Aardman Animations, the company best known for its iconic model and play dough work on Wallace and Gromit, has teamed up with Netherlands fairytale theme park Efteling to produce an exciting new 4D film.
The short eight-minute piece combines with an initial video to form an exciting new ride at the park, and it is a beautiful exploration of nature, friendship, family and morals.
The heart wrenching film sees a grumpy bear used to getting his own way forced to address his flaws and attitude to his friends in the natural world when a squirrel deigns to use his bed of sticks as shelter from the cold and the rain.
In comes the Sand Man – Efteling’s own mascot – to teach the big furry creature a lesson, and with a flourish of magic and drama, a thrilling adventure ensues.
The bear and the squirrel are pitted against all manner of challenges through wildernesses, the coral reef, desert and even a jungle filled with tricksy chimpanzees.
Fabula, as the “ride” is called, begins with an opening film also made by Aardman, which showcases the initial relationships between the animals in the cave, and how everyone is scared of angering the grumpy bear.
But by the end of the second film – which also features wind, splashes of water and a giant tree structure – the bear is forced to sacrifice himself to save his new friend the squirrel, and the pair are finally transported out of the magical dream world and back to their original location.
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The squirrel, downbeat and upset the adventure is over, is convinced the bear has returned to his old ways, but it’s not long before he’s faced with a pleasant surprise.
The bear urges the little critter back to his spot in the cave, where he shares some of his sticks to create a lovely little nature bed for the squirrel to snooze in.
Packed with laughs, love and excitement, viewers are glued to the bear and the squirrel’s story and come out of the ride feeling warm and fulfilled – a true success for Aardman, especially as children and adults alike can enjoy the story in equal measure.
Ahead of the launch, Aardman creatives and the Dutch team gathered to share their thoughts and journeys, and it was an emotional process.
Speaking to Express.co.uk and other media, Steve Harding-Hill at Aardman said he “wanted to bring something different and unique for the company”.
“Aardman fans are used to seeing a certain look and Efteling wanted us to create something more natural looking and that’s why it looks how it does,” he went on, admitting he felt “a little bit emotional” seeing the final film come to life in front of audiences.
“It’s the first ever 4D film for a theme park and it’s been an absolutely extraordinary journey,” the designer said. “As Peter (at Efteling) said we immediately struck a chord with each other, we have shared values we’re storytellers.
“Everywhere you go you see stories, even the buildings have stories here, and I think there was a real mutual respect between us.”
Steve then went on to discuss how the story came to life, revealing the main tagline was “the bear who wouldn’t share”. Once that was established, the ideas came thick and fast.
“The pre show was really, really important as it establishes all the characters etc.” Steve continued. “And it’s a lovely lovely contrast of the craziness of the main film.
“We have the view that then the bear sees the world from a different point of view. He’s not the big bully anymore, he’s being chased by all these animals and it’s not very nice.
“Telling a story without dialogue is really hard,” Steve admitted. “How do you tell a complex story with just actions and no words?”
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