the rodent wife says with a sigh when asked
what first attracted her to him.

"Comforts," set to begin its nine-episode run at 8 p.m.
December 2, debuted two years ago on Britain's ITV1, followed
by a second season of adventures this year. BBC America has
licensed the first two seasons, plus a "Comforts" Christmas
special and the original Oscar-winning short from 1989.

The voices make the show because they are selected at
random from "the great British public," as the end credits
read, in all of its linguistic diversity. "Comforts" turns the
usual animation creative process on its ear by having the
voices determine the specifics of the characters, not the other
way around.

Although produced for the small screen, Aardman's trademark
artistry with Plasticine is in full flower on "Comforts."
According to the delightfully detailed Web site, each clay figurine takes one to
three weeks to make. By the time the roughly 10-minute segments
are ready to be shot digitally, the production team works at
the fast pace (by Aardman standards) of about three to five
seconds a day.

The result is the kind of classic cartoon fare that works
for kids and adults on more than one level. In the world of
"Comforts," ostriches are depicted as flirty office girls, lady
walruses lounge around and scoff at the notion of liposuction,
and zebras are just plain uptight.

"I look bloody good," a lady zebra retorts when asked if
she's interested in getting Botox injections.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter