Creature Comforts

Creature Comforts
Creature Comforts.jpeg
Format Comedy, Animation
Created by Nick Park,
Richard Goleszowski
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 27 (List of episodes)
Production
Producer(s) Aardman Animations
Running time 10 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel ITV (UK)
CBS (US)
Picture format 4:3 (1989)
16:9 (2003 - Present)
Original airing July 15, 1989 (Original Film)
October 1, 2003 - Present

Creature Comforts was originally a 1989 British humorous animated short film about how animals feel about living in a zoo, featuring the voices of the British public "spoken" by the animals. It was created by Nick Park and Aardman Animations. The film later became the basis of a series of television advertisements for the UK Electricity Board, and in 2003 a television series in the same style was released. An American version of the series was also made.

Contents

The original film

The original 5-minute film Creature Comforts was conceived and directed by Nick Park and produced by Aardman Animations featuring the voices of British non-actors in the same vein as the "man on the street" Vox Pop interviews. It was produced as part of a series called Lip Synch for Channel 4. The film won Nick Park the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1990.

The film shows various animals in a zoo being interviewed about their living conditions. These include turtles, a female gorilla, a family of polar bears, and a melancholic Mountain Lion who complains about the "lack of space" and the "grass with pollen that gives me hay fever every day!"

The dialogue was created by interviewing residents of a housing development, an old people's home and a family that lived in a local shop (the polar bears). Clay animation was then created that attributed the answers to zoo animals. One of the most popular characters was the Mountain Lion. He was in fact a Brazilian student who lived in a hotel and was talking about his own situation. (Source: DVD audio commentary).

The advertisements

In 1990 Nick Park worked with Phil Rylance and Paul Cardwell to develop a series of British television advertisements for the Electricity Board's "Heat Electric" campaign. The creative team of advertising agency GGK had seen the original Creature Comforts film and were hugely impressed by it. They were convinced that a series of short films modelled on the original film would be ideally suited to television advertising – as long as the advertising was handled with sufficient sensitivity to preserve the integrity and charm of Park's work. The initial result of their collaboration was three 30-second Creature Comforts advertisements, made in the same style as the original film. This led to a series.

Although there had been a tradition of vox pop advertisements going back to the soap powder adverts of the 1960s, the Creature Comforts series was distinctive in its juxtaposition of real-life dialogue and animated creatures. The series featured a variety of endearing plasticine animals, including a tortoise, a cat, a family of penguins and a Brazilian parrot. The characters were seen in their own domestic settings, chatting to an unseen interviewer behind a large microphone.

The characters' dialogue was obtained by taking tape recordings of everyday people talking about the comfort and benefits of the electrical appliances in their homes and then using extracts of these – complete with pauses, false starts, repetitions, hesitations and unscripted[citation needed] use of language (such as "easily turn-off-and-on-able"). The selected interviewees spoke in a range of down-to-earth regional accents, and the overall effect was of natural conversation.[1] The adverts' warm and cosy tone reflected the warmth and homeliness of central heating. The features were rounded off by a gentle closing voice-over spoken by Johnny Morris. Morris appealed especially to older audiences, who would remember him and his animal conversations on the television programme Animal Magic.

The campaign was a great success[2] and its run was extended over three years. The advertisements received critical acclaim within the advertising industry – with Park, Rylance and Cardwell picking up many top creative awards in Europe and America, including "Best Commercial of the Year" in the 1991 British Television Advertising Awards and "Most Outstanding European Campaign" in the 1991 D&AD Europe Awards. In fact Creature Comforts was subsequently voted by media professionals (in leading trade outlets Marketing and Brand Republic) as one of the top television advertisements of the last 50 years.[3]

As well as attaining a very high level of viewer recall, the advertisements were much loved – particularly the ones involving Frank (the tortoise), Carol (the cat) and Pablo (the parrot). In awarding them a place in The 100 best British ads of the century, the UK's leading advertising journal Campaign commented "The power of a campaign which can make consumers feel warm towards a utility cannot be underestimated".[4] The many popular awards won by the Creature Comforts advertisements included being voted fourth in the alltime 100 Greatest TV Ads by readers of The Sunday Times and viewers of Channel 4 in 2000.[5] Their position among the classic advertisements of British television was confirmed when Creature Comforts was voted fourth in ITV’s Best Ever Adverts by viewers of ITV in 2005.[6] Finally, in a YouGov survey during 2006, Creature Comforts topped the list of the UK's alltime favourite animated or puppet characters used in adverts.[7]

The Creature Comforts advertisements have now attained a place in popular culture, and are probably better remembered than the original film that spawned them.[8] However, it is claimed that many members of the public mistakenly remember the commercials as advertising gas heating, the main competitor to electricity.[9]

Influences

The Creature Comforts advertisements were produced in the period 1990 to 1992 and in some ways they were indicative of the shape of things to come in British television advertising. Many commentators believe that there was a fundamental shift in television advertising from the unbridled consumerism and egoism of the 1980s to what is sometimes termed a more "caring" approach in the 1990s. The Creature Comforts advertisements are cited as an early example of this phenomenon.[10]

The format of the Creature Comforts advertisements was so successful that it was replicated in other campaigns in the following decades. In later years, however, members of the public became increasingly conscious of the potential uses of their vox pop interviews.[11] This made it difficult to recapture the spontaneity and innocence of the early Creature Comforts advertisements. Although lookalike animations became relatively commonplace in television advertisements, they were usually scripted and rarely possessed the painstaking attention to detail of the original advertisements.[citation needed]

Credits

  • Director: Nick Park
  • Creative Director: Nick Fordham
  • Art Directors: Phil Rylance, Newy Brothwell
  • Writers: Paul Cardwell, Kim Durdant-Hollamby

The series

In 2003 a series of Creature Comforts films directed by Richard Goleszowski was made for British television network ITV by Aardman Animations. The series has since aired as repeats on Comedy Central, usually late at night. Starting in 2005 it has also aired in Australia on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, in The Netherlands on Veronica, on pay-TV channel US.TV, and on Internet peer-to-peer TV Joost Aardman Animations Channel.

A 30 minute special in which the regular characters attempt to perform and interpret the Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was first aired on 25 December 2005. The special was broadcast in Canada on the CBC on 26 December 2005.

Humour pervades all aspects of the series, for example:

  • A highly philosophical speech given by an amoeba.
  • An alligator praising her neighbourhood, the sewer.
  • Animals being scared of their own habitat (aquaphobic sharks and walruses, birds afraid of heights, etc.)
  • Background details such as:
    • Insects swarming into a gap in the paving stones when a slug mimics a bird call.
    • Grey aliens blinking in unison.
    • A lab mouse being interviewed while another mouse with a human ear on his back walks by.

The series gently mocks the constructed performance sometimes given by members of the general public when being interviewed for television vox-pops and documentaries. This includes the attempts to present a cogent but simple conclusive answer to a general question - a sound bite - and the attempts to present a cheery spin on a complex issue while the subject attempts to hide their personal issues and problems with the issue.

The Series is now currently[when?] being Repeated On G.O.L.D.

Regular characters

The following characters are among those who make regular appearances throughout the first series. These animals are always portrayed by the same interviewees to maintain consistency throughout the series. Most returned for the second season.

  • Pickles the Guide Dog — A guide dog with an optimistic outlook and a high-pitched, exaggerated laugh.
  • Fluffy the Hamster — A depressed hamster who has a pessimistic view on everything: the beach, clowns, evolution, Christmas, etc.
  • Clement the Bloodhound — Clement has gone to see medical specialists several times in his life - and has usually been thrown out without treatment or clear definition of his problems.
  • Trixie and Capt. Cuddlepuss — A dog and a cat, respectively, who act like a bored, married couple. They argue over cats having bad breath and Yorkshire terriers wearing lipstick.
  • Spanner and Trousers — Two dogs who hang out at the skips. They debate over subjects like evolution and getting reincarnated as a bird.
  • Earl the Greyhound — A racing dog, notorious for being interrupted mid-sentence by the race starting.
  • Toby — A highly-refined Blue Persian cat. He once had a severe cold which was treated with Famel syrup (which contains creosote, leaving him smelling like a fencepost for a week). He is sure that cats are more intelligent than dogs, since they bury their leavings.
  • Gary and Nigel — Two garden slugs - red and orange, respectively - who seem like gardening professionals and frequently get crawled on by ladybirds. Gary's wife is comparatively overweight and is reported to be on a diet of leaves.
  • Sid and Nancy, the Shed Rats — Two rats who seem to be married. Sid wishes to build another shed so he can listen to the football, but Nancy thinks he wants to view pornography.
  • Ted and Stan — Baby birds, possible brothers.
  • Victor the Geordie Mouse — A friendly mouse with a Geordie accent. His son has diabetes.
  • Frank the Tortoise — Frank first appeared in the "Heat Electric" advertisements (see above), in which he mentioned going on a "ten-mile slog". He likes a lot of foods involving chips.
  • Brian the Amoeba — Despite being an extremely primitive lifeform, Brian is highly philosophical.
  • The Rudges — A group of sea anemones, a female starfish and a silent, timid-looking oyster who suspect that Earth's life originates from another planet, and that they have evolved to their full potential.

Miscellaneous

A special short was aired in the UK as part of Red Nose Day 2007.[12]

American version

Starting June 2007, CBS planned to broadcast seven episodes of an Americanized version of the show, featuring ordinary American people providing the voices, in the same vein as the British original. The series was titled Creature Comforts and was seen Monday nights at 8PM ET/PT from 4 June to 18 June 2007 (only three episodes were broadcast due to low ratings, and was replaced with reruns of The New Adventures Of Old Christine);[13] the series was also simulcast in Canada on the CH system.

CBS also created a web presence with the help of the Creature Comforts staff. A behind-the-scenes collaborative account/blog of each episode was posted in conjunction with the 3 short-lived airings.[14]

The American version was co-produced by Aardman Animations and The Gotham Group.

Seven episodes of this series were produced. However, the series ran for only three episodes before being cancelled by CBS due to low ratings.[15] Its remaining episodes were later premiered on Animal Planet in 2008 (see below).

A standard DVD of the show's seven episodes was released on 9 October 2007 by Sony, now entitled Creature Comforts America. Currently there is no Blu-Ray version, even though the show was mastered in 1080 HD 16x9.[16]

On 8 February 2008, the show won an Annie Award for "Best Animated Television Production" of 2007.[17]

In Australia, public broadcaster ABC Television began airing the American season in Australia on 18 February 2008, having aired the original British version since its inception on both ABC1 and the digital only ABC2.

On 24 April 2008, Animal Planet picked-up the first season of the American version. It was broadcast in both SD letterbox and native HD formats. Episodes 1&2 premiered on 24 April, Episodes 3&4 premiered on 1 May and Episodes 5&6 premiered on 9 May.

Creature Comforts was nominated for an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour)" but on 13 September 2008, it lost out to The Simpsons. Teresa Drilling, one of the show's many animators, won an individual Emmy Award for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation".

US version staff

  • Executive Producers: Kit Boss, Miles Bullough, Peter McHugh, David Sproxton, Peter Lord, Nick Park
  • Producers: Kenny Micka, Gareth Owen
  • Story Editors: Chad Carter, June Raphael, Casey Wilson
  • Writers: Kit Boss, Chad Carter, Michael Dougan, Ben Stout, June Raphael, Casey Wilson
  • Directors: David Osmand, Merlin Crossingham

Creature Discomforts

A series of four ads highlighting disability and featuring the voices of disabled people telling of their experiences premiered on ITV on Christmas Day 2007. Four more ads featuring new characters debuted in Summer 2008.[18][19]

DVD releases

DVD Title Country of Release Region Date of Release DVD company Catalog Number Notes
Creature Comforts  United Kingdom 1 28 November 2000 Image Entertainment ID0106CUDVD The original 1989 film presented in widescreen. Also includes the other Aardman animations Wat's Pig, Not Without My Handbag and Adam
Creature Comforts — Series 1, Part 1  United Kingdom 2 17 November 2003 Momentum Pictures The first half of Series 1, the original 1989 film, and other extras
Creature Comforts — Series 1, Part 2  United Kingdom 2 5 April 2004 Momentum Pictures The second half of Series 1, featuring many extras including ITV1 idents, Heat Electric ads, and more
Creature Comforts — The Complete First Season  United States 1 27 September 2005 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 08694 Features the original 1989 film in full-screen as an extra
Creature Comforts — Complete Series 1  United Kingdom 2 31 October 2005 Momentum Pictures 2-disc set of the first series.
Creature Comforts — Series 2, Part 1  United Kingdom 2 21 November 2005 Momentum Pictures First half of Series 2, plus many making of extras.
Creature Comforts — Series 2, Part 2  United Kingdom 2 20 February 2006 Momentum Pictures Second half of Series 2, plus extras
Creature Comforts — The Complete Second Season  United States 1 24 October 2006 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 14823 2-disc set of the Second Series and the "Merry Christmas, Everybody" DVD release [see below]
Creature Comforts — Merry Christmas Everybody  United States 1 24 October 2006 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Also included in the Second Series DVD release
Creature Comforts — The Complete First and Second Seasons  United States 1 24 October 2006 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 2-Disc set of the First and Second Series
Creature Comforts — Complete Series 2  United Kingdom 2 6 November 2006 Momentum Pictures 3-disc set of the Second Series and "Merry Christmas Everybody"
Creature Comforts America — The Complete First Season  United States 1 9 October 2007 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment The seven episodes made for the cancelled American version

The TV Series (UK Version) is now available to watch on the official Aardman Youtube channel. ([1])

See also

References

  1. ^ Delin, Judy (2000). The Language of Everyday Life : An Introduction. Sage Publications. p. 138. ISBN 0761960902. 
  2. ^ Stuart Jeffries (2005-09-16). "Lock up your vegetables!". London: Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2005/sep/16/awardsandprizes.oscars2006. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  3. ^ 50 Years of Fame: Top 20 TV ads. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
  4. ^ Campaign (1999). Campaign's hall of fame : The 100 best British ads of the century. Haymarket Publications. p. 86. 
  5. ^ 100 Greatest TV Ads. Retrieved 2011-05-07.
  6. ^ ITV’s Best Ever Adverts. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
  7. ^ Creature Comforts best ad characters. Retrieved 2011-05-07.
  8. ^ Lane, Andy (2003). Creating Creature Comforts. Boxtree. p. 72. ISBN 0752215647. 
  9. ^ Stuart Jeffries (2005-09-16). "Lock up your vegetables!". Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2005/sep/16/awardsandprizes.oscars2006. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  10. ^ Dickason, Renée (2005). British television advertising : cultural identity and communication. University of Luton Press. p. 92. ISBN 1860205712. 
  11. ^ Lord, Peter; Sibley, Brian (1998). Cracking animation : the Aardman book of 3-D animation. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0500018812. 
  12. ^ Comic Relief's list of TV specials for Red Nose Day 2007
  13. ^ Adalian, Josef (17 April 2007). "CBS, 'Survivor' go to China". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117963293.html?categoryid=14&cs=1. 
  14. ^ Creature Comforts on CBS
  15. ^ "Creature Comforts: What Went Wrong with the CBS Claymation Series?". TV Series Finale. August 3, 2007. http://tvseriesfinale.com/tv-show/creature-comforts-what-went-wrong-with-the-cbs-claymation-series/. 
  16. ^ Creature Comforts: What Went Wrong with the CBS Claymation Series? » TV Series Finale
  17. ^ Annie Awards: Legacy — 35th Annual Annie Awards
  18. ^ "New ad campaign challenges our Creature Discomforts". Leonard Cheshire Disability. 12 November 2007. http://www.lcdisability.org/?lid=5952. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  19. ^ "Creature Discomforts on Christmas Day!". http://www.lcdisability.org/?lid=6281. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 

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