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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 March 2006, 05:57 GMT
Animators prepare for the big day
By Jackie Finlay
BBC News entertainment reporter in Los Angeles

Nick Park and Steve Box are in a lighthearted mood befitting two men who could be Oscar-winners by Sunday night.

The two British animators of Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit are in Santa Monica ready to enjoy the Oscar experience, having chosen the BBC for their only pre-awards interview.

Steve Box (L) and Nick Park on sofa
Box and Park have been working on speeches in the event of a win
Or rather, they would be enjoying it a lot more if they had not brought the British rain and snow with them and Park's luggage had not gone astray at the airport.

"My tux was in the suitcase," he reveals. "I've only got the clothes I'm standing up in - well sitting in, anyway."

The pair do have their "good luck" bow ties, which designer Paul Smith made specially for them to wear at the awards.

"If I win, I could always just go up in my bow tie," Park adds, prompting various quips from Box about where to hold the Oscar.

Park, the winner of three previous Oscars (two for Wallace and Gromit short films, and one for Creature Comforts) is back after 10 years with his fifth nomination.

It is Box's first nomination.

'Just ridiculous'

While they are careful not to talk as if they will win, the figures are impressive.

Were-Rabbit has taken roughly 115m ($200m) worldwide and has 26 wins out of 27 nominations, including the Alexander Korda award for outstanding British film at the Baftas.

The ceremony is absolutely amazing - it's like being in Madame Tussauds but they're all animated
Nick Park

"At the Baftas we really didn't think we would win because a lot of the films were worthy and meaningful and deep and our film is just ridiculous," said Box, as Park chips in: "I think Brokeback Mountain could have had more gags."

Park is genuine in his tribute to their two rivals for the Academy Award - Tim Burton (Corpse Bride) and Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki (Howl's Moving Castle), calling him "the most respected animator in the world, let alone Japan".

Whether they win or lose, they are looking forward to the ceremony.

"The ceremony is absolutely amazing," says Oscar veteran Park. "You are sat there and you see famous faces walking down.

"It's like being in Madame Tussauds but they're all animated.

"And if you are lucky enough to have an Oscar in your hand all these celebrities come up to you and shake your hand.

"We're animators, we're not used to getting out of our dark studio and meeting real people, let alone glamorous and attractive ones."

Warehouse fire

Box the newcomer admits to expecting a severe bout of nerves on the night. "You might have to get up in front of a billion people."

The two are always coming up with new Wallace and Gromit ideas
Park agrees. "You have got to be ready to not win - and rehearsing Wallace's cheesy smile in case. But we are determined to try and enjoy it."

Box reveals he "started to panic" when he watched the Academy video in which Tom Hanks advises nominees how to make an impression with their acceptance speech.

They are now working on what they should say if they get their podium moment.

One set of people who will be delighted to see the pair on stage, whatever they say, is the Aardman team of animators in Bristol.

"We will be setting up a screen and there will be a party going on til 2-3am, so I hope we don't disappoint them," reveals Park.

The company has got over the fire at a warehouse in October which destroyed millions of pounds worth of old sets and props.

The latest project for Aardman is its first full-length computer-generated animation Flushed Away, being produced by Dreamworks and due out in the UK in December.

It is not the first time Aardman has used computer generated imagery - in fact the rabbits floating in the Bun-Vac in Were-Rabbit are animated that way.

"We just adore model animation, and we'll be doing it all our lives, but Flushed Away involves working with water, and plasticine and water don't mix," says Park.

The only Wallace

They also say that Wallace and Gromit are firmly alive and kicking. "We are always talking about new Wallace and Gromit ideas," insists Park.

Peter Sallis
Peter Sallis is described by the animators as "irreplaceable"
And they refuse to accept any other Wallace but Peter Sallis, now 85 and in Hollywood with them, almost as much a talisman as the two Plasticine figures set up today for the cameras.

Sallis arrives later for his own interview, admitting he is delighted to be going to the Oscars. He is clearly treated with great affection by his colleagues. Park calls him "irreplaceable".

So if they do win on Sunday, will it change their lives? "Finally I'll be 'Oscar-winner Steve Box'," muses Box.

Park would be pleased to have another Oscar "so I can throw its weight around at meetings with producers".

They are playing it down to the last - but while Japan is backing Miyazaki, the British will be shouting for the quietly spoken lads from the West Country.

Watch an interview with Nick Park

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