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Saturday, 30 October, 1999, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Preston's plasticine man
Preston's Nick Park scoops one of his three Oscars
With three Oscars, four Baftas, a CBE and a Steven Spielberg deal under his belt, there's no doubting Nick Park is a man of talent.

But it took the Aardman Animations director and animator until the age of 30 to really prove himself.

The limelight finally beckoned for Park, now 41, when he completed a short animated film called A Grand Day Out.


Wallace and Gromit have made Nick Park a global success
The animation about a solitary cheese-loving Northerner's flight to the Moon was the first adventure for Park's heroes Wallace and Gromit.

It gave him world recognition with a Bafta in 1990 and an Oscar nomination in the same year.

Creature Comforts, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave followed and the rest is history.

Now the world awaits his first feature-length creation, Chicken Run - the first of five products to come from Aardman's collaboration with Spielberg's company DreamWorks.

But Hollywood seems an incongruous place for this shy, unassuming man from Lancashire.


Wallace and Gromit in search of lunar cheese in A Grand Day Out
Born in Preston in 1958, Park is the third of five children - he has three brothers and one sister.

His father was a professional photographer with a firm of architects and his mother a tailor. His days of academia were unremarkable - he liked English but was not good at spelling and really only excelled at art.

A teacher suggested he should get himself a hobby. But at home, Park was already spending hours drawing and making cartoons with his father's cine camera.

In addition, Park had been fixated by plasticine since he could first walk. On his first day at school he discovered the malleable coloured dough and made a train.

One of his earliest teenage works, Archie's Concrete Nightmare, was shown on the BBC in 1975.

But it wasn't until he went on to study animation at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield in 1980 that Park started honing his skills.

It was while at the film school that he began work on A Grand Day Out.

The film would take six years to perfect - but the story of Wallace and Gromit's encounter with a gas cooker when they go in search of lunar cheese, would set Park on the road to stardom.


Feathers McGraw: An award-winning performance
In February 1985 he joined Aardman Animations where he first worked as director and animator on numerous projects, including pop promos, title sequences and inserts for children's television.

In 1989 Aardman Animations produced the Lip Synch series for Channel 4. Park's contribution to the series was the film Creature Comforts.

The tableaux of animals in a zoo complaining about their living conditions, with voices supplied by real people, was critically acclaimed and won Park his first Oscar for the best short animated film of 1990.

However, it was Wallace and Gromit's next adventure, The Wrong Trousers, that really and truly made Park a household name.


Shaun the Sheep: Well-intentioned but a lot trouble
The story of the duo's tussle with Feathers McGraw, a jewel-thieving penguin, was screened on BBC Two over Christmas and won Park his second Oscar in 1994.

A Close Shave again saw master Wallace and his laconic canine sidekick battling to control an intruder in their midst in the shape of Shaun the Sheep. It also secured Park his third Oscar.

Notably, the film was Park's first experiment with a more industrial production schedule. It used five animators and took six months to make, compared to the one animator and lengthy schedule of A Grand Day Out.

The ambition of the project meant that, perhaps inevitably, Hollywood came calling. For the last two years, Park and Aardman have been involved in the making of Chicken Run.

But Wallace and Gromit are nowhere in sight in the 80-minute movie, which Park describes as "The Great Escape with chickens".

See also:

29 Oct 99 | Entertainment
Gromit goes to Hollywood
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