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Robin Robin is a stop-motion animated musical from U.K.-based Wallace & Gromit studio Aardman Animations and writer-directors Dan Ojari and Mikey Please. The film follows a robin who is raised by a loving family of mice. As she grows up, her differences become more apparent, and she plans a heist at a human family’s house to prove to her family that she can be a good mouse.
“On the way, she discovers who she is and that her difference is the wonderful part of her,” Ojari says, adding that the 30-minute Oscar-shortlisted film is about “celebrating who you are and all the differences that make you you.”
Aardman’s Oscar-winning work includes Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, for best animated feature; and Creature Comforts, A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers, all for best animated short. Robin Robin, the new holiday short, debuted in November on Netflix, whose next collaboration with the animation studio will be a sequel to Aardman’s Oscar-nominated 2000 feature Chicken Run.
Robin Robin‘s directors — who grew up inspired by Aardman’s work — had been working on the script for several years before meeting Aardman executive creative director Sarah Cox at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. “We’d gone there to pitch this story, and we serendipitously bumped into Sarah in the canteen and had this kind of ad hoc pitch,” relates Please. “We had put together this little storybook [which was published by Macmillan in the fall], and we read her the storybook and also sang a song from the film.” The pair wrote the lyrics, and the music and score was composed by The Bookshop Band.
The sets and lighting give the short a rich, textured look, as do the stop-motion puppets, which are made of felt.
“At one point, we had to choose whether to go down an anthropomorphized route, where perhaps Robin and the other animal characters would’ve been more humanlike, which would be really helpful for animating purposes. But because the theme is about our differences making us stronger, we really wanted to lean into the animal nature of these characters,” explains Please. “We pushed Robin’s design to be birdlike. Her legs bend backward. She has no hands, she has feathers, and the wings can’t grip things. That was a challenge. But because of the theme of the film, it was important that our characters were as different to each other as possible. And we see through the story that those differences are their assets.”
The voice cast features Richard E. Grant, who plays a magpie that takes Robin under his “wing” on the journey — and whose character was inspired by Grant’s title character in the 1987 feature Withnail & I. Gillian Anderson plays the villain, a large Maine coon-like cat (“She was recording [Robin Robin] at the time she was recording Margaret Thatcher [for The Crown], so she really channeled some of the Iron Lady,” says Please). Adeel Akhtar voices Dad Mouse, while Bronte Carmichael voices Robin.
The directors say they were thrilled to work with the Aardman team and even had a couple of meetings and “brilliant” advice from four-time Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park. For Ojari and Please, coming to Aardman has special meaning, as they grew up watching its films. Says Please, “They’re a huge reason as to why we started making stop-motion films and, really, this one.”
This story first appeared in a January stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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