Early Man: director Nick Park faces biggest challenge with caveman film

Director Nick Park on the set of Early Man.
Director Nick Park on the set of Early Man.

EARLY Man director Nick Park’s latest clay animation film may have been his biggest challenge to date, but he wouldn’t change a thing.

The four-time Oscar winner and Wallace and Gromit co-creator’s newest big-screen film looks at soccer in prehistoric times.

When courageous caveman Dug’s (Eddie Redmayne) peaceful valley is invaded by pompous Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) and his army, he challenges him to an almighty soccer match in a bid to win back his home.

Speaking to Community News from England in January, Park said this story lent itself to a grander scale than he had dealt with before.

“I kept kicking myself: ‘why soccer?’ because you always have to have 22 guys on the pitch,” he said.

“In a sense it is not easier; all the principal animation is the same and done in the same technique, but the figures aren’t always clay.

“But this one is so big, you couldn’t reach into the set far enough to make adjustments; we went digital for a lot of the backgrounds and crowds at the stadiums.

“At times I thought ‘gosh what have I done?’.”

Park said the idea for the film had been “kicking around for about three years” before being put on the backburner for a while.

“I was always attached to the idea of cave men and women, but it wasn’t meant to be so epic,” he said.

“I wanted to look for something that wasn’t just another caveman story.

“It started with doodles and then I thought about sport and how tribal it is.”

He said it was an amazing experience.

“It took about 18 months to film, and we had 35-40 animators and a crew of 200 people,” he said.

“We filmed in a studio in Bristol which is the size of a football pitch and we had about 35-40 sets going at the same time so everything was parallel.

“We would film about two to three seconds (of usable footage) a day and about a minute a week and that is steaming ahead.

“It was great to do it, it was an amazing adventure.

“I only signed off on the film a week and a half ago, so I feel like I just stepped out of the ship engine covered in grease.”

Early Man is in cinemas April 12.

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