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Aardman create heart-rending short film to mark the First World War centenary

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Have your hankies ready as you get set to watch this evocative animated short film made by Wallace & Gromit creator Aardman to mark the centenary of the First World War this summer at London's Imperial War Museum.

Flight of the Stories draws from the museum's huge archives of letters and diaries sent from soldiers in the trenches to their loved ones back home.

The film mixes the sounds of birds, songs from the period, wind and waves with the voices of actors reading extracts of letters from those who never made it home from the fields of Northern France during the devastating conflict.

The beautifully animated sequence shows a flock of words rising from the front line and travelling over the poppy fields of France, across the English channel and above famous London landmarks before finally landing at the Imperial War Museum ready to share their stories again, one hundred years on.

Bristol-based animation studio Aardman, best known for its work on Wallace & Gromit, Creature Comforts and Morph, combined 2D illustrations with 3D animation techniques to create a hybrid effect that breathes life into the landscapes and dream-like, muted palettes of war artists from the era.

Darren Dubicki, director at Aardman, said: "We took an idea that was to create a powerful piece of imagery that is suggestive of the paintings from the era coming to life, and therefore a stunning piece for the Museum’s commemoration plans and new First World War Galleries."

Diane Lees, Director-General at the Imperial War Museum, added: "Flight of the Stories captures exactly what we were trying to convey – for while it is true that some of the people never made it back from the fighting front, their stories have, and it is our duty at IWM to ensure that they continue to be told."

The film will be screened online and in cinemas from today. The museum's new First World War galleries open on 19 July ahead of the centenary of Europe's bloody and calamitous five-year conflict on 4 August.

Over nine million soldiers were killed in the Great War, and another 21 million wounded. Over a million soldiers were killed in the infamous Battle of the Somme alone, including about 30,000 in just one day.

The Royal British Legion is urging the British public to turn their lights off as a sign of respect and remembrance on 4 August.

The organisation wants people to use a single candle or light for an hour from 22:00 BST, in a move inspired by the words of wartime foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey. On the eve of war, he said: "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."

Watch the Aardman video, below:

Main rotating photos: ©Aardman, body images: Rex Features. The Imperial War Museum's First World War galleries open on 19 July. See here for more information. Words: Anna Brech

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