Peter Lord

Peter Lord

In 1995, animator Nick Park joined Aardman Animations, a move that would later greatly benefit both Park and the company. In the meantime, Lord worked with director Stephen Johnson and The Brothers Quay on the legendary music video for Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer." Not unlike "Conversation Pieces," the project required that visuals be created to accompany an existing piece of audio. This experimental and evocative video made remarkable use of Lord's animation resources that arguably contributed greatly to the song's chart-topping success. The video won many awards and secured a place in music video history, surviving and maintaining its status even when outrageous budgets and "can you top this?" gimmicks became the norm. Lord subsequently worked on a 1987 animated short to accompany Nina Simone's classic take on the standard "My Baby Just Cares For Me," a project in a similar vein. As animation director for the quirky CBS Saturday morning series "Pee-Wee's Playhouse," Lord reteamed with director Stephen Johnson, and helped to make his work all the more familiar to a mainstream American audience.Back in the UK, Lord was winning accolades and BAFTA nominations for his films, including the 1989 short "War Story." In 1990, Nick Park's promise just began to be uncovered with "A Grand Day Out," a comedic short starring lovable man/dog team Wallace and Gromit. Executive produced by Lord, the film won a BAFTA and was nominated for an Oscar. 1992 saw Lord return to directing with "Adam," a BAFTA- and Academy Award-nominated short. He next executive produced Boris Kossmehl's "Not Without My Handbag" in 1993, the same year he served similar duty on Park's "The Wrong Trousers," a short which reintroduced Wallace and Gromit and snagged both a BAFTA and an Oscar in the process. Two years later, the Wallace and Gromit short "A Close Shave," also executive produced by Lord, won the same honors. Lord's own film "Wat's Pig," an animated take on the old "Prince and the Pauper" storyline which made interesting and effective use of labor-intensive split screen technique was nominated for an Oscar in the very same Best Animated Short category that Aardman works had graced so many times before.As Aardman allied with DreamWorks, Lord and Park undertook quite an ambitious project: a feature-length animated film. Titled "Chicken Run" and sold as "The Great Escape" with hens, the movie featured the voices of Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Miranda Richardson and Jane Horrocks, among others, and was co-directed by both Lord and Park, who collaborated on the story as well. Displaying both the clever charm and spirit of Aardman's smaller-scaled projects, "Chicken Run" won over a large and varied audience, and appeared on many a year-end top ten list. Though it didn't score the BAFTA it was nominated for and failed to register on the Oscar radar, the film raised Aardman's profile, and would serve as a benchmark for the stop-motion animation industry.