by ASH

While stop-motion technique first appeared in movies as far back as 1897, in a film called Vitagraph's The Humpty Dumpty Circus, it was Nick Park’s Wallace & Gromit since 1989 that brings this painstaking way of movie-making into the limelight. Almost three decades later, Park, who has won four Oscars for his brilliant work, is back to charm us with his clay animation movie, Early Man. The story follows a prehistoric tribe that must win against the citizens of the Bronze Age in a football match in order to uphold their independence. Before you step into the cinemas to marvel at Park’s meticulously put-together stop-motion comedy, here’re 6 things to know.

1. The story behind Early Man

It turns out Park had been wanting to do a clay animation based on pre-historic times from a long time ago. A huge fan of the movie One Million Years B.C. (1966), the impressionable young Park was inspired to go into film-making then. He shared, “I remember sketching cavemen, quite typical cavemen with the club and everything. I’d probably had cavemen in my head for years, actually, ever since I was 11.”

2. Why football?

If there’s one thing Park wants to avoid, it’s to produce a conventional caveman movie. He discussed with one of the movie’s writers Mark Burton and came up with his eureka moment where they both thought of having the tribes engaged in a sport, and football naturally comes to mind. “I think I drew a caveman with a club hitting a ball like a rounder’s bat, and this idea started to develop, about what if sport, particularly football in this case, brought about civilisation. It seemed to fit with the whole tribal nature of football.” And it didn’t stop there. Park sought inspiration from an Oscar-winning movie to build on the football match concept, “I was inspired very much by the film Gladiator – I wanted to do a football match that had that kind of excitement to it. Just how to stage a football match in a cinematic way. That was a big challenge.”

3. Spot Wallace & Gromit

Wallace and Gromit have been a huge chapter in Park’s film-making career. In Early Man, the animators sneakily inserted the eccentric inventor and his trusty sidekick into one of the crowd-shots, leaving even Park in the dark, until he found out during post-production.

4. It has a stellar cast

Big names are tied to this project. Tom Hiddleston (Thor: Ragnarok) put away his Loki sceptre and turns into a villainous cave man with a French accent. Park cast Hiddleston after watching him on a talk show doing a convincing impersonation of Robert De Niro. Eddie Redmayne (Theory of Everything), Masie Williams (Game of Thrones) and Timothy Spall round up the rest of the primary cast. Park himself has a role in the movie as well.

5. The most fun part about working on Early Man

Park relishes in the joy of being able to create an entirely new world based on his imagination, bringing it to live, “There’s something about, for me, the physical. The sets, and the figures, and the models. I love designing the characters. The whole working with Mark, the writer, and just coming up with ideas, I just love that. Then, seeing the whole process of it then becoming real on screen.”

6. Stop Motion is no walk in the park

If you’re lacking patience, chances are going into clay animation isn’t likely to be in your future. The amount of work that goes into producing the 89-minute movie is astounding. In all, there are around 30 to 40 units working concurrently, with each until spending one entire day to create a one-second animation work. This means at the end of each day, you can only 30 to 40 seconds of footage!

  Catch some behind the scenes action of Early Man: