Aardman Character Tools

About the Tools

While handling 100+ character rigs back in 2012, I’ve created this set of tools for Aardman’s Pirates and the Band of Misfits stop motion film.

Pirate Intarr’face

Rig Control Panel with built in Asset Manager

Rigs from the animation scene are grouped by asset type (characters / props / ships etc.)


Rigs can be unloaded, swapped with low res proxies. Allows animators to manage which rig is going to be cached on publishing.

Current Rig Preview

Rigs geometry is displayed in a non-distractive and consistent way for all asset types

Controls Actions

Actions can be performed on selected or grouped controls.

Actions include working on keyframes, pose resetting / mirroring / flipping as well as animation flipping and offsetting

Piranha (Pirate Rig Animators Hotline App)

Animators can describe a problem with the current rig.

The note is automatically send to the support team along with full scene diagnostics.

Built-in channelBox and LayerEditor

Animators friendly channelBox with custom channel menu and layer editor.

Face tab with Face controls GUI

Animators friendly channelBox with custom channel menu and layer editor.


Export Mode

Intuitive animData element browser/editor with screenshots and playblast features.

Exporting animation is Non-Destructive, meaning any settings (like controls, control groups, frame range etc.) can be overridden at the importing stage.

Import Mode

Clicking on an animData element lists all the rigs that animation was exported from.

Each rig’s animation can be easily mapped onto any rig from the scene.

A specific group of controls can be chosen (legs, arms, left arm, upper body etc.).

Referencing in Animation

As well as importing, animData is made for referencing in animation data. This way several scenes can share the same animation on whole assets or parts of the asset.

Below an animated rig with facial animation referenced in.

Multiple animData elements referenced in

Icon Creator


Icons are created via 3d viewport selective screenshots. Icons include assets selected in the rig browser only on a consistent gradient background


Application supports playblasting exported anim as well as previewing existing anim / renders.

Pirate Grabber


Snapshot app to quickly create consistent posed thumbnails of all rig assets on the pipeline. Automatically stores them for pirate intarr’face tool.

Quality GuAard

Inspect and Fix

abcTool to create custom app’s for quality checking. Customized via human readable config file.

Dozens of checks implemented for models / rigs and animation scenes. Supports grouping and select / auto-problem-fix buttons.

Standard and Nano-mode

Two display modes to save screen space when running checks on work in progress scenes.

Pirate Puppet

Inspect and Fix

Auto-Rigger for all VFX characters.

Builds a custom Sphereton – a pre-skeleton character that allows to match the cg puppet structure with the physical stop-motion puppet armature. Sphereton can be converted to a maya skeleton and all parts of the rig can be set up instantly.Toolset includes Transf’yer face application that allows character td’s to get all puppet mouth shapes sculpted at RP (Rapid Prototyping) department and transfer them smoothly to VFX puppets with different head topologies.

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