The stop-motion geniuses behind Wallace and Gromit are taking us back to the Stone Age with their latest film, Early Man.
The trailer, exclusive to watch on PEOPLE, introduces fans to a tribe of lovable cavemen from the dawn of time, and features voice work from acclaimed actors like Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston and Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams.
Early Man tells the story of Dug (voiced by Redmayne), a scrawny caveman belonging to a tribe of rabbit hunters, who has big dreams for his fellow cave dwellers. When an evil ruler (voiced by Hiddleston) invades their territory with Bronze Age technology, Dug tries to save the day by arranging a soccer match to save their land.
Nick Park, the four-time Academy Award winner who created Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep, says he has always been drawn to the idea of doing a stop-motion film set in the Stone Age.
“I’ve always been attracted to the idea of cavemen, and I think the medium of clay seems to suit the subject,” he explains. “And then I started thinking about the idea of classic cavemen with their clubs and how that sort of lends itself to sport.”
At first, Park says he imagined the cavemen would play baseball, but the idea of a bunch of “rather thick” cavemen learning The Beautiful Game seemed too perfect to pass up. “How would a bunch of lug head cavemen have the discipline to play football and not resort to using their clubs and bats?” he says with a laugh.
Stop-motion films always take longer to make than live-action, but Early Man has been gestating in Park’s brain for years. “I saw a sketch for this the other day that was dated 2011,” he says. “We spent a long time talking about it and writing. We’ve been filming for 18 months, as most animated movies take to make. And then writing and storyboarding takes ages. You’re trying to edit the movie before you’ve made it, because we don’t have that freedom you have in live action where you can shoot loads of stuff and edit after. We can’t afford to not use shots.”
Once Park had the story down, he recruited an all-star cast of actors to lend their voices to the project. “We have really stellar cast of world renowned actors, Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, who I’ve worked with before.”
As for how he selected his actors, Park says he’s a longtime fan of Redmayne and admired the Oscar winner’s ability to “sound full of enthusiasm but at the same time vulnerable.” The director wanted to work with Hiddleston after hearing him do impressions on an episode of the U.K.’s The Graham Norton Show. “I already liked his roles but I saw him mimicking other celebrities on the show and thought he would be a good guy to try out with a French accident.”
Park even got involved in the voice acting himself this time. In one scene, Hiddleston’s Lord Nooth gets a massage in his hot tub, but doesn’t realize that his standard masseuse has been replaced with Dug’s pet pig Hognob.
“We were recording a scene where Tom Hiddleston’s character gets a massage from a pig in a hot tub, and he was trying to make his voice wobble, sort of tapping on his own shoulders to make the sound of a chop sticks-type of massage,” he explains. “Eventually I just said I could do that, and I started chopping on his back and that was the take we ended up using. I think it took about 10 takes we were laughing so hard.”
Early Man hits theaters Feb. 16.