541. Early Bird – David Sproxton, Peter Lord

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SUMMARY: An early morning DJ combines recording his show with going about his morning routine.

WHY IT’S HERE: Aardman Animations is now one of the biggest names in animation and this glimpse of its beginnings shows how brilliantly imaginative the studio’s talent were from day one. Founded by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, Aardman began life by making short animations from the children’s series ‘Vision On’. But Lord and Sproxton were keen not to be pigeon-holed as children’s filmmakers and quickly began experimenting with two short films for the BBC known as ‘Animated Conversations’, for which they recorded real life conversations and then used them as the basis for their animation. These two films, entitled ‘Down and Out’ and ‘Confessions of a Foyer Girl’, are groundbreaking works which look a little primitive in retrospect, but the main problem was the sound quality of the recordings, which is often muffled and difficult to understand.

The BBC disregarded the ‘Animated Conversations’ but the more progressive Channel 4 were sufficiently impressed to commission a series of five similar shorts, now under the title ‘Conversation Pieces’. By far the best of these films is ‘Early Bird’, a wonderfully funny and imaginative film in which a recording of a DJ doing his early morning show is combined with images of him simultaneously performing his morning routine. As the recording was taken from an actual broadcast rather than an amateur taping, ‘Early Bird’ does not suffer from the poor sound-quality that dogged the earlier shorts. The animation has also significantly improved from the late 70s ‘Animated Conversations’, with the character and set looking fantastic. ‘Early Bird’ is one of the first seeds of Aardman’s consistent excellence and a similar approach would eventually be used by one of the studio’s most successful directors, Nick Park, for the enduringly popular ‘Creature Comforts’.

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