Aardman Animations’ brand-new animated series, Lloyd of the Flies has already generated a lot of buzz in the U.K. The show, which premiered on CITV last month, is billed as the first CG-animated show produced by Aardman entirely from its Bristol headquarters. The 52 x 11′ series centers on the adventures of one Lloyd B. Fly (voiced by Tom Rosenthal) who lives with his parents, his little sister PB (Lauren Patel) and their 224 maggot siblings inside a compost bin. Alex Lawther voices Abacus, Lloyd’s best friend!
Recently, we were lucky enough to have a chat with the show’s creator and director, Matthew Walker (Shaun the Sheep: Adventures from Mossy Bottom). Here is what he told us:
Animation Magazine: Congrats on the debut of your hilarious new show. Can you perhaps tell us a little about about the origins of Lloyd?
Matthew Walker: My very first pitch for the series was in 2015, when Aardman did an internal callout for new ideas, primarily for a TV series. I didn’t have an existing idea so came up with Lloyd of the Flies for the pitch. I’d like to say it was born out of my long love of insects but in truth I came up with the title first and worked backwards from that. The original pitch was just a very loose outline about a fly called Lloyd who lives in a rotting apple with his family, along with a few sketches of gags. The broad strokes of the characters were there — Lloyd, Abacus, PB, Iris (now called Cornea) and Lloyd’s parents — but not much beyond that. It was selected for further development and then gradually grew from there. The core of the idea was always to make a character-driven comedy that drew inspiration from the real world of insects.
When did you start working on the series and how long did it take to produce it?
After the original pitch, I worked on and off on developing the series in between other stuff. It changed a fair bit over the years but the core characters and basic concept remained the same. It was during lockdown in 2020 that the pieces all started to come together and, thanks to the BFI’s Young Audience Fund and CITVs involvement, the series finally got the greenlight and went in to production in 2021. That was also when Jane Davies joined as co-director, and she had helped with some animation tests during development so she already knew the series. It’s a two-year production in total and, as I write this, we have delivered the first 26 episodes which have started airing on CITV and we will have delivered the remaining 26 episodes by mid December 2022.
Can you discuss the visual style of the show and the fact that its Aardman’s first CG series produced in-house?
The visual style was actually a very late development. Up until 2020, we were developing the series as a much more traditional looking, entirely 2D show. It was during the first lockdown, when the CG department at Aardman were in a quiet period and wanted stuff to do, that we decided to see what Lloyd would look like in CG. We loved how it looked and that led to a rethink of what the series could be. We eventually settled on a hybrid of 3D and 2D that we felt was a unique style. The benefit of doing the characters and props in CG is we could give them really lovely colors and textures, like real insects, and the painted backgrounds help give the world a rich and detailed look that would have probably been impossible to achieve entirely in CG with our limited budget.
What would you say is the biggest challenge of producing a show about so many flies?
Where to begin? It’s been a very complicated show to make and every department has had their own unique set of challenges. Probably the biggest challenge for everyone was getting the ball rolling at the very beginning — it was a brand new series being made in a unique style, most of us had never worked together before and we were all working remotely (it is still a primarily remote production with crew all over the country and world) so there was a huge number of unknowns. It took a while to smooth out the pipeline and establish exactly what the series was.
For me personally, the hardest part was the writing process — working with the writers to come up with 52 unique and funny episodes, at the same time as honing the characters, tone and humor. With limited time to experiment or change things later, having really solid scripts providing the foundation for everything else was really important to me. But we had brilliant writers and I was able to do a final polish on every script to try and keep the humor and characters consistent.
What is your favorite part of working on this show?
The characters. The most satisfying part of making the series has been seeing the characters come fully to life, particularly Lloyd. He was the most difficult character to get right. A lot of the comedy comes from his misplaced sense of self-belief — Lloyd makes a lot of bad decisions — so it took some work to find the right balance so he didn’t become unlikable and a lot of that comes from Tom Rosenthal’s performance. Tom really warmed to Lloyd and would always point out if he felt Lloyd was getting too negative, and he was usually right. The writers, actors and animators have brought so much to the characters that they don’t feel like my creations anymore, they feel real in my head.
How do you think it fits with the rest of the Aardman legacy of beloved shows and characters?
I think the series is a good fit. I hope it is. We’ve definitely done our best to stay true to the strong character comedy and animation that Aardman is known for. There was no push to make it a certain style or similar to anything else Aardman have done, as long as the quality was there. I hope Lloyd is different enough to Aardman’s past work to feel fresh and a bit of a new direction. We’ll just have to wait and see whether or not he has staying power.
Will we ever see some crossover with other famous Aardman characters?
I don’t know, I doubt it. Crossovers are not really something Aardman does, beyond some subtle references perhaps. I don’t think Lloyd would fit in Wallace and Gromit’s world. Having said that, if Biggo’s (what the insects call the human) television ever gets turned on in the series, maybe we’ll get permission to put an episode of Shaun the Sheep on it. At Lloyd’s scale we’ll be so close to the screen you’d barely be able to recognize it anyway.
Which CG animation tools were used to create the animation?
Maya was used for all the modelling, rigging and animation, along with occasional simulations using MASH. We also used Blender during the storyboard stage to set up proxy cameras. Substance 3D Painter was used for the look dev and everything was comped in Nuke.
Who is your favorite character on the show and why?
Hard to pick, but probably Lloyd. I like the weird way he thinks, he operates on very flawed logic and a misplaced sense of confidence. He creates his own problems and then makes them worse before solving them, but his heart is always in the right place. I’m also very fond of Julie. She’s a friendly spider who feels very guilty about her need to eat insects and would never eat a friend — fortunately she counts Lloyd among her friends. I think her character nicely sums up the tone of the show.
And your biggest animation heroes?
As someone who works for Aardman it sounds clichéd to say Nick Park, but Wallace & Gromit was a big influence on me pursuing animation as a career, along with Richard Starzak with Rex the Runt. Also Brad Bird, as The Iron Giant is one of my favorite animated films. Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon, primarily for Castle in the Sky and Paranoia Agent, respectively. I’m not actually very good at watching much animation though, my more direct influences are the live-action comedy series I grew up with — Frasier, Alan Partridge, Marion and Geoff, Spaced. Those are certainly influences on Lloyd of the Flies.
So, what do you hope audiences will get out of the show?
A good laugh and a love of the characters I hope. Along with the spark of interest to go and learn more about insects, and to not squish them.
Lloyd of the Flies airs weekdays on CITV (U.K.) and is also available on the ITV hub. The show has not been picked up by a U.S. outlet yet.