Bristol, U.K.-headquartered animation studio Aardman and environmental organization Greenpeace teamed on this animated film highlighting the plight of the world’s oceans. Turtle Journey, directed by Aardman’s Gavin Strange, tells the heartbreaking story of a turtle family heading home through an ocean that is under increasing pressure from climate change, plastic pollution, oil drilling and overfishing. Without safe sanctuary, the family suffers a devastating loss.
Aardman uses its skills in storytelling, humor and creativity to communicate Greenpeace’s urgent message with a mix of CGI and stop-frame animation. Physical puppets were created to portray the turtle family, while the underwater environments are detailed in CGI. This mesh of artistry yielded the number one entry in SHOOT’s quarterly Top Ten Visual Effects and Animation Chart to kick off 2020.
Strange said, “I wanted to tell a personal yet universal story of family, loss and hope to best connect with audiences around the world. It was an absolute dream to work with such a talented crew of animators, artists and creators here at Aardman, manipulating clay and pixels to make such a nuanced and delicate piece of animation. Brought to life by a stellar cast of world-class voice talent, topped off by a simply sublime score from Arthur Jeffe’s Penguin Cafe.”
Characters in the film are voiced by Academy Award®-winning actors Olivia Colman and Dame Helen Mirren, along with Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey, Stranger Things’ David Harbour, Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter, and comedian Ahir Shah.
Reflecting on Turtle Journey, Strange told SHOOT, “The biggest creative challenge was telling a powerful three-arc story in just 100 seconds! I really wanted the audience to go through three distinct emotions; I wanted them to laugh, then cry, then feel galvanized to take action. That’s a big ask within such a small amount of time, especially to feel a connection with the characters so that we empathize with the loss of our Mother Turtle and share in the family’s grief. I feel that we got there though, all thanks to the incredibly skilled cast and crew. The nuance brought to the performance of the Turtles was a really special thing to witness, watching our animators bring these lumps of plasticine and resin to life with such individuality. As well as being a director, I’m also a huge fan of the creative process, and it never gets old being a part of these projects, especially something so important as making this film for Greenpeace.”
The process, continued Strange, helped realize the making of an “impactful, emotional but enjoyable” film in that all aspects were “continually assessed at each and every stage of the production. I felt, as a director, that I had the best people around me to help steer this film in the right direction. It was a total collaboration with Greenpeace too, who were always objectively looking at the message and the core of the film, so we made adjustments and tweaks as we went along.”
Strange concluded, “It was the biggest creative challenge of my career but also the most rewarding piece of work I have ever had the privilege of being involved in. It is a project I will never ever forget.”
Relative to the Toolbox that Aardman deployed on Turtle Journey, the mix included Maya (for modeling and animating), Arnold (rendering), Nuke (compositing), Houdini (coral layout, oil spills and ocean destruction simulation), DaVinci Resolve (grading), Dragonframe (stop-frame shooting), Photoshop (concept art) and Procreate (storyboarding).
Click here for this quarter's Top Ten Visual Effects and Animation Chart.