Friday, February 03, 2006


Creature Comforts

I love me some Aardman. I anxiously await the imminent release of Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which circumstances prevented us from seeing in the theaters. And when I reached the end of the first season of Creature Comforts, I watched every bit of supplemental material on the disc, just to extend the experience as far as possible.

If you're unfamiliar with the premise, Creature Comforts is a series of short programs in which the voices of a wide variety of British citizens, opining on any subject imaginable, are animated with stop-motion animation animals of various types. Nick Park and Aardman had originally done a short film with this approach, and the same title, in 1990, which went on to win an Oscar. In any event, in watching the series, I remember thinking that it could never fly on American television (though apparently they are being rebroadcast on BBC America); as genius as I find a hamster complaining about his family, or a seeing-eye dog explaining her philosophy of life, it just doesn't seem like the kind of thing the majority of Americans could get behind. There's no plot, and the humor can be extremely subtle, two characteristics which haven't necessarily been hallmarks of American television.

Imagine my surprise, this morning, to read that CBS has contracted Aardman to make seven half-hour episodes of Creature Comforts (presumably with the voices of Americans). How about that? It remains to be seen if this is something that will translate successfully into an American idiom, much less be embraced by American audiences, but I remain cautiously optimistic.

Nick Park's earliest animations were broadcast on *local television* where I lived in the West Country. These involved claymation models who looked quite like the original people saying lines recorded by everyday folk in the street. The real genius evidenced later was playing that against the suggested character of the animals, a move which began with a British Gas commerical. I think the smug cat on the sofa voice guy shouldn't be too pleased with how he comes over... but probably is!
I think the closest thing to an American-made version of the Creature Comforts shorts is the Fandango series of advertisements, featuring the brown-paper-bag puppets. They aren't exactly subtle, but they are whimsical in a way that a lot of American animation isn't.
That's a good comparison, but I'd go back further, to a Fandango predecessor and the last good thing on Mtv, Sifl & Olly. Sheer stoner sock puppet brilliance, and still online at:
Hi there... Glad you guys seemed to like Creature Comforts so much. There is an American series due to start on CBS very soon. I think you will find this series even better than the last two.

I hope it goes down well over there in the USA!

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