Ranked | Aardman Animation

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: February 5, 2018 (Last updated: December 16, 2023)
Aardman Animation

Aardman Animation

Aardman Animation has been a part of my life for such a long time now. I used to love watching Morph on Tony Hart’s various TV programmes as a kid. Although I suspect that’s something which is particularly unique to those of us who grew up in the UK. I’m not sure if Morph ever made it over the pond to the US? Then, of course, there were the Creature Comforts shorts that first appeared as adverts for electric heating before becoming a series in their own right.

Of course, the characters that are the most synonymous with Aardman Animation, and their creator Nick Park, are Wallace and Gromit. Like every one of my generation I grew up watching everybody’s favourite dog and inventor duo. Whether it was travelling to the moon in a Grand Day Out, dealing with a villainous penguin in The Wrong Trousers (which is still a high watermark for me) or taking on a robot dog in A Close Shave.

To celebrate the release of Aardman Animation’s latest film, Early Man, I’ve decided to put together a ranking of the seven feature films to come out of Aardman Animation to date. There will be spoilers for pretty much everything although I’ll do my best to avoid spoiling Early Man as it’s only just been released!

(Use the links below to navigate through the pages.)

7. Flushed Away


Flushed Away is a tale (tail?) of two rats. Roddy St. James (Hugh Jackman) is your typical fancy rat. He lives as a pet in a fancy Kensington apartment in London. He’s got everything a rat could want, including a selection of tuxedos, and even a car if my memory serves me correctly. When Roddy’s owners are away on holiday his quiet life is thrown into disarray with the arrival of Sid (Shane Richie), who is a rather uncouth rat from the sewers. A little stereotypical, I feel.

Roddy tries to get rid of Sid by getting him into the jacuzzi (the toilet) to flush him away (get it? Like the title!). Things don’t go according to plan and Roddy ends up in the sewers, where he crosses paths with The Toad (Ian McKellen), who is unsurprisingly a toad, and meets up with a potential love interest, Rita (Kate Winslett). Adventure ensues, as Roddy and Rita try to foil The Toad’s plan to flood the sewers to wash away the occupants of the rat city so that he can raise his family of tadpoles there. Quite frankly it’s bonkers.

It’s been a long time since I actually sat down to watch Flushed Away but thinking back to what actually happens in it I wasn’t sure if I was making it up and it was all just some kind of fever dream. There are undoubtedly worse animated movies. I just really don’t like Flushed Away. Everything about it irritates me, and I just can’t buy into the story. It feels quite old-fashioned and nowhere near as clever or funny as the rest of the output of Aardman Animation. When you think about the other animated films that came out in 2006 like Cars, Happy Feet and Monster House they’re by no means stone-cold classics, but they all doing something different. I mean Happy Feet isn’t great, but it’s still interesting. Monster House, on the other hand, is a massively underappreciated movie.

Flushed Away was Aardman Animation’s first (cinematic) foray into CG animation and I think it shows. It’s all perfectly well done but it is just lacking some of the charm and character of their stop-motion work.

I think Aardman Animation have been pretty consistent with their output. So being the worst Aardman film still means you’re better than 80% of the animated movies that are released. That said, I’m really not a fan, and I have absolutely no interest in revisiting it.

6. Chicken Run


Chicken Run was Aardman Animation’s first big-screen release back in 2000, which actually makes me feel incredibly old. This is the story of a sexy rooster (can roosters actually be sexy?) Rocky (Mel Gibson), crash-landing into Mrs Tweedy’s chicken farm. The word on the street is that Rocky can fly, that’s how he ended up there in the first place. Ginger (Julie Sawalha) thinks that Rocky’s high flying antics might be just the thing to help her and her friends escape the farm and certain death.

Guess what? Rocky can’t really fly. He was just a stunt rooster who used to get fired out a cannon. No, I didn’t know that was an actual thing either, but there you go. Eventually Rocky and Ginger and the rest of the gang come up with an elaborate plan for escape. Think The Great Escape with chickens.

I remember really enjoying Chicken Run when it first came out back in 2000. It is a really good film. It’s smartly written and manages to translate some of the magic of the Aardman Animation television work to the big-screen effortlessly. Why, then, is it so low down on my list, I hear you ask? Well the release of Chicken Run and its subsequent VHS release (ask your parents) were timed almost perfectly with my stint working behind the tills at Blockbuster (again, ask your parents). Now, if the promotional video we were sent ever broke, then we were allowed to play films in the shop. Weirdly enough that promotional video used to break almost as soon as came into the store.

There were, however, conditions around what films we could and couldn’t watch. Namely that everything had to be a U certificate. This limited the choice somewhat, and it seemed like a really good idea to watch the latest animated releases over and over again. I’m pretty sure it’s the fact that I have seen Chicken Run upwards of 6 times in a single shift that has forever ruined it for me. Incidentally, this is also true of Happy Feet and Cars, which came out around the time of my second stint manning the tills at Blockbuster.

It’s a nice little film but for me, it will always conjure the smell of stale popcorn, the man who came in every week without fail to buy titles from our… gentleman’s range, and the dreadful blue uniform I was forced to wear. Sorry Chicken Run, you deserve better.

5. Early Man 


I went to see Early Man fairly recently. You can get a much better idea of my thoughts in my review.

Early Man is the story of our ancestors as they carved out a living amongst the dinosaurs. All of this changes when a meteor puts an end to the dinosaurs and turns most of the Earth into the cruel and unforgiving Badlands. It’s not all bad, though. The meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs also helps prehistoric man to invent football, when they start kicking the meteor around for fun. Shortly after it has committed genocide, which in retrospect seems a little macabre.

Fast forward a few years to Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and his tribe living in the idyllic valley, complete with his pet pig Hognob (I know, I know). Their tranquil lifestyle is shattered when Bronze Age villain Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) turns up with his fancy new metal and claims dominion over the valley. Fortunately, the Bronze Age folks still love a bit of football. Especially their all-conquering team Real Bronzio. As it turns out the only way for Dug and his friends to win back their home is to beat Real Bronzio in a game of football. As you might expect, this underdog tale sees a ragtag bunch of misfits coming together to form a team with the help of football expert Goona (Maisie Williams) and the odd training montage.

Early Man is a really entertaining film and I did laugh pretty consistently throughout the whole thing, especially at any mention of Hognob. It’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen as the film progresses. I think I could have sat and had a bash at the plot without seeing it. That said, the animation is utterly charming and there is a constant stream of jokes to amuse the whole family. It just doesn’t quite hit the heights of some their other films.

4. Shaun the Sheep


Shaun the Sheep started out as a supporting character in Wallace and Gromit’s A Close Shave. Now he’s better known as the star of his own children’s TV show. Shaun the Sheep’s big screen debut follows the adventures of Shaun and the rest of the flock on Mossy Farm. Shaun and the gang decide they need a bit of a break from the day-to-day slog of sheep-life. Things don’t go according to plan, and Shaun (and the rest of the flock) have to venture into the big city to find the farmer after a caravan related mishap.

I’ve always thought that the Shaun the Sheep movie was quite a bold step for Aardman Animation. Their other films have usually been aimed at children, but with more enough jokes for the adults in the audience. On TV, Shaun the Sheep was ostensibly a children’s show with absolutely no dialogue. It’s impressive, then, that the producers of the film decided to stick to their guns and make Shaun the Sheep pretty much a silent movie.

There’s no doubting that Shaun the Sheep is aimed at a younger audience than some of Aardman’s other films, but it’s certainly no less enjoyable. It’s a real testament to the skill of the animators that they have managed to convey the story and so much emotion with only facial expressions and the occasional “baa”. There aren’t many animators that can convey so much meaning with the tiniest changes to a face.

Normally an episode of Shaun the Sheep will run at around 7 minutes, so the film was a real step up at 85 minutes, but things never feel stretched. The film also ramped things up in terms of action, but it never really felt forced or out of place. The scope of the film was increased from what you’d normally get in the TV series but somehow everything still managed to retain a small, charming quality.

The animation in Shaun the Sheep is everything you’d expect from Aardman. They’ve really raised the baa. There might not be as much in here as their other films but it is still much more than a simple children’s film. It’s a nice, relaxing, charming film and a really refreshing change that makes you feel like everything is alright with the world.

3. Arthur Christmas


What if I were to tell you that Santa doesn’t deliver every single present on his own? No, in fact, the present-delivering business is actually a family concern with Santa (Jim Broadbent) being ably assisted by his two sons, Arthur (James McAvoy) and Steve (Hugh Laurie), and of course a loyal army of elves. Steve is all set to take on the role of Santa when his dad finally retires. He has some great ideas for modernising the present delivery game and making it as efficient as possible.

When Santa somehow manages to miss a child, Arthur embarks on a mission to make sure no child is missed out. With the help of his grandad (who also used to be Santa), Arthur has to travel across the globe in just two hours to ensure that everybody gets the presents that they deserve.

In the last couple of years, Arthur Christmas has gone from something I thought was just okay to something that is entirely indispensable Christmas viewing. This second journey into CG animation for Aardman manages to somehow transfer their charming animation style to the digital world in a way that is far more accomplished than Flushed Away ever was.

It’s a film that definitely improves with each viewing. Every time I have seen the film I’ve managed to find new things to make me laugh. For example, this time around there’s a moment where a lone voice in a crowd of elves yells out from the crowd, “I lost everything in that flood!” You’ll have to watch it for it to make sense, I suppose. I’d never really noticed that line until this time around, but even thinking about it now I’m chuckling.

I love Arthur Christmas. It’s a superb feel-good Christmas film and a great film in its own right. There are a lot of laughs from start to finish and a really nice, Christmassy story to get you in the mood for the festive period. The animation is absolutely top notch and manages to maintain the charm and character that you’d expect from an Aardman film.

2. Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit


2005 saw everybody’s favourite inventor and dog duo make the leap from television to the cinema. Now, there’s not exactly a great track record of TV favourites making the move to the big screen. Thankfully, Wallace and Gromit managed to successfully make the jump.

Wallace and Gromit have turned their hands (and paws) to the pest control business (Anti-Pesto) with a humane way to take care of any unwanted visitors. Their business is absolutely booming in the run up the village’s annual Giant Vegetable Competition. They’re fast running out of space to keep all of the rabbits that they’ve humanely caught. In fact Wallace’s house is absolutely filled to the rafters with rabbits.

In order to solve their impending rabbit crisis, Wallace decided to invent a device to brainwash rabbits into forgetting about their love of vegetables. What could go wrong? Well, for one thing, a rabbit ends up being attached to Wallace’s head. Then, coincidentally that night there are a lot of reports from the villagers of a mysterious were-rabbit ravaging their vegetables. Everything unfolds in typical Wallace and Gromit fashion, with slapstick humour and some fun set pieces, and most importantly everyone has a lovely time.

The animation is absolutely superb. It feels like some of the best stuff that Aardman have ever done. Everything just oozes charm. The story itself relies on a lot of well-worn horror cliches that piece together beautifully to make a warm, comforting and most importantly endlessly entertaining romp.

Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a wonderful film. It’s jam-packed with great jokes and action sequences that are tremendous fun. However, it never sacrifices the plot at the expense of a cheap laugh. Everything in there feels totally earned and completely fits with the world they’ve created. This film is a fantastic example of a family film that is so much more and is more than capable of keeping the entire family happy.

1. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists


Year after year, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) tries and fails to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award. Every year without fail he attempts to measure up to the greatest of the great, like Black Bellamy, Peg Leg Hastings and Cutlass Liz, in a race to plunder the most booty.

This year things might just be different when Pirate Captain and his crew run into a scientist by the name of Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Darwin convinces Pirate Captain that the ship’s parrot Polly (who is actually a Dodo) could be the key to the boundless riches that will secure him the crown of Pirate of the Year that he so desperately craves.

The Pirates embark on an adventure that takes them to Victorian London. They cross swords with Queen Victoria, who has an exceptional distaste for pirates and an evil plan to boot. Unsurprisingly, Darwin’s motives for helping the gang are not entirely benevolent either. He just wants to get his hands on Polly for the sake of his own reputation. Pirate Captain faces a bit of a tough dilemma. Should he finally win the acclaim of his fellow pirates he so desperately craves, or should he remain loyal to his crew (and Polly)?

I’m pretty certain that given the choice most people would go for Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit as their top pick of the Aardman films, but I just love The Pirates: In an Adventure with Scientists. As far as I’m concerned this is one of Hugh Grant’s best performances. I can’t really say why. He’s pretty much just Hugh Grant, but for some reason I find him utterly hilarious. It perhaps doesn’t have the same broad appeal as Wallace and Gromit, but I found the characters to be really endearing, the adventure to be good fun, and there to be an endless stream of laughs. I still find it funny to this day that Hugh Grant’s character is literally called Pirate Captain. It’s not a particularly clever joke, but it really appeals to me.

My biggest disappointment with the film was that we never got a sequel. I would love to spend more time with Pirate Captain, Polly and the crew, but it looks like that ship has sailed. Still, we’ll always have Charles Darwin. If you’ve never been lucky enough to see it I definitely recommend tracking it down. It’s a stop-motion delight.

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