December 20th, 2012

There are a few things that make Christmas complete. Family, friends, shiny new toys, drowning in wrapping paper, pigs in blankets, finding yourself eating the rejected Quality Street toffees even though you don't like them and of course, Wallace and Gromit! This winter, the new offering from Wallace and Gromit comes from a team up with Google, to star in a festive video that aims to connect family and friends this holiday season.

Appearing together with a number of other Aardman Animation characters for the very first time, the video features Wallace and Gromit in a Google+ Hangout with Trixie and Captain Cuddlepuss from Creature Comforts, Shaun the Sheep and Ginger from Chicken Run.

I caught up with Merlin Crossingham, Creative Director for Wallace and Gromit for an exclusive insight into this magical meeting of much-loved characters.

How did the Google+ creation originate?

From my point of view this was first pitched to us as a concept created by adam&eveDDB on behalf of Google as part of their on-going advertising campaign. We all loved the idea, as for many of us who have worked with these characters for years (decades in some cases) they are like family.

How did you approach the project?

With great enthusiasm, who wouldn't?

What were the challenges involved?

The biggest challenge for us was the need to have the characters present continuously on the small screens at the bottom of the monitor once they joined the hangout conversation. It may seem like an obvious thing to say but animation takes a long time, and it is most definitely not live, so making sure that all the characters' choreography worked was critical. This wasn't 'just' a minute of animation it was nearer four, and once we started animating the edit had to lock, as one change in a timeline had a huge domino effect on the other characters' actions.

Hangout 690 1

It's a huge event for everyone having so many Aardman characters together at once… At what point was the decision to do this made?

The decision to have all the characters together was intrinsic to the original brief, of bringing the family together. However our characters have always been very much kept in their own worlds. I think the only reason they hadn't come together before was that there had been no reason to, the Google+ job gave us that reason with a great idea, and it specifically needed their worlds to remain apart, but be brought together in a hangout.

Did all the characters get on (personality and practicality wise!)?

Luckily as it was a video conference none of them had to actually meet, I think there would have been potential problems with dressing room size between Piella and Ginger. Shaun and the gang just muck in and so long as you can take destruction, constant eating and incessant bleating in your stride, they behave very well on a shoot. As for Wallace and Gromit they are old pros, Gromit never misses a beat.

W G 690 2

Did you use any new techniques?

The basic stop-motion techniques we use are as old as cinema itself, however we embrace the latest digital capture and compositing techniques both within Aardman and at post facilities like The Mill, wherever it is needed. We use whatever technology is best to achieve the creativity needed for the job.

What was your favourite moment whilst working on Google+?

The best thing about working on Google+ was being able to work with characters that I never thought I would get the chance to work with again, but all in one project!  The film runs like a brief history of my career at Aardman.