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Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.
Aardman is one of the most prolific animation studios known to the world of animation. With their high-quality award-winning stop-motion shorts, shows, and films that have spanned multiple generations of viewers, which shouldn’t be shocking due to their multiple classic films including the Wallace & Gromit series of shorts, Chicken Run, Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Shaun the Sheep, and the underrated Early Man. Sadly, as much as we would all like to say everything they make rakes in the bank, that sure as heck isn’t what happens with the box office returns for their more recent outings. As much love as this studio and their work gets, no one seems to show up for them. It’s been said time and time again that if you want to see stop-motion films in theaters, then you need to actually show up! Granted, it didn’t help when Early Man was released right next to Black Panther, but the point remains that many moviegoers simply don’t want to see stop-motion on the big screen, and that is why Aardman has buddied up with Netflix here in the states. They get more mileage from streaming than they have had with recent theatrical success. Unless everyone puts their money where their mouths are, this is the direction where stop-motion is going to head. Now then, with a new lifeline for Aardman, and some progressive changes made behind the scenes, let’s see how they handle a new visual style for their stop-motion work where they move from plasticine to felt with their Christmas Special, Robin Robin.
Directed by Daniel Ojara and Mikey Please, this charming little tale is about a Robin named, well, Robin, voiced by Bronte Carmichael, who is raised by a family of mice led by a father mouse voiced by Adeel Akhtar. After failing another heist of getting crumbs and food for the mice, Robin is feeling complacent about her place in the mouse family and sets off on an adventure to try to get something for them while maybe learning who she is along the way. As this journey progresses, we run into a crow that loves shiny things voiced by Richard E. Grant, and a predatory cat voiced by Gillian Anderson.
One of the new changes to their animation style this time around is the much-talked-about felt-like designs of the characters. They look like dolls or Christmas tree ornaments from a bygone era with there being very few details to show the seams or however they truly put together these character models. Stop-motion is a backbreaking and brutal form of art and animation, and that’s why it’s always so impressive to see it done, no matter who the studio is. Even with this change in designs and visuals, it still looks like an Aardman joint due to the designs themselves. You even see some smaller details like pupils that change size and other little details shown throughout the 30-minute runtime. Even how it makes snow, wind, and environment is constantly awe-inspiring, and how they tell the story of the backyard that this all takes place in through environmental storytelling is incredible. Some of it even looks like the ruins of an ancient civilization. I mean, the giant statues you see are just garden gnomes, but still. Due to this taking place during the holidays, there are a ton of warm and cozy colors that give you the feeling of being with your family or by the fireplace. They even let you know who the characters are by how they move. You can tell what’s going to happen with Robin even before the characters go into the house.
With the 30-minute runtime, the special itself was able to tell a charming and compelling story about different family situations, identity, fitting in. It’s all wrapped up in a special that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and the only sign of wanting it to be longer is because of how utterly charming the overall world and story is. It’s an all-killer no-filler-style special, and it was able to fit in so much of that iconic Aardman charm and wit. In addition, there are plenty of clever jokes via the dialogue and background gags to go around.
Of course, everything is held together by a splendid voice cast that includes the names mentioned above, with Richard E. Grant being as sly and fun as ever with whatever role he is taking part in. Gillian Anderson is quiet, tactical, and always a threat as the cat, and pulls in some real 90s-era Disney villain vibes. Adeel Akhtar, while not having a lot of time on screen, is warm and loving as the father mouse. The true standout performer though is Bronte Carmichael as Robin. She brings a lovable innocence to her performance, and you do feel for her wanting to do everything to make her adopted family and her friends happy. The music flows from the dialogue sequences, and as such, they feel natural. It’s never distracting when they move through each song, and it’s impressive to see them not take a moment to pause everything to go full-on Broadway musical. The story is constantly moving forward and so is the music.
Robin Robin is an absolutely sweet and wholesome special that becomes another knockout classic from the famed UK studio. It’s on Netflix, so unless you don’t have it, you have no reason to not put this on your Holiday rotation alongside the amazing Klaus. If you want something extremely full of what the holiday spirit should be, then you will love Robin Robin. Next time, we will be covering the French epic, The Summit of The Gods.
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