|Created by||Nick Park|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2 + 1 film|
|No. of episodes||27|
|Running time||10 minutes|
|Original network||Channel 4 (Short Film)|
ITV1 (TV series)
|Picture format||4:3 (1989)|
|Original release||Original Film: 15 July 1989|
Series: 4 June 2003 -
11 December 2011
Creature Comforts is a British stop motion clay animation comedy mockumentary franchise originating in a 1989 British humorous animated short film of the same name. The film matched animated zoo animals with a soundtrack of people talking about their homes, making it appear as if the animals were being interviewed about their living conditions. It was created by Nick Park and Aardman Animations. The film later became the basis of a series of television advertisements for the electricity boards in the United Kingdom, and in 2003, a television series in the same style was released. An American version of the series was also made.
The original Creature Comforts short film was five minutes long and was conceived and directed by Nick Park and produced by Aardman Animations, featuring the voices of British non actors 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 won Nick Park the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1990.
The film shows various animals in a zoo being interviewed about their living conditions. These include a depressed gorilla, a Brazilian puma and a young hippopotamus who complain about the cold weather, the poor quality of their enclosures and the lack of space and freedom.
By contrast, a tarsier and an armadillo praise their enclosures for the comfort and security they bring, and a family of polar bears talk about both the advantages and disadvantages of zoos for the welfare of animals. Rather than the subject being one-sided or biased towards one viewpoint, there is a strong balance of opinions in the film, with some interviewees who are happy with their living situation, some who are not, and some who have a neutral opinion.
The voices of each character were performed by residents of both a housing estate and an old people's home. Stop motion animation was then used to animate each character, and the answers given in the interviews were put in the context of zoo animals. The polar bears were voiced by a family who owned a local shop, while the mountain lion was voiced by a Brazilian student who was living in the United Kingdom, but missed his home country.
In 1990, Nick Park worked with Phil Rylance and Paul Cardwell to develop a series of British television advertisements for the electricity boards' "Heat Electric" campaign. The creative team of advertising agency GGK had seen the original Creature Comforts film and were hugely impressed by it.
They were convinced that a series of short films modelled on the original film would be ideally suited to television advertising - as long as the advertising was handled with sufficient sensitivity to preserve the integrity and charm of Park's work. The initial result of their collaboration was three thirty second Creature Comforts advertisements, made in the same style as the original film. This led to a series.
Although there had been a tradition of vox pop advertisements going back to the soap powder adverts of the 1960s, the Creature Comforts series was distinctive in its juxtaposition of real life dialogue and animated creatures. The series featured a variety of endearing plasticine animals, including a tortoise, a cat, a family of penguins and a Brazilian parrot. The characters were seen in their own domestic settings, chatting to an unseen interviewer behind a large microphone.
The characters' dialogue was obtained by taking tape recordings of everyday people talking about the comfort and benefits of the electrical appliances in their homes and then using extracts of these - complete with pauses, false starts, repetitions, hesitations and unscripted use of language (such as "easily turn off and on able"). The selected interviewees spoke in a range of down to earth regional accents, and the overall effect was of natural conversation. The adverts' warm and cosy tone reflected the warmth and homeliness of central heating.
There was a certain charm about the animations, with their quirky humour and sharpness of observation - such as in the antics of the non speaking characters and in the odd little things happening in the background. The animations had an unusual expressiveness, with the wit often coming from tiny nuances - such as a dog scratching his ear at a particular moment.
The characterisation was strengthened by having each voice carefully matched to a suitable animal in a combination that would produce a memorable impact. These features were rounded off by a gentle closing voiceover spoken by Johnny Morris. Morris appealed especially to older audiences, who would remember him and his animal conversations on the television programme Animal Magic.
The campaign was a great success and its run was extended over three years. The advertisements received critical acclaim within the advertising industry - with Park, Rylance and Cardwell picking up many top creative awards in Europe and America, including "Best Commercial of the Year" in the 1991 British Television Advertising Awards and "Most Outstanding European Campaign" in the 1991 D&AD Europe Awards. In fact, Creature Comforts was subsequently voted by media professionals (in leading trade outlets Marketing and Brand Republic) as one of the top television advertisements of the last fifty years.
As well as attaining a very high level of viewer recall, the advertisements were much loved - particularly the ones involving Frank (the tortoise), Carol (the cat) and Pablo (the parrot). In awarding them a place in The 100 best British ads of the century, the United Kingdom's leading advertising journal Campaign commented "The power of a campaign which can make consumers feel warm towards a utility cannot be underestimated".
The many popular awards won by the Creature Comforts advertisements included being voted fourth in the all time 100 Greatest TV Ads by readers of The Sunday Times and viewers of Channel 4 in April 2000. Their position among the classic advertisements of British television was confirmed when Creature Comforts was voted fourth in ITV's Best Ever Adverts by viewers of ITV in 2005. Finally, in a YouGov survey during 2006, Creature Comforts topped the list of the United Kingdom's alltime favourite animated or puppet characters used in adverts.
The Creature Comforts advertisements have now attained a place in popular culture, and are probably better remembered than the original film that spawned them. However, it is claimed that many members of the public mistakenly remember the commercials as advertising gas heating, the main competitor to electricity.
The Creature Comforts advertisements were produced in the period 1990 to 1992 and in some ways they were indicative of the shape of things to come in British television advertising. Many commentators believe that there was a fundamental shift in television advertising from the unbridled consumerism and egoism of the 1980s to what is sometimes termed a more "caring" approach in the 1990s. The Creature Comforts advertisements are cited as an early example of this phenomenon.
The format of the Creature Comforts advertisements was so successful that it was replicated in other campaigns in the following decades. In later years, however, members of the public became increasingly conscious of the potential uses of their vox pop interviews. This made it difficult to recapture the spontaneity and innocence of the early Creature Comforts advertisements. Although lookalike animations became relatively commonplace in television advertisements, they were usually scripted and rarely possessed the painstaking attention to detail of the original advertisements.
In 2003, a series of Creature Comforts films directed by Richard Goleszowski was made for British television network ITV by Aardman Animations. The series has since aired as repeats 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 television channel US.TV, and on Internet peer-to-peer television Joost Aardman Animations Channel.
A thirty-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:
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.
The following characters are among those who make regular appearances throughout the series. These animals are always portrayed by the same interviewees to maintain consistency throughout the series.
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 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. It was the first adult animated series produced for CBS since Where's Huddles?.. and ..Fish Police.
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 three 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".
A series of four adverts 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 title||Country of release||Region||Date of release||DVD company||Catalog Number||Notes|
|Creature Comforts||United Kingdom||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||United Kingdom||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||United Kingdom||2||5 April 2004||Momentum Pictures||The second half of Series 1, featuring many extras including ITV1 idents, Heat Electric adverts, and more|
|Creature Comforts — The Complete First Season||United States||1||27 September 2005||Sony Pictures Home Entertainment||08694||Features the original 1989 film in fullscreen as an extra|
|Creature Comforts — Complete Series 1||United Kingdom||2||31 October 2005||Momentum Pictures||Two-disc set of the first series.|
|Creature Comforts — Series 2, Part 1||United Kingdom||2||21 November 2005||Momentum Pictures||First half of Series 2, plus many making of extras.|
|Creature Comforts — Series 2, Part 2||United Kingdom and United States||2||20 February 2006||Momentum Pictures||Second half of Series 2, plus extras|
|Creature Comforts — The Complete Second Season||United States||1||24 October 2006||Sony Pictures Home Entertainment||14823||Two-disc set of the Second Series and the "Merry Christmas, Everybody" DVD release (see below)|
|Creature Comforts — Merry Christmas Everybody||United States||1||24 October 2006||Sony Pictures Home Entertainment||Also included in the Second Series DVD release|
|Creature Comforts — The Complete First and Second Seasons||United States||1||24 October 2006||Sony Pictures Home Entertainment||Two-disc set of the First and Second Series|
|Creature Comforts — Complete Series 2||United Kingdom||2||6 November 2006||Momentum Pictures||Three-disc set of the Second Series and "Merry Christmas Everybody"|
|Creature Comforts America — The Complete First Season||United States||1||9 October 2007||Sony Pictures Home Entertainment||The seven episodes made for the cancelled American version|