Aided by director Nick Park, we reveal five reasons why Early Man – “an underdog sports movie with a prehistoric twist” – will have you cheering with all your might from the 26th of January.
1. It's brought to you by the tribe behind Wallace & Gromit
I’ve just always been a clay man. It’s hard to make your mark in the CG world, I think, and I love the clay and the plasticine and the textures. For me it has that charm, you know, the fingerprints. It helps to set us apart from others. Nick Park
Early Man is produced by Aardman Animations, the Bristol-based animation studio behind the brilliant Wallace & Gromit shorts/movies and also the outstandingly inventive stop-motion feature film Chicken Run (2000).
If that wasn’t enough to entice you, this historical comedy, which is set during the age of cavemen, is also directed by Aardman’s most well-known animator, Nick Park, recipient of a whopping four Oscars for Creature Comforts (1991), The Wrong Trousers (1994), A Close Shave (1996) and The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (2006).
In other words, folks, we’re in safe (and superb) hands.
2. Not just a movie, but a work of art!
This kind of animation, even though we have a fantastic team, by the nature of the medium itself, you don’t quite know what the results are going to be. Nick Park
Foregoing CGI in favour of real and impressively detailed sets, with models painstakingly constructed by hand from clay, plasticine, foam latex and silicone, Early Man is more than just a movie, it’s a work of art.
In a move a million miles away from the big Hollywood animation houses, the crew also acted out the storyline for the animators to follow, while effects such as smoke flickering on a cave wall were achieved by a jam jar rotating on top of a lightbulb.
Old-school? Very much so – and all the more charming for it. This film is a treat for the eyes!
3. The vocal cast is amazing
We shoot the characters and put in [an audio track of], say, Tom Hiddleston or Eddie Redmayne and see how it plays. I saw Eddie in a film called Black Death where he plays a novice monk, and I liked the way he was quite vulnerable. With Tom, I’d met him a couple of times already and I knew his work, then I saw him on Graham Norton mimicking voices and I was after someone who could do a funny French accent…Nick Park
Another thing all Aardman productions have in common is their fantastic, big-name vocal casts. The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit featured Helena Bonham Carter, Peter Kay and Ralph Fiennes, while Chicken Run boasted Mel Gibson, Timothy Spall and Miranda Richardson.
Early Man, however, tops the lot with Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne lending his dulcet tones to Dug, Marvel (anti)hero Tom Hiddleston adopting a French drawl to play Lord Nooth and everyone’s favourite Stark, Maisie Williams, proving a fiery handful as Goona.
4. Funny and crazy!
What I find exciting is [that Early Man] is a whole new world for us. It’s not terraced houses and cosy living rooms – it’s a prehistoric universe. Nick Park
Early Man sees Aardman and Park swapping the suburbs of Wigan for a prehistoric landscape peppered with angry volcanoes and furry, fanged creatures that make the Were-Rabbit look like Thumper from Bambi. It’s very much outside the studio’s ‘Creature Comforts’ zone, but as a gamble it pays off – the film is up there with Aardman’s very best work and should bag a heap of awards.
While the locale may have changed, one thing that definitely remains the same is the studio’s famous wit. Early Man is laced with warm British humour, with caveman hero Dug and his sidekick Hognob (a kind of ginger boar, played by Park himself) proving every bit as loveable as the cheese-scoffing Wallace and his permanently exasperated pooch, Gromit.
5. Bronze vs Stone in a football game!
I was just playing around with ideas about what if cavemen had a go at sport. Somehow it ended up as football and it started to expand from there: how would a bunch of lunkhead Neanderthals deal with something more disciplined where they had to put down their clubs and use their feet? Nick Park
Early Man follows the misadventures of Dug, a carefree caveman living with his tribe in a beautiful – if somewhat dangerous – valley (seriously, everything wants to eat them). One day their small world expands dramatically when they encounter another, more advanced civilisation.
The people of the Bronze Age, led by meanie Lord Nooth, are determined to conquer their region. The only way for Dug and his friends to save their Stone Age home is to play Nooth’s forces in a winner-takes-all footie match.