Netflix and Aardman Animations, the U.K.’s best-known stop-motion studio, have released a new image and teaser from their upcoming musical holiday special “Robin Robin” during a panel at Annecy Animation Festival.
The charming half-hour short, which features the voices of Gillian Anderson and Richard E. Grant, tells the story of a baby robin (called Robin) who is adopted by a family of thieving mice. Although she thinks of herself as a mouse, as Robin grows she begins to notice that she can’t sneak around quite as effectively as her adopted siblings, which leads her on a journey of self-discovery.
“It’s a story of her figuring out her difference,” Dan Ojari, who co-directs the special alongside Mikey Please, said during the session. “The story is based around her kind of realising that actually her abilities are different to the mice.”
“Robin Robin” marks a departure from Aardman’s traditional fare. For one, it eschews what has in recent years become the Aardman house style – protruding eyes and goofy, wide-mouthed grins – initially developed by the studio’s long-time director, Nick Park (“Wallace and Gromit”).
Secondly, it swaps modelling clay (Aardman’s go-to for stop-motion since its inception) for felt, which Please calls “unquestionably visceral and real.”
“There’s also something about felt that’s quite seasonal,” Please added. “It’s something that we would associate with Christmas, the warmth and softness of it. And there’s something amazing about the way felt lights.”
Executive producer Sarah Cox said it was at Annecy that Ojari and Please first pitched her the idea for “Robin Robin.” “I just knew, immediately, with a great certainty that this was going to happen and it was going to happen at Aardman,” she said.
The special is something of a family affair, with Please’s brother Ben working on the musical composition with his group, The Bookshop Band. “Their approach to music and storytelling felt like the absolute perfect fit for the project,” said Please. “Partly it’s wanting it to feel like a classic, wholesome story that’s slightly timeless. They managed to also impart that handmade feel into their music that we also love in the imagery.”
So integral is the composition to the show that some scenes were built around the music, with The Bookshop Band sketching out ideas while Please and Ojari were still working on the animatics.
As well as the animation, children will also no doubt appreciate the themes in “Robin Robin”, which deals not only with identity and difference but also sibling rivalry and competitiveness. “That fuels a little bit of why [Robin] wants to prove she’s just as good at sneaking as her brothers and sisters,” Ojari explained.
The stop-motion special, which comes out this Fall, marks the first of several upcoming original joint productions between Netflix and Aardman, including “Chicken Run 2” and a “Shaun the Sheep” Christmas special.