ANALYSIS: Why Nintendo signed Shaun the Sheep

Christopher Dring
ANALYSIS: Why Nintendo signed Shaun the Sheep

Those plasticine aficionados over at Aardman must be on cloud nine right now.

Last week, during the Budget, the firm’s most iconic characters – Wallace and Gromit – were name checked by the Chancellor.

And its latest movie – the excellent sounding The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists – has just reached cinemas nationwide.

But one of the Bristol-based firm’s more quirky projects is its partnership with Nintendo.

Every week since the start of this month, Aardman has released a free one-minute exclusive episode of Shaun the Sheep exclusively over 3DS. 15 3D adventures will be released in total.

Nintendo and Aardman have struck up quite a partnership – unsurprising when you consider their target audiences (skewing young but invariably appealing to everybody on the planet). And they’ve worked together before, when Aardman created a range of animations using the DS’ Flipnote software.

“They are an innovative company and reach an audience our work may not normally reach,” says Aardman’s David Sproxton.

“By putting our content on 3DS, not only do we reach a different audience but Nintendo gets great content.”

Nintendo marketing manager James Honeywell adds: “The partnership between Nintendo and Aardman was a natural step.

“Aardman has a reputation as a world leader in model animation and in developing award-winning characters and stories that appeal to adults and kids around the world.”

THE RIGHT TROUSERS

Nintendo has often come under fire for its digital strategy, but commissioning a digital TV series from one of the world’s most renown animators comes across as forward thinking.

But is there really a big audience for this sort of content on a console?

“We launched Angry Kid all those years ago as an online property, and that platform has now become commonplace. Mobile devices are now growing in numbers, with iPad, tablets and smart phones, and the 3DS is clearly a leader in this field with the 3D capabilities,” adds Sproxton.  

“I think there could well be more content made specifically for the device.”

So for Aardman, partnering with 3DS gives it the ability to promote Shaun the Sheep to a dedicated audience. But what about Nintendo? Do consumers really buy 3DS hardware for these shorts?

“A great range of 3D content has been made available on Nintendo 3DS since its launch including Red Bull sports footage, Sky 3D and Eurosport videos, which obviously adds value for Nintendo customers,” explains Honeywell.

“Our goal is to give users something new everyday on their connected device.

“By offering a variety of content for a limited time, we encourage consumers to actively check their 3DS and engage with it frequently.”

THIRD DIMENSION

A big attraction for Aardman on 3DS is the technology itself. Its latest movie – The Pirates! – is a full 3D affair. But the company is wary of poor quality 3D produtions.

“It all depends on the quality of the content and  the 3D,” says Sproxton.

“It’s easy to make bad 3D material and that does no favours for anyone. Done well 3D can really enhance the storytelling. We are lucky in that with stop frame animation we have great control over the 3D so that it is both comfortable to watch and effective.”

Honeywell continues: “3D is capturing the imagination of some of entertainment’s biggest names – whether it’s James Cameron and Avatar or Martin Scorsese and Hugo – so it comes as no surprise that the next step is to look at innovative ways to share 3D content.”

There’s been a temptation from some quarters to play down 3DS’ 3D capabilities. And some of the games haven’t made best use of the format. 

But as the machine starts to find its feet, we are starting to see some great 3D projects – and much of it has been available digitally. Whether that’s Shaun the Sheep, the game Pullblox and even movie trailers for films like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D.

A Nintendo machine with top of the range digital content from a several big name third party developers. Who’d have thought that?

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Tags: Nintendo , analysis , aardman , shaun the sheep

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