SUMMARY: Music hall dog juggler Tiny finds his career taking a nosedive with the arrival of cinema and the bullying influence of film star Arnold Hugh.
WHY IT’S HERE: Steve Box’s wonderfully weird ‘Stage Fright’ was one of Aardman Animation’s projects that was never designed to be a commercial success but founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton felt it was important to continue innovating alongside their more commercial projects. Box, who worked with Nick Park on the previous two Wallace and Gromit films and who would later co-direct the feature ‘Curse of the Were-Rabbit’, has here created something very different from Park’s shorts. ‘Stage Fright’ is a spoof melodrama but the humour is secondary to the film’s commitment to its story of a tyrannical bully and his hold over two colleagues. All three characters are voiced by British character comedian Graham Fellows, famous for his creation John Shuttleworth. The attention to detail in the film’s depiction of the changeover from music hall to cinema is excellent, with the mock silent films being the funniest thing in the short. Overall, ‘Stage Fright’ is an inventive, dramatic but tongue-in-cheek gem that baffled many newcomers to Aardman’s stall but delighted those who were more familiar with their lesser-known and darker films like ‘Babylon’ or ‘Loves Me, Loves Me Not’.