Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Arthur Christmas: Aardman and Sony go transatlantic

Earlier this year I made a post about the UK/US co-production Gnomeo & Juliet taking a look at exactly what either country was responsible for during the making of the film. In this post I'll be doing the same for the similarly transatlantic Arthur Christmas, a co-production between Aardman and Sony Pictures Animation.

The film was directed by Sarah Smith, whose only prior involvement with animation appears to have been working as a writer on the TV series I Am Not an Animal; according to IMDB she has previously worked primarily as a producer on various live-action TV series such as The League of Gentlemen. Her co-writer on Arthur Christmas was fellow I Am Not an Animal scribe Peter Baynham, who also wrote for I'm Alan Partridge, Big Train, Brass Eye, Borat and, apparently, those "It's not leafy, it's too gorgeous" Pot Noodle adverts, which he starred in. So, then, Arthur Christmas has a UK director and - like Gnomeo - a writing crew culled largely from the world of British live action comedy.

Taking a look at the film's IMDB page, we see that the main cast is largely British - James McAvoy (who, funnily enough, voiced both Arthur and Gnomeo), Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Michael Palin, Imelda Staunton and others.

The American talent, then, appears to be in the animation department. Amongst the senior animators we find Wee Brian (Flushed Away and a few DreamWorks films); Joel Foster (The Incredible Hulk, Night in the Museum 2 and other special effects films); Jean-Dominique Fievet (a French-born animator who has worked primarily on American films such as Open Season 2); Aldo Gagliardi (who appears to have started out in Spanish and Italian animated films before going on to animate for US productions such as Iron Man 2, sometimes with the London company Double Negative); David Anthony Gibson (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and several photorealistic talking animals from Tippett Studio); Boris Hiestand (a Bristol-based Dutchman who has worked on European productions such as Asterix and the Vikings and Aardman's upcoming The Pirates!); Andrew Lawson (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Tale of Despereaux and others); Jeremy Lazare (who has worked with Cinesite Europe and MPC on the Harry Potter series); Matthew Meyer (the recent Alvin, Yogi Bear and Smurfsfilms); Ryan Page (I Am Legend, Open Season 2 and more); Tim Pixton (various Rhythm & Hues projects such as Yogi Bear and The Wolfman); Alan Short (British wildlife documentaries and a short film called Fly). The storyboard and character design teams likewise consist mainly, but not exclusively, of American animation veterans.

And there we have it - like Gnomeo, a collaboration between generally British writers and actors and generally American animators.


  1. The film was split between pre-production in Bristol and production/post in L.A.

    The pre-pro team were mainly European-the head of Story, Donnie Long is the only American , the others were German, English, Welsh (myself!), Irish and Canadian.
    Prod. Designer Evgeni Tomov is Bulgarian.

    Alan Short is from Derbyshire- Jeremy Lazare is Scottish. Tim Watts, who's English, was responsible for the final character design (at Aardman) then moved into animation at Sony.

    Once the production decamped to Sony in Culver City then their crew would have an American majority. Although Brit production staff-producers, managers,co-ordinators, followed Sarah to L.A.

  2. Ah, this is interesting to know. It can be hard to disentangle things using IMDB, since it's clear that a lot of the people working on it have travelled between various countries during their careers (I noticed a chap who worked on Kirikou and the Sorceress was involved with the character designs...)

  3. IMDB credits can be confusing- I'm credited with shows I've never worked on!