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Creature Comforts

Creature Comforts

Creature Comforts was originally a 1989 short film made in United Kingdom about how animals feel about living in a zoo, and later became a series of commercials for Heat Electric. In 2003 a television series in the same style was released.

The original film

The original 5-minute film Creature Comforts was conceived and directed by Nick Park, and produced by Aardman Animations featuring the voice acting of common, everyday members of the British public, in the same vein as the "man on the street", Vox Pop interviews. It was produced as part of a series called Lip Synch for Channel 4.

The film shows various animals in a zoo being interviewed about their living conditions. These include turtles, a female gorilla, a family of polar bears and a melancholic jaguar who complains about the "lack of space" and the "grass with pollen that gives me hay fever every day!"

The dialogue was created by interviewing residents of a housing development, an old folks' home and a family that lived in a local shop (the polar bears). Clay animation was then created that attributed the answers to zoo animals. One of the most popular characters was the jaguar. He was in fact a Brazilian student who lived in a hotel and was talking about his own situation. (Source: DVD audio commentary).

This soon led to a series of British television commercials for the Electricity Board which were made in the same style, featuring a closing voice-over by Johnny Morris. Ironically, many members of the public mistakenly believed these commercials were advertising gas heating, the main competitor to electricity.

The series

In 2003, a series of Creature Comforts films was made for the British television network ITV by Aardman Animations, with episodes directed by Richard Goleszowski. This series since aired as re-runs on Comedy Central, usually late at night. Starting in 2005 it has also aired in Australia on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, in The Netherlands on Veronica, on pay-TV channel US.TV and on internet peer-to-peer TV Joost Aardman Animations Channel.

A 30-minute special in which the regular characters attempt to perform and interpret the Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was first aired on 25 December 2005. The special was broadcast in Canada on the CBC on 26 December 2005.

Humour pervades all aspects of the series, for example:

  • A highly philosophical speech given by an amoeba.
  • An alligator praising her neighbourhood, the sewer.
  • Animals being scared of their own terrain (hydrophobic sharks and walruses, birds afraid of heights, etc.)
  • Background details such as:
    • Insects swarming into a gap in the paving stones when a slug mimics a bird call.
    • Greys blinking in unison.
    • A lab mouse being interviewed while another mouse with a human ear on his back walks by.

The series gently mocks the constructed performance sometimes given by members of the general public when being interviewed for television vox-pops and documentaries. This includes the attempts to present a cogent but simple conclusive answer to a general question — a sound bite — and the attempts to present a cheery spin on a complex issue while the subject attempts to hide their personal issues and problems with the issue.

Regular characters

The following characters make regular appearances throughout the first series. These animals are always portrayed by the same interviewees to maintain consistency throughout the series.

  • Pickles the Guide Dog - A guide dog with an optimistic outlook and a high-pitched, exaggerated laugh.
  • Fluffy the Hamster - A depressed hamster who has a pessimistic view on everything including: the beach, clowns, etc.
  • Trixie and Capt. Cuddlepuss - A dog and a cat, respectively, who act like a bored, married couple. They argue over cats having bad breath and Yorkshire terriers wearing lipstick.
  • Gary and Nigel - Two garden slugs who seem like gardening professionals and get crawled on by ladybirds. Nigel's wife is comparatively overweight and is reported to be on a diet of leaves.
  • Sid and Nancy, the Shed Rats - Two rats who seem to be married. Sid wishes to build another shed so he can listen to the football, but Nancy thinks he wants to view pornography.
  • Ted and Stan - Baby birds, possible brothers.
  • Victor the Geordie Mouse - A friendly mouse with a Geordie accent. His son has diabetes.
  • Frank the Tortoise - Frank first appeared in an advertisement sponsoring radiators. He likes a lot of foods involving chips.

Miscellaneous

A special short was aired in the UK as part of Red Nose Day 2007.

American version

Starting June 2007, CBS planned to broadcast seven episodes of an Americanized version of the show, featuring ordinary American people providing the voices, in the same vein as the British original. The series was titled Creature Comforts and was seen Monday nights at 8PM ET/PT from 4 June to 18 June 2007 (only three episodes were broadcast due to low ratings, and was replaced with reruns of The New Adventures Of Old Christine); the series was also simulcast in Canada on the CH system.

CBS also created a web presence with the help of the Creature Comforts staff. A behind-the-scenes collaborative account/blog of each episode was posted in conjunction with the 3 short-lived airings.

The American version was co-produced by Aardman Animations and The Gotham Group.

Seven episodes of this series were produced. However, the series ran for only three episodes before being cancelled by CBS due to low ratings. Its remaining episodes were later premiered on Animal Planet in 2008 (see below).

A standard DVD of the show's seven episodes was released on 9 October 2007 by Sony, now entitled Creature Comforts America. Currently there is no Blu-Ray version, even though the show was mastered in 1080 HD 16x9.

On 8 February 2008, the show won an Annie Award for "Best Animated Television Production" of 2007.

In Australia, public broadcaster ABC Television began airing the American season in Australia on 18 February 2008, having aired the original British version since its inception on both ABC1 and the digital only ABC2.

On 24 April 2008, Animal Planet picked-up the first season of the American version. It was broadcast in both SD letterbox and native HD formats. Episodes 1&2 premiered on 24 April, Episodes 3&4 premiered on 1 May and Episodes 5&6 premiered on 9 May.

Creature Comforts was nominated for an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour)" but on 13 September 2008, it lost out to The Simpsons. Teresa Drilling, one of the show's many animators, won an individual Emmy Award for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation".

US version staff

  • Executive producers: Miles Bullough, David Sproxton, Peter Lord, Nick Park
  • Executive producer: Kit Boss
  • Producers: Kenny Micka, Gareth Owen
  • Directors: David Osmand, Merlin Crossingham

Creature Discomforts

A series of four ads highlighting disability and featuring the voices of disabled people telling of their experiences premiered on ITV on Christmas Day 2007. Four more ads featuring new characters debuted in Summer 2008.

DVD Releases

DVD Title Country of Release Region Date of Release DVD company Catalog Number Notes
Creature Comforts 1 28 November 2000 Image Entertainment ID0106CUDVD The original 1989 film presented in widescreen. Also includes the other Aardman animations Wat's Pig, Not Without My Handbag and Adam
Creature Comforts - Series 1, Part 1 2 17 November 2003 Momentum Pictures The first half of Series 1, the original 1989 film, and other extras
Creature Comforts - Series 1, Part 2 2 5 April 2004 Momentum Pictures The second half of Series 1, featuring many extras including ITV 1 indents, Heat Electric ads, and more
Creature Comforts - The Complete First Season 1 27 September 2005 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 08694 Features the original 1989 film in fullscreen as an extra
Creature Comforts - Complete Series 1 2 31 October 2005 Momentum Pictures 2-disc set of the first series.
Creature Comforts - Series 2, Part 1 2 21 November 2005 Momentum Pictures First half of Series 2, plus many making of extras.
Creature Comforts - Series 2, Part 2 2 20 February 2006 Momentum Pictures Second half of Series 2, plus extras
Creature Comforts - The Complete Second Season 1 24 October 2006 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 14823 2-disc set of the Second Series and the "Merry Christmas, Everybody" DVD release [see below]
Creature Comforts - Merry Christmas Everybody 1 24 October 2006 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Also included in the Second Series DVD release
Creature Comforts - The Complete First and Second Seasons 1 24 October 2006 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 2-Disc set of the First and Second Series
Creature Comforts - Complete Series 2 2 6 November 2006 Momentum Pictures 3-disc set of the Second Series and "Merry Christmas Everybody"
Creature Comforts America - The Complete First Season 1 9 October 2007 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment The seven episodes made for the cancelled American version

See also

References

External links

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