The gentle geniuses at Aardman Entertainment are back with another animated feature. This time they’re going back in time with Early Man, a story set millennia ago. Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne) lives in a village set firmly in the Stone Age where he and his fellow villagers spend their time chiseling rocks into spearheads to hunt rabbits with.
One day Dug and the others get a rude awakening about the future of civilization when members of a nearby Bronze Age kingdom come crashing through their village. Lead by the egocentric and mean Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston), the interlopers threaten the only life Dug and his friends have ever known. So they set out to establish some sort of peace with the help of Goona (Maisie Williams), a local who’s sympathetic to their cause.
The teaser poster sells the clash of cultures and the scale of what Dug and his fellow villagers are up against. That group is seen facing a whole collection of war machines that are way more technologically advanced than the spears they have, showing them to be the underdogs in the story.
A series of very funny posters introduced us to the characters and the time period, all of them presented like magazine print ads. So there are glamour shots of some characters sporting their fashions, some that show the primitive technology of the time and more. They’re all spot-on and help convey the story’s sense of humor and tone as much as they do the story itself.
Another series of character posters took a simpler approach, just showing each one against a white background with some sort of pun based on who they are at the top.
Another teaser focuses on Dug and Hognob, introducing them as “History’s first besties.”
The final theatrical poster brought everyone together and laid out fairly well the main elements of the story. Dug, Goona, Lord Nooth and others are all here standing alongside the walls of the kingdom, the huge war elephants and more. It’s presented as a huge epic, but Aardman’s particular style makes it clear we’re on “funny” and “goofy” territory more than anything here. Even the copy contributes to that by saying “Yeah. It’s a little epic.”
The first teaser trailer doesn’t do much other than establishing the setting and the sense of humor. We see Dug as he’s tracking an animal, but then see he’s got a whole assembly of other villagers behind him who ruin the surprise, resulting in a ferocious rabbit chasing them instead of the other way around. It’s pretty funny and certainly shows off Aardman’s trademark style.
The first full trailer starts out by introducing us to the pleasantly-eccentric members of Dug’s tribe. Soon a mysterious threat emerges that’s massively tall and made of metal, a far cry from the spears the tribe uses. Dug infiltrates the Bronze Age city the invaders come from and tries to establish peace between the two groups as the Stone Age people just want to be left alone.
On display are all the usual sorts of hijinks and adventures Aardman’s known for, so this fits right into that groove.
The next trailer starts roughly the same way, as Dug and the other villagers hunt a rabbit. Dug wants to go after bigger game, which is what comes knocking on their door as the bronze age citizens take them prisoner. They work to not only escape but reclaim their way of life as simple people.
The final short trailer offered more looks at the competition Dug loops his fellow villagers into in order to preserve their way of life, skipping quickly over much of the setup and getting right to the action, such as it is. It also makes sure to include not just the names of the voice cast but also offers a look at them, often in the recording studio.
Online and Social
There’s not a whole lot happening on the movie’s official website. The front page has a big prompt to watch the trailer along with links to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles under the “Join the Tribe” heading.
“Meet the Characters” is just what it sounds like, brief descriptions of each major character. There’s a simple casual game under “Play Games” along with links to get it for the mobile platform of your choice. There are videos, mobile stickers, photos and more in “Videos and Images.”
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV advertising started about a month out with a series of spots, some of which were focused on the story and cast, some which focused on the outrageous bad guy and others. All made the basic case that this is a fun, original story from a group of creators you’ve already enjoyed and which is going to be be not at all edgy but instead nice and innocent in its presentation.
Media and Publicity
Well before release, things started off with an early still from the movie.
Closer to release there was an extensive feature interview with almost the entire cast and crew. Park shared the origins of the story and how he always wanted to make a caveman movie and also talked about his animation and directorial style as a whole. Much of the cast made brief comments about working on the film and how impressed they were with the work of the animators, who were also interviewed about the meticulous nature of stop-motion animation and how they dealt with the massive scale necessary to produce the movie’s look and feel.
This is exactly the kind of campaign you’d expect to be mounted for an Aardman film. It’s instantly recognizable, relatable and attractive to anyone who’s enjoyed “Wallace and Gromit” or “Shaun the Sheep” or anything else from the studio. It may not be as mind-blowing as what an animation studio like Laika has been putting out, but you know even standard fare is going to be five times as enjoyable as any other option.
There’s not a whole lot more to say. In an age when “family friendly” has been redefined to mean “jokes adults will get while kids just laugh at the fart jokes and an AC/DC song that was once banned from the radio for being too sexually explicit plays,” Aardman really is appropriate for all ages, asking kids and adults to laugh at and enjoy the same things. This looks to be another in that string.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.