Best mates Dug and Hogbob in a scene from the movie Early Man.
Best mates Dug and Hogbob in a scene from the movie Early Man. Supplied

New movie by Wallace and Gromit creator kicking goals

The creators of Wallace and Gromit have conjured up an entertaining origin story for the world game in their new claymation film.

In Early Man, the roots of soccer are traced back to prehistoric times when woolly mammoths roamed the earth. Dug (Eddie Redmayne) is the plucky young member of a tribe of primitive hunters, whose peaceful existence is disrupted with the expansion of a Bronze Age city nearby threatens their woodland home.

To stop their home from becoming a mine, Dug challenges the mighty Lord Nooth's all-star soccer team to a match and finds a coach in the sports-mad Goona (Maisie Williams).

"Wallace and Gromit are my babies and I hope I can come back to them; I always have ideas for them," director Nick Park says.

"As an artist you want to keep trying new things. I had this idea about cavemen and women and a lot of ideas start as doodles. I found this drawing from 2010 where I'd drawn a caveman hitting a ball with a club, and I suddenly started to develop this idea what if this tribe of idiotic cavemen, who only know how to fight, had to learn a discipline and a sport?

A scene from the movie Early Man.
A scene from the movie Early Man. Chris Johnson

"I was looking for something a bit absurd and a bit Aardman (Animations), and I'd never seen a prehistoric sports movie before. The first time I pitched it, it got a good laugh."

Park's film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was the first non-computer animated, and stop-motion film, to win an Academy Award. He sticks with the same stop-motion clay animation medium in Early Man. A common misconception, he says, is that claymation takes longer than computer animation such as CGI.

"Twenty or 30 years ago with the rise of CGI we thought 'How long do we have?' Now it seems there are so many films CGI that it helps us stand out," he says.

"There's something that comes from the clay itself. I feel there's a humour and I love the spirit of real materials and the charm it brings.

"To be honest, the big CGI movies out there take the same time, and probably take more people.

"We use digital cameras now. We embrace technology where it's helpful... but most of the film is in clay and I'm proud of that."

Lord Nooth in a scene from the movie Early Man.
Lord Nooth in a scene from the movie Early Man. Chris Johnson

Cinema-goers will have a hard time picking Tom Hiddleston, star of Marvel's Thor films and the acclaimed TV series The Night Manager, as the voice of Lord Nooth, and that's exactly what Park wanted.

"I find it quite exciting to cast someone like that who you wouldn't expect," he says. "I saw him on The Graham Norton Show a few years ago and he was mimicking Robert De Niro and other politicians.

"I just thought 'I wonder if I can approach him to play this large, fat, pompous Frenchman'. He was so up for it. He laughed a lot at the script. We tried other things but just the French accent seemed to work the best."

Park also has a small role in the film voicing - grunting to be more accurate - Dug's sidekick pig Hognob (pictured above).

"It was accidental really," he says.

"We put the movie together to start with on storyboard, then we edit the whole thing in Avid and put temporary music and effects on. We do the voices ourselves to see how the script is shaping up, and I was doing Hognob as a scratch voice. I was going to cast somebody, but everyone loved me doing it so I got the part. I enjoyed it; it was doing like a primitive version of Scooby Doo."

Dug and Hognob in a scene from the movie Early Man.
Dug and Hognob in a scene from the movie Early Man. Supplied

Early Man opens in cinemas on Thursday.



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