Five Questions: Aardman Director Rich Webber
Although Aardman Animation has branched out into CG, Flash and other forms of mixed media production, Aardman director Rich Webber still uses molded plasticine and stop-motion animation for all of his projects. Webber is the creator of the series Purple and Brown, a plasticine Beavis and Butthead for the toddler set, has directed several episodes of Shaun the Sheep, Aardman's Wallace & Gromit spin-off for television, and continues to direct spots for Serta and Hotels.com (yes, that's mostly Ed Helms doing the voiceover work for the character "Smart Guy").
Webber and Aardman are currently developing a show for Disney and are at work on a followup to the DC Nation shorts, seen below, completed earlier this year for the Warner Bros./DC Comics series on Cartoon Network. We asked him where he looks for inspiration and what new tool he's added to the stop-frame mix.
1. What recently acquired digital tool has made the biggest impact on your work?
I've just started using a Wacom Cintiq for character design, boarding and general sketching, which I have avoided for ages, using the excuse that it’s not the same as drawing on paper! Well it’s not, but it’s great. I’m really enjoying it. The only thing is, my sketch book is now looking rather empty!
2. When directing for such a recognizable and much-loved stop-motion studio and franchise, how do you make your work your own?
Aardman is made up of a lot of different styles and I think every creative has their own approach to each project, whether it comes out in the look of the characters, set design, the timing, or the composition of shots. You're always in there somewhere.
3. Where do you look for stop-motion inspiration? Live-action films, animation or someplace else entirely?
Timing and slapstick is really important to me. I’m constantly referencing Morecambe & Wise and Laurel & Hardy. I’m also a big fan of Carl Reiner films Man with Two Brains, The Jerk, etc. But to be honest, I get quite inspired by a lot of things whether it’s a film, animation, something that happens in the day or something someone says.
4. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep creator Nick Park?
I guess one of the most important things I've learnt from Nick would be the importance of a characters eyes and the subtlety of expression through the brow, which is something we concentrate on a lot at Aardman.
5. Who (or what app) is in heavy rotation on your iPod/iPhone?
At the moment I’m listening to Ugly Duckling, Jesse Ware and Paul Weller. As for apps I’m playing "The Creeps" on my iPhone whenever I get 5 minutes and driving my family mad with "Tap DJ!"