Stop-motion animation is all but extinct on the big screen – even after “Kubo and the Two Strings” earned $75 million and two Academy Award nominations, lead animator Travis Knight effectively put his entire studio, Laika, on hiatus so he could direct the “Transformers” spin-off “Bumblebee.” It seems fitting, then, that the new trailer for Aardman Animation’s latest, “Early Man,” harkens back to an era before technological advancement made handmade achievements feel obsolete.
Aardman premiered the trailer online Thursday morning, showcasing the voice work of its all-star cast, which includes Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall and Richard Ayoade. The film focuses on Dug (Redmayne), a Neanderthal who finds himself fighting to save the valley where he and his primitive pals dwell after Lord Nooth (Hiddleston) and his snooty French pals arrive, bringing technology – and progress – with them. Nick Park, whose stellar track record includes five “Wallace and Gromit” adventures as well as the criminally underrated “Chicken Run,” directs.
Until Pixar succumbed to the commercial pressures of the industry and started juggling as many sequels as original projects, Aardman was, effectively, their U.K. counterpart, maintaining a pretty consistently stellar pedigree for longer than just about anyone could have expected. That reputation makes virtually anything they release a must-see, certainly if you’re a fan of the medium as a whole; notwithstanding their adorable, iconic bubble-eyed style and remarkable gift for telling stories that are both silly and smart, Aardman remains one of the few companies working in animation to preserve and maintain stop-motion technique, and that heritage not only deserves support, it desperately needs it.
“Early Man” opens in the U.K. January 26, 2018, and in the U.S. Feb. 16.