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How ‘Pinocchio’ Team Turned the Actor Into a Puppet Without VFX – Variety


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Matteo Garrone’s retelling of “Pinocchio” got a surprise boost when his spin on the children’s classic made the Academy shortlist for hair and makeup.

Rather than rely on visual effects, he called on Mark Coulier to realize his vision and transform the actor into the puppet who becomes a boy.

Coulier, who has worked on “The Mummy Returns” and “The Iron Lady,” says, “We wanted to keep it grounded in performance rather than in complex technical effects.

His process began taking a computer scan of actor Federico Ielapi’s face and shoulders. Coulier spent months on a sculpture from the scan, making tweaks and changes. “We looked at everything, from the length of the nose, the angle of the eyebrows, the nose, the gap between the nose and his upper lip.”

Four weeks before filming Garrone signed off on the sculpture and Coulier began building silicone pieces for the actor.

“You have to have separate pieces, so you can apply it,” Coulier says. “We broke it down and we had to paint it to look like wood, and then came the application process, which took three hours to stick on, and it’s a new set of pieces every day because you destroy
them when you remove them. The only pieces we reused were the ears, the back of the head and the legs.”

There were six pieces for the face alone. “There was a tubular neckpiece that pulled on and went around his neck,” Coulier says. “We had a back of headpiece, a forehead, a nose, a chin, a top lip and cheeks, earpieces.” Additionally, there were separate hand pieces for the front and back and individual fingers.

Coulier admits working with a child actor was testing.

“Trying to keep him engaged and amused every day for three hours was a bit of a challenge. He was jumping around, he was fantastic, but we did that makeup around 50 times. It was the toughest job I’ve ever done in terms of managing an actor.”

When it came to creating Pinocchio’s look, Coulier says Garrone showed him a piece of wood he liked. “Matteo loved this piece of wood that he had in his office. We spent a month doing paint trials and painting wood in all different kinds of ways until we found the right one.”


The Oscar makeup and hairstyling branch is renowned for favoring the transformation process. Hence the surprise entry of “Pinocchio” on the Academy shortlist. Interesting to note, the film also landed one Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild nomination. “Hillbilly Elegy” has been a front-runner in the category with Glenn Close transformation into Mamaw. Her longtime go-to for prosthetics, Matthew Mungle, helped built the pieces, and makeup head, Eryn Kruger Mekash completed the facial look.

On track to make Oscar history whether it lands a nomination or a win is the team behind “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Mia Neal whose name is on the Academy shortlist, would become the first Black woman nominated in the category if she makes it. Neal, Sergio Lopez Rivera transformed Viola Davis into Ma.

Others on the shortlist include “Mank,” “Birds of Prey” and “Jingle Jangle,” as well as surprise entries in the shortlist and Guild nominations, “The Glorias” and “The Little Things.”

Oscar noms come out on March 15, the guild winners will be announced on April 3.

By Jazz Tangcay


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Behind the Craft: What’s Up With Everyone?


Aardman director Dan Binns dives into the creative process behind What’s Up With Everyone?, a new campaign developed to encourage young people to become more aware of their mental wellbeing. Aimed at people aged 17-24, the campaign was uniquely co-created with the audience it sets out to support.


Creating a campaign around mental health for younger people was pretty daunting. We were very aware that it’s a sensitive subject to handle, aimed at an audience that can be hard to reach. To be successful it needed to be developed with young people, getting their input at every stage to feel like a real and genuine voice.

We held lots of workshops with young people, discovering what issues were relevant. Certain topics: perfectionism, independence, loneliness, competition and social media came up time and again. These conversations gave us our themes along with a much better understanding of why they’re important and how they manifest in young people’s lives. All of this went on to be the spine of the project and the starting point for the films and characters.


The workshops were incredibly useful for working out the look and feel of the project. Quickly we gained a much better insight into what the co-creators liked and, more often, what they hated! The aesthetic people imagine when they think of Aardman had currency with all we talked to, but when we discussed animation, it was certainly not the only one that came up. Such a wide range of references led us to our eventual look: a stop motion character surrounded by a world that was different, more exaggerated, and echoing that time of a young person’s life: Being dropped into a new and sometimes intimidating world of work or University. All of this led us to more of collage feel.


The characters were an extension of this process. Having a hint of animal made them relatable in way were that the audience still empathised and connected despite them not being ‘exactly like them’. From the start we wanted this project to be as inclusive and diverse as possible. We ended up with ‘collage characters’ made up of many different details from all of our young people.

What's Up With Everyone?

What's Up With Everyone?


By this point in the project we had a team of young people ‘co-creating’ with us which meant a lot of back and forth and a lot of revisions, the scripts were constantly changed, not only tweaking language but everything from location to tone. This made the pre-production process longer than it would usually be but the final output is much better because of it, and hopefully much closer to that ‘authentic voice’ we wanted from the start.


When it came to making the films, my job as director was to try and channel a lot of that varied input into something film-shaped. We had our young people contributing great thoughts, ideas and feedback; a team of very talented researchers and mental health professionals giving us very valuable advice; and our creative team here at Aardman. As with the rest of the project, the films were so much stronger because of all those voices.

Film production itself was a very ‘Covidy’ affair with a lot of Zoom meetings, but as usual the Aardman CGI time did a great job, especially making the characters look like lovely plasticine!

What's Up With Everyone?

We had a great team and all worked incredibly hard on what we felt was a very special project. Young people have a lot to contend with at the moment so if we help some avoid a mental health problem or even just make a positive change, then we’ll be very proud indeed.


Interested in commissioning animated content or have a project like this to discuss? Get in touch: boards@aardman.com


Since having a short film screened at the ‘onedotzero’ film festival in 2010, Dan Binns has worked in the animation industry for multiple studios across Bristol and London. In various roles Dan has worked for clients like Tesco, Disney, Google and Sky TV on projects for broadcast, advertising, short film and series.

Later, as a director, Dan has been has been involved in a variety of different projects, ranging from short films for charities to advertising and promotional work.

Dan is now working as a designer and director at Aardman, and has directed animated commercials for Nokia, Bristol Old Vic, Ryse Hydrogen and Alzheimer’s Research UK & RICOH.

Follow Dan on Instagram here.

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Third party preview with Aardman’s Alison Taylor


Ahead of the Kidscreen Summit 2021, Alison Taylor – Director of Distribution and Business Development at Aardman – talks us through the third party properties we’ll be showcasing.

Despite all of the challenges to everyone’s lives that Covid brought to 2020, fortunately enough we were able to adapt to the situation, and despite some obvious obstacles (and some real sadness at not being able to see clients and industry friends at various events) over the course of the year, it has not stopped us doing what we love to do – selling quality shows across the world, to multiple platforms on behalf of the studio and third party producers.

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since Kidscreen 2020, when our biggest concern was a raging storm that was hitting the UK shores, just as flights for Miami were due to take off… not a fun experience! But this now pales in significance to what the rest of the year bought, and I am forever grateful that the team and I were able to enjoy everything the Kidscreen Summit had to offer in person last year, and to follow up on such great business leads as the pandemic started to strike.

Looking forward now towards the virtual Kidscreen Summit 2021, we’re really excited to be able to “see” everyone once again, to show them what we’ve got going on in the Aardman studio, but also who and what we’ve been working with from a third party studio perspective, which I’d like to focus on as part of this blog.


Firstly, we’re excited to share the brand new 2D animated family special, Sol, a 28’ film that was in development ahead of the pandemic, produced during, and released on the longest night of the year in 2020 (The Winter’s Solstice), and which aptly conveys loss and grief of a grandparent to a little boy called, Sol, and his subsequent quest to find the light and not let the darkness take hold.  We’re now able to share this beautiful and heart-warming film with partners all around the world following its UK premiere.  Produced by Paper Owl Films.

Interstellar Ella

Following a slight hiatus in development, we’re also delighted to be returning to Kidscreen with Interstellar Ella (52 x 11’), now in pre-production, which is a bridging pre-school CGI series set in the near distant future out in space, where a girl named Ella is gleefully testing her limits in a star-filled playground called “The Milky Way”.  Each episode is packed with action, comedy and adventure, and filled with absolute wonder at what space has to offer Ella and her space-native and alien friends.  Produced by Apartment 11 and Fabrique Fantastique.

Big Lizard

Another new property we’re excited to launch at Kidscreen, is called “Big Lizard”, produced by Beakus and Je Suis Bien Content.  This is an upper pre-school CGI series, centred around a girl called Cosima who’s spaceship breaks down and lands on an unknown planet, where they discover the amazing, impulsive and loveable Big Lizard. Together they discover a world that’s strangely similar to prehistoric Earth, a time before even the dinosaurs existed, and enjoy crazy exciting adventures up mountains, in the sea, and in the forests.

Pop Paper City

Following a successful Cartoon Forum and MIPCOM, we’re excited also to bring Pop Paper City (52 x 11’) back to Kidscreen to find remaining partners on the series to trigger greenlight – this truly is a unique, “View and Do” adventure series with craft, set for a bridging pre-school audience and produced in CGI.  The series focuses on a group of unique paper friends as they find ways to have fun together by creating new parts of their stunning paper world.  Produced by Love Love Films.

Brave Bunnies

Last but not least from our new third party production slate, we’re looking to finalise remaining licenses for the pre-school 2D series “Brave Bunnies”, that we took to Kidscreen for the first time last year, and who we can now count Milkshake, Super RTL and ABC Australia amongst many other confirmed licensees. The series is centred around Boo and her big brother, Bop, who are on a big adventure with Ma and Pa, and their four wee siblings. Together they bravely explore the Bunny-World and at each stop, Bop and Boo meet new animal children. Despite their differences, they always find a way to make friends and play new games! The first 26 episodes are now ready for delivery, with the remaining 26 episodes delivering in the coming weeks.

Regarding future acquisitions, in particular we’re looking for series that look to deliver from 2023 onwards, with comedy at their heart.  We also hope to give a “sneak-peak” to a brand new CGI series coming out of the Aardman studio, aimed at 7-11 year olds – it’s too soon to share the detail here – so if you want to hear more then you’ll need to book a meeting!  As ever, looking forward to seeing many familiar faces, and hopefully some new faces too at Kidscreen 2021, and if you’re interested in a meeting, please contact me via my Kidscreen Exchange portal, email me directly, or connect via LinkedIn.


Alison Taylor Aardman

Alison Taylor is Director of Distribution and Business Development at Aardman, and responsible for driving the financing, distribution and long-term content exploitation strategy for each of Aardman’s brands.

In addition, Alison has the responsibility of acquiring third party content for distribution, and managing the roll out on a global level across all media, and currently represents a carefully curated portfolio of hit children’s properties.

With more than 15 years experience within the industry, Taylor specialises in distributing kids and family content across multi-territories and platforms and has been instrumental in the studio’s global expansion over the years. 

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