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Creature Discomforts contextualized

Module: Researching Animation
Module Coordinator: Dr Van Norris
Academic Year 3 (2022/2023)

The contextual reports set by Dr Norris followed a similar structure: State what you are contextualising; offer some key words; provide a summative quote; why is it important; provide x number of references following the R.P.I. model (Reception/Reviews, Personnel/People, Institutions). As the bibliography is a large part of the brief, I have not hidden it within a spoiler for this blog post, as I usually do with my work.

Using the R.P.I. method, supply a contextual overview of a piece of animation that foregrounds disability as part of its central narrative.

I have chosen Creature Discomforts, a series of short television adverts created by Aardman Animations in 2008 for the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity.

Key Words (10-15)

Aardman, Animation, Creature, Comforts, Discomforts, Peter Lord, David Sproxton, Nick Park, Claymation, Wallace and Gromit, Leonard Cheshire, Disability, Awareness, Stop-Motion

Summative Quote

“Through humour and applications of personality animation the mission was to challenge moribund and reductive perceptions around disability and to highlight issues of discrimination, access and representation.” (Norris, 2019).

Why is the example worthy of note and what aspects of history would be important things to investigate?

This example is worthy of note for several reasons. The “claymation” animation style, that being of stop motion clay models, used by Aardman Animation is instantly recognisable thanks to the success of Wallace & Gromit (A Grand Day Out, Park, 1989a; The Wrong Trousers, Park, 1993; A Close Shave, Park, 1995) and subsequent feature-length films.

Creature Discomforts already had a solid foundation to build upon with the original short Creature Comforts (Park, 1989b) winning the Oscar for best short film (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1991). It portrayed animals discussing various topics by using audio from real life interviews of people discussing their own personal issues. A television series of the same name followed some years later. (Lord et al., 2003-2006).

Creature Discomforts was a series of television adverts for Leonard Cheshire, a charity supporting disabled people, with the goal of raising awareness and to normalise disability. Each advert featured an animated animal, in the well-known claymation style, discussing their disability with an off-camera interviewer. Once again, audio from real life interviews was used as to mirror the uniqueness and success of Creature Comforts, but instead of using these interviews primarily as a comic relief, they were now aimed to raise awareness and normalise disability. “Creature Comforts is well known and much-loved for its ability to bring home messages in a simple, everyday way. Our Creature Discomforts campaign builds on this, making a serious point with humour.” (Dutton, B., as quoted in N/A, 2007.) Each animation lasts for just a few seconds, compared to a much longer screen time for each character from Creature Comforts. The animations challenged people’s perceptions of disabled people and attempted to break down those barriers to show that they are like any other person. The adverts were archived in 2008 by Aardman Animation on their official YouTube channel.

Important areas for further investigation would be into the general perception of disabled people by able people and how these perceptions have changed over time, taking note of critical events which may have had a positive or negative effect. Doing so would also enable a comparison between these events and Creature Discomforts as to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign. An example of one such comparison could be between various awareness campaigns and their impact on the Equality Act of 2010 (Government Equalities Office, 2013).