Inspired by animator
Nick Park's Oscar-winning short film, the "Creature Comforts" series of vignettes are built around a wonderfully simple concept: Everyday Britons provide snippets of wacky dialogue for animal characters who are peppered by unseen interviewers with earnest, documentary film-type questions.
The animals respond mostly from the point of view of their species but also with the human characteristics suggested by their voices and real-world settings. Anthropomorphic hilarity ensues.
"Lovely bottoms," a rooster says when asked to name his favorite turn-on. "I'm not bothered about the front bit, but the bottom bit I do quite like."
An overweight, over-the-hill caged hamster uses his running wheel like a Barcalounger, pontificating Archie Bunker-style on the ways of the world. A New Age-sounding garden snake laments that he can't fight his craving for bananas, no matter how hard they are to swallow.
The segments, written by Park and directed by Aardman veteran Richard Goleszowski, are particularly funny when depicting married couples, i.e. a bickering pair of pigs -- she's whining about her long-lost figure, while he reads a laddie mag -- or working-class urban rats. "It was the way he ate his sandwich," the rodent wife says with a sigh when asked what first attracted her to him.
"Comforts," set to begin its nine-episode run at 8 p.m. December 2, debuted two years ago on Britain's ITV1, followed by a second season of adventures this year. BBC America has licensed the first two seasons, plus a "Comforts" Christmas special and the original Oscar-winning short from 1989.
The voices make the show because they are selected at random from "the great British public," as the end credits read, in all of its linguistic diversity. "Comforts" turns the usual animation creative process on its ear by having the voices determine the specifics of the characters, not the other way around.
Although produced for the small screen, Aardman's trademark artistry with Plasticine is in full flower on "Comforts." According to the delightfully detailed Web site http://www.creaturecomforts.tv, each clay figurine takes one to three weeks to make. By the time the roughly 10-minute segments are ready to be shot digitally, the production team works at the fast pace (by Aardman standards) of about three to five seconds a day.
The result is the kind of classic cartoon fare that works for kids and adults on more than one level. In the world of "Comforts," ostriches are depicted as flirty office girls, lady walruses lounge around and scoff at the notion of liposuction, and zebras are just plain uptight.
"I look bloody good," a lady zebra retorts when asked if she's interested in getting Botox injections.