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Ink & Pixel: Arthur Christmas

12.24.2015

Ink & Pixel is a source of pride and joy for me as a writer and as such, I'm always striving to take this column further for those who read and enjoy it. In an effort to widen the reach of our continuously growing fanbase, Ink & Pixel has broadened its horizons with the inclusion of films from the Horror, Sci-Fi, Action-Adventure, and Fantasy genres. Additionally, if you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature films found within this column, I would love to talk to you to further my knowledge. Please contact me at steveseigh@joblo.com so we can discuss it further.

Seasons greetings, and welcome to a special holiday edition of Ink & Pixel! It's once again that magical time of year, when many folks from all across the globe open their hearts and homes to the magics of a jolly old elf ... and his time-honored breaking and entering scheme. Ahh, I'm only kidding. I'm not here to bag on Santa Claus. What I am here to share with you, though, is that today we're here to celebrate ARTHUR CHRISTMAS! So put on your best ugly Christmas sweater, grab yourself some hot chocolate, and imagine yourself sitting next to a roaring yule log as we explore this joyous holiday film.

For those of you who've surely been added to the “Naughty” list for having not seen this movie, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS is a British-American 3D computer animated Christmas comedy presented by Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation. As a matter of fact, this delightful family film marks the first time Aardman's and Sony's animation departments joined forces to create a full-length feature film for the silver screen. Aardman, who've given us films such as CHICKEN RUN, and WALLACE & GROMIT: CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT, assembled a star-studded cast featuring the voice-talents of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Ashley Jensen, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, as well as several others for this cheerful animated outing.

Directed and written by Sarah Smith, with additional writing credits going to Peter Baynhan, the story of ARTHUR CHRISTMAS begins high up in the sky, on a snowy Christmas Eve, where Santa (Jim Broadbent) and his merry band of elves are busy making Christmas dreams come true. However, despite Santa's best efforts – and the meticulously laid plans of his militaristic, eldest son, Steve (Hugh Laurie) - it appears as if one small child has been over-looked. Eh, but it's just one kid, right? Surely Santa can be forgiven just this once, and drift calmly into dreams of sugar plumb fairies without the a niggling sensation of guilt tugging at his bushy beard as he slumbers? Well, not if his clumsy but forever good-natured son Arthur has anything to say about it!

It's then that, with an unbridled passion for bringing joy to one-and-all, Arthur and his retired Grandsanta (Bill Nighy), commandeer an ancient sled, and do their very best to deliver a single present to a child on the other side of the globe; and do it before sunrise. Now you might be saying to yourself, “But Steve, Arthur and Grandsanta are equipped with the magic of Christmas, then surely everything will be alright.” Ah yes, but you're forgetting one crucial aspect of magic: over time, and without the staunch belief of its user, magic also has the ability to fade. Will Arthur's un-wavering need to ensure the sanctity of Christmas remain intact and Grandsanta's desire to relive his glory days be enough to rescue the holiday? You'll just have to watch ARTHUR CHRISTMAS to find out!

In terms of production, preparations for ARTHUR CHRISMAS began back in 2007, under the film's original title, Operation Rudolf. At first, the film went into pre-production and design while still within Aardman Studios, located in the U.K.. It was not until 18 months into the process that Aardman partnered with Sony, and then moved their base of operations to Culver City, Los Angeles for the remainder of the film's production. To be quite honest, in my efforts to research this film, I found the details regarding its creative process to be quite elusive. What I can tell you is that both Aardman and Sony worked around the clock to ensure that this film was of the utmost quality.

In addition to building ARTHUR CHRISTMAS from the ground up by using the most advanced CGI technology available to them, both Aardman and Sony outfitted members of their staff with special motion-capture suits to aid in some of the more advanced character movements seen all throughout the film. Models for each character (including several incarnations of Santa's elven helpers) were constructed using a hardened plasticine, and were distributed to each of the artists in charge of bringing the film's cast to life. Next, the design staff used these models to painstakingly populate the world of ARTHUR CHRISTMAS with intelligent, enthusiastic, and even cranky characters. Couple these efforts with the film's talented and seasoned voice-acting cast, and you've got the makings of one of Aardman's most entertaining, heartfelt, and technologically savvy films to date!

I'm delighted to tell you that ARTHUR CHRISTMAS was hailed as a box-office success in the weeks following its theatrical release. Costing a total of $100 million to produce - over the course of a 3-year-long creative process – this animated bit of Christmas cheer managed a worldwide total of $147,419,472 in receipts. It's also worth noting that the film retains a strong 92% Fresh rating on the film critic site RottenTomatoes.com. Adding to this glowingly positive feedback, Aardman's ARTHUR CHRISTMAS also received a Best Animated Film award from the San Diego Film Critics Society, while Bill Nighy was additionally recognized for his superb voice-acting talents when he grabbed up an Annie award for Best Voice-Acting in a Feature Film.

For me, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS has quickly become one of my favorite holiday-related films. This time around, Aardman seems to have relinquished its propensity for relying on sight-gags, and has instead displayed a knack for whip-smart verbal comedy in addition to showcasing a tremendous amount of heart in its characters and story-telling. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of this film is the way in which each of its main characters undergoes a major transformation of sorts in regard to their roles concerning the preservation of the Christmas spirit.

I also found myself wanting nothing more than to spend just one Christmas Eve with Arthur, in the hope of perhaps exorcising a bit of my own annually-triggered cynicism toward the holiday. I can say without a doubt that ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, from this year forward, will have a permanent place on my list of films to enjoy during the Christmas season. I honestly can't remember the last time I felt so much cheer, heart, and enthusiasm for what can often be one of the most stressful times of the year. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a happy new year to you all!   

       

Extra Tidbit: What's your favorite animated holiday film? Let us know in the comments below!
Source: joblo.com

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