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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Ask Wallace and Gromit creator: Nick Park
Launch player : Nick Park forum


Wallace and Gromit's creator takes your e-mails

  • Click here for the transcript


    Nick Park is the man behind Wallace and Gromit, two of the UK's most successful animated characters. He has answered your questions

    He has won four Baftas and three Oscars for his animation work and has been made a CBE for his contribution to the British film industry.

    He first thought up the Lancastrian cheese-lover and his hapless mongrel while at film school, finally making the Bafta-winning A Grand Day Out in 1989.

    The two following films made with Aardman Animations, The Wrong Trousers in 1993 and A Close Shave in 1995, both won Oscars.

    The worldwide acclaim established Wallace and Gromit as a UK film industry success story and a hit with film and TV audiences in the UK and United States.

    Park has also worked on TV characters Creature Comforts and, with Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks studio first full length feature film, 2000's Chicken Run - Aardman will team up with Dreamworks again for the first Wallace and Gromit feature film in 2004.


    Transcript


    Newshost:

    Nick Park thank you for joining us. We've had hundreds of questions sent in from all over the world by our BBC Online users. The first one I'll ask - it's gone online, it's called Soccamatic, a minute long - where's it come from and how long has it taken to make?


    Nick Park:

    Yes it's a minute long but it took about three months to film it. It is part of a series of ten films, each a minute long. It was done in some down-time that we had.

    It's been six years since we've seen Wallace and Gromit and the animators all got together and thought let's think of a whole bunch of ideas - some way that we could see Wallace and Gromit again without having to make a whole half an hour. I am actually working on a feature film with Wallace and Gromit and it will be a couple of years before we see them.


    Newshost:

    It has been a long time - they were hugely successful - two Oscars. Why has it been six years since we've seen these characters?


    Nick Park:

    Partly it was because having made three half-hour shorts with them, I then felt it was time to do a feature film and we wanted our first feature film to be some other characters. I think it was partly just to have a short break from them. But I'm so glad to be back with them. I feel like I'm back with old friends again.


    Newshost:

    There's going to be a Wallace and Gromit feature film coming up is there?


    Nick Park:

    That's right. I haven't actually directed these ten short films but I've overseen them. I've had to step back and let someone else do them. In the meantime I've been writing with a couple of colleagues - Steve and Bob - on a full length feature film with Wallace and Gromit.


    Newshost:

    Now Wallace and Gromit are definitely your children aren't they? Are they based on real people you know?


    Nick Park:

    Not consciously. It's only after making the first Wallace and Gromit film - A Grand Day Out - that I suddenly realised he's actually based very much on my father - very closely actually because my dad works in the shed a lot making things. He built a caravan when I was a kid - it was so similar to the rocket in the Grand Day Out - all furnished inside. He was just full of ideas and just acts in the same way Wallace does.


    Newshost:

    That question there was from Kelly in China. So the inspiration for Wallace was your father. Gromit?


    Nick Park:

    Gromit - well there wasn't anyone specific - I can relate to him a lot. I don't know if there's something of me there. I don't really consciously base them on anybody, they just sort of formulate organically.


    Newshost:

    Chris Mance, Spain: How old were you when you started playing with plasticine? And how soon before you thought you could make a career out of it?


    Nick Park:

    I have memories of when I was I was three or four years old sitting in a hole in the garden and scrapping out clay out of the dirt and making clay worms with a friend of mine. On my first day at school we were given a big blob of plasticine and I made a train and I remember everybody admiring it.


    Newshost:

    Andy Hunter, UK: In the model railway scenes in "The Wrong Trousers", how did you make the scenery appear blurred whilst keeping the train and its passengers in focus when the film was made using stop-frame animation?


    Nick Park:

    I really wanted that train sequence to be like nothing you've ever seen - really high speed. The whole film was done in stop-frame animation which means by nature the puppets are moved a bit, you take a frame, you move a bit more, take a frame and so forth. So that therefore each frame is very static - very sharp and static. So what we did was we had this living room set which was about 20 feet long and we had the camera on rails and we attached the train out of shot. It was attached with a metal rod to the camera and every time we took a frame, which was actually a second exposure or two second exposure, we pushed the train and camera along at the same time which made the background blur on each frame.


    Newshost:

    Mark Kent, Paraguay: Do you see yourself always producing these types of animations i.e. plasticine frame by frame, or do you think you'll go the way of computer generated animations one day?


    Nick Park:

    I don't find it that painstaking. A lot of people say you need patience for it but I think if you're into something then you don't think about it. I often think it's like painting a picture or something - if you counted how many brush strokes it took then you might not do it but if you've got an idea you don't think about that sort of thing.


    Newshost:

    When most film directors direct something and then something is slightly wrong they just get the actors to do it again. Do you ever do two minutes of material and think - that eyebrow raise wasn't very good?


    Nick Park:

    Yes you do. You often want to re-shoot what you've done and often you do. It's very costly to do that obviously because it can take a whole day to do a three second shot. Quite often in Chicken Run we often did two or three takes of things.


    Newshost:

    So there are out-takes of Chicken Run?


    Nick Park:

    Yes, there probably are. But they are not very viewable - you tend to stop filming as soon as you do something wrong. Now with more electronic technology - digital technology - you can actually go back over things and redo little sections of the action.


    Newshost:

    Will you ever use computer technology?


    Nick Park:

    Yes we do. Back at the studio in Bristol, we've got a major CGI department now that mainly does commercials but are very active and very creative. I think computers and CGI are quite a broad field and used in more places than people actually think. I probably won't start generating characters personally in CGI but we use it for things that are impossible to do in plasticine - for example, the four elements.


    Newshost:

    James Gowdy, England: I'm 16 and my friends and I are making stop frame animations at the moment, we are just starting to move into clay and finding it difficult to keep the consistency of the characters (they keep melting.) Do you have any tips?


    Nick Park:

    The lights do get hot sometimes - in the summer especially when you've got a hot roof as well - the plasticine gets a bit soft. But thing to do is keep the legs pretty fat - if the legs are thin, they'll wilt. But we tend to put metal armatures inside our characters now as well. Wallace and Gromit have got metal skeletons inside and that helps to hold them up. Most of the floors are made of metal - just under the carpet there's a metal sheet usually with holes in it and you can either screw down the feet - this is a way of making them stand up - if you've got a metal or wire skeleton it helps. Also use a magnet to keep the feet down.


    Newshost:

    You've won three Oscars - which of your films is your favourite?


    Nick Park:

    Creature Comforts was different and a certain kind of film making that I like which I'd like to get back to more often. But probably the best one, I think, is the Wrong Trousers because it's a story that really works in that half an hour. Of the few films I've made that would probably be one that really worked and it was different. I don't how we did it - it was just a very small crew that didn't really know what we were doing. We often looked at that film and say that's the benchmark that we ought to be aiming for again.


    Newshost:

    Will this always be the way that you think you will animate?


    Nick Park:

    Probably. I do like a lot of computer animation - in the right hands it can be really good. I think it's just me - I just always will like to work with tactile materials - I love plasticine and working with clay - it's as straightforward as that. As long as people want to give us money to make films then that's great.


    Newshost:

    Darrel Couzens, Canada: As a Bristolian, I feel very proud to say that Aardman Animations is from my home town. Will Bristol always be your base?


    Nick Park:

    Yes - I'm not from Bristol myself but I'm based there. I think a lot of the humour has come from being rooted in Britain - in the Bristol. We've never had any pressure to move to the USA - even though Speilberg's company, Dreamworks, is funding our feature films, I think they recognise that it has to come from a cultural base which is here.


    Newshost:

    Lynn, UK: What makes a good animator?


    Nick Park:

    They've got to love plasticine! They've got to be able to model well. I think they'd have to sense of being a cartoonist, humour and timing. Personally, I'm not so interested in doing it slickly with smooth models.


    Newshost:

    You can see fingerprints sometimes can't we?


    Nick Park:

    And we're proud of them. The Wallace and Gromit films have a very handmade feel to them and I think that's part of the charm.


    Newshost:

    Janice Brufton, England: My grandson and myself are avid fans of Wallace and Gromit, Alex is only four and believes that Wallace can really talk and I do not tell him the truth but how do you make him appear to talk?


    Nick Park:

    First of all we record with the actor in a recording studio - he says all the words and we then get those words and we see how many frames it will take to say each syllable and each word and then the animator follows that and moves the mouth.

    A quicker way we do it now is that each animator will have a set of mouths with all the different phonetic sounds. The heads and mouths are still made of plasticine but they're made in moulds so that the style stays the same with the all the different animators working on it.


    Newshost:

    Graham Hawkins, UK: Could there be any other Wallace other than Peter Sallis?


    Nick Park:

    It would be hard. I tend to think of Peter Sallis as Wallace - he's so unique.


    Newshost:

    We're going to see a full length feature film - can you tell us something about it?


    Nick Park:

    I'm still writing it actually! It will be two years before it's out. In our other films we've often taken our style from Hitchcock films or Ealing comedies - the Lady Killers or Brief Encounters and that kind of thing. In this new film we're taking a lot of inspiration from horror movies but it will be fun - kids will love it, I hope. It's all about vegetables - everybody growing vegetables for a big competition and a terrible threat comes to West Wallaby Street and Wallace and Gromit have to save the town. We describe it as a vegetarian horror movie.


    Newshost:

    Dennis Erker, United States: My family and I really love Wallace and Gromit - especially "The Wrong Trousers". Are there any plans to create this into a daily or weekly television program?


    Nick Park:

    We'll try and up the output. We were about to make another half hour but because we are going to get the feature film into production quite soon, there wasn't time to make another half an hour. So that's why you got ten "one minuters".

    Personally, I could do Wallace and Gromit until the cows come home and hopefully I will. I've got so many ideas - I've got sketch books full of ideas that I'm itching to get made.


    Newshost:

    Tai Yiu Wing, Hong Kong, China: Why is there no Chinese DVD version for Wallace and Gromit?

    I don't whether you'll know the answer to that but it is global isn't it?


    Nick Park:

    It is global. I would have thought there was one out in China. I know there has been something out in Hong Kong. I'll have to check that.


    Newshost:

    In terms of the longer films - there was a lot of publicity about the Tortoise and the Hare where the plans were suddenly put on hold. What's happened to that movie?


    Nick Park:

    We suddenly decided to pull it out of production. We just didn't feel it was funny enough and it was too risky. We'd started production too early before we really got the script as good as we thought. It's still around and we're rewriting it now. We have two or three feature length animated films that are in development now and that's one of them.


    Newshost:

    All sorts of stories have been attached to Wallace and Gromit. One that particularly amuses me is that you saved Wensleydale Cheese. Is that true?


    Nick Park:

    I was told it was. When we did Chicken Run we went up to the Yorkshire Dales to do some research and we happened to go by the creamery in Hawes and we were almost carried shoulder high through the streets. The people at the creamery did actually tell us that it really helped. They did attribute Wallace and Gromit's help as being important.


    Newshost:

    Bino, South Africa: Why is there no cat character? I know for certain they do eat Wensleydale?


    Nick Park:

    Gromit actually started off as a cat very early on. I changed him to a dog just because I liked the cartoon dog shape in plasticine for some reason. There could be a cat - we've talked of cats in various stories. But no specific plans for one.


    Newshost:

    Patti, USA: When entertaining, does Wallace prefer to serve a cold cheese platter or does he enjoy fondue with friends?


    Nick Park:

    I think he'd try anything really. He might have a fondue machine or something - he'd try anything I think.


    Newshost:

    That's all we have time for. Thanks for all your questions. Thank you Nick Park.


  • Wallace and Gromit's Cracking Contraptions





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