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‘Early Man’ animation director chats with LI Kidsday reporters

Merlin Crossingham, animation director for the movie "Early

Merlin Crossingham, animation director for the movie "Early Man," with Kidsday reporters, from left, Olivia Osbourne, 13, Wheatley Heights, Si Yue Jiang, 13, Melville, Annabel Ganz, 13, Dix Hills, and Kathleen Tehn-Addy, 12, Deer Park. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

“Early Man” is a stop-motion animation movie, directed by Nick Park. It is story about a tribe of cave men who are kicked out of the Valley, the place they call home, and into the Bad Lands by Lord Nooth (voice by Tom Hiddleston), who is seeking to use the Valley for its bronze.

Dug (Eddie Redmayne) accidentally ends up in their Bronze Age City and discovers the game of football (soccer), and remembers how their ancestors had also played football in the past. He then challenges Real Bronzio, the undefeated champions, to a game of football. If they win, Dug and his tribe can live peacefully in the Valley. If they lose, they would be forced to work in the mines.

At first they fail, but once Dug gets Goona (Maisie Williams) to help train them, things start to look better. The fun really begins when the game starts. Wait until you see the movie to find out what happens next!

The movie was very lighthearted and funny. Each and every one of the characters had their own unique personalities, and together they worked to protect the Valley. Dug and his tribe show that no matter how weak you seem to others, you can still prosper if you work together. It was a great movie for all ages — it had you laughing from beginning to end. And remember to keep your eyes peeled for those Easter eggs! Easter eggs can be anything from a joke to a hidden message or image.

We rate this movie 4.5 smiles out of 5. Fun for the young and those a little older than young.

Visit with animation director

After seeing the movie, we were able to stop by the Aardman Studios in Manhattan to interview Merlin Crossingham, animation director for the movie. When we first walked into the studio we did not expect a line of cubicles and a huge Chinese dragon hanging from the ceiling. It was very interesting to see all the artists at work. During our interview with Merlin, he was very friendly and willing to answer all of our questions. He was also very passionate about animating. The interview gave us a different perspective and showed all of the hard work and time — 5 1⁄2 years — that was put into the making of “Early Man.”

One of the first things we wanted to know was how long it took to produce a scene, since stop-motion is an animation technique that physically manipulates an object so that it appears to move on its own. Merlin told us that he had 35 animators on the team and on average, each animator would animate about 3.5 seconds per week!

We were amazed by that, and Merlin added: “Some weeks they may animate more or less, depending on the scene. For example, if it was a shot of just Dug compared to a shot of the whole tribe. The animators have to pay very close attention to all the little details, especially since they only get one shot.”

Movies such as “Wallace & Gromit,” “Chicken Run” and “Shaun the Sheep” are all Aardman films. We were also interested in how they developed their style. Merlin told us: “The style is very round [he points to the mouth of an “Early Man” model], because these models are handmade. Our hands press on the models in certain ways to make different looks — it kind of came to be that way naturally. Sometimes you can even see the animators’ fingerprints on the characters’ faces. That also became proof that it was handmade.”

We wanted to know what inspires his animations. He said everyday things! “Sometimes when I walk down the street, I’ll see something and say, ‘That’s it!’ ”

Since Easter eggs are almost always in animated films, we wanted to know if he has ever put himself in an animated film. Merlin laughed and said, “I have not put a picture of myself in an animated film, but I believe that a little piece of all of our animators go into the film. I could look at a scene and say exactly who produced that scene.”

We were wondering, since the Aardman company has been going on for nearly 46 years, how things have changed throughout the years.

“I feel that the technology has changed the most,” Merlin said. “With the new technology, our animation team and I are able to create more amazing content!”

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