Aardman releases a new Christmas film with Netflix featuring a mischievous little robin raised by burglar mice

Because the central characters of the film, like the robin and mice, are rendered in needle felt, challenges arose, as Please explains, “stop motion puppets need to be stretchy and felt doesn’t stretch, so there were lots of workarounds such as making Robin’s head sit in her body like an egg in an egg cup.” The team also wanted the atmospherics and effects – the snow, rain, fire, and smoke – to be rendered in felt so they filmed each snowflake, flame and raindrop using felt on traditional multi-plane sheets of glass. The artists then had the challenge of integrating those effects, “where there was the danger they could feel like a pasted layer over the top.” In order to ease the process of integration, the VFX supervisor Jon Biggins thought of filming a lot of the film in stereoscopic. “By shooting the stop motion from the left and right eye position,” explains Please, “we were able to get depth information that allowed us to integrate these practical elements into a simulated 3D space. So rain could pass behind blades of grass and trees could disappear into the mist without the need to green-screen or painful rotoscopinging. Clever Jon!”

Interestingly, Renaissance paintings acted as references for the design team when looking at lighting. In these paintings, the light is always from behind the subject, and the production team used this technique to give their “fuzzy felt protagonists an appropriate seasonal glow.” With Ojari and Please having very young families, they were able to act out some “very cheap audience testing” throughout production. “But it wasn’t until fairly recently,” he goes on, “at the London Film Festival, that we were able to properly test that goal with a cinema full of families and thankfully Robin got a fantastic response.”

For the branding of the film on Netflix, Skew Studio’s founder Dyer says that a nuanced, natural, illustrative brand needs to perform on all of the platforms that Netflix is available on alongside shows that are visual colour bombs.” The process of taking something “already loved” and making it new for a different audience meant “gaining the trust of the directors by working sympathetically to the way they work and hand crafting everything,” explains Dyer. “A temptation in children’s media is to force a logo to convey everything about production design, the characters and 90 minutes of narrative in a single icon. It’s not possible or desirable.” Therefore, Skew helped Aardman strip the film back, and back again, to arrive at a simple branding for the film which could work within a streaming service’s environment.

At the heart of the film, the directors hope there lies a message about inclusion “and the idea that by embracing the things that make us different, it will ultimately make us stronger.” Robin Robin launches on Netflix today.

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