"Slow" is not a powerful enough word to describe the process of creating a clay-animation feature film. Just ask Nick Park, creator of "Wallace...
PHILADELPHIA — “Slow” is not a powerful enough word to describe the process of creating a clay-animation feature film.
Just ask Nick Park, creator of “Wallace & Gromit,” who spent five years working on the 85-minute “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” to be released Friday.
In this “first vegetarian horror movie,” as he calls it, inventor Wallace and his faithful dog, Gromit, have to find a humane way of ridding a local Giant Vegetable Competition of some pesky rabbits.
It took three years of writing, storyboarding, modeling and designing sets and characters before Park and his animators could start shooting the Plasticine (clay) figures whose skeletons are made of metal.
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Filming the G-rated feature took a grueling two years, with the team culling a painstaking three seconds a day and two minutes a week of film.
Park, a director-producer-screenwriter perhaps best known for his 2000 film “Chicken Run,” is a three-time Oscar winner for his animated short films “Creature Comforts,” “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Close Shave.” “Trousers” and “Shave” starred Wallace and Gromit.
Park created the pair while a student at Sheffield Art School in his native England in the early 1980s, while working on “A Grand Day Out.” It was nominated for a best animated short Oscar in 1990, the year Park’s “Creature Comforts” won.
“I’m told that my work is very British. I don’t quite know what that means, but I guess it has something to do with understatement.”
Park calls the dog Gromit a “sidekick who’s actually the intelligent one. He’s the long-suffering companion of the rather daffy” Wallace, whom Park calls “a 50-something inventor bachelor who loves cheese and has lots of ideas.”
“I’ve seen my dad in him,” Park admits. “My dad was quite an eccentric, in a way. There was a certain attitude to him, and he liked to spend a lot of time in his shed. He was a carpenter. He’d have a go at anything.”
Together, Park adds, Wallace and Gromit are “like an elderly married couple, really. It’s a love-hate relationship but they always look out for one another.
“Wallace and Gromit are two sides of myself. Gromit is the quiet side that longs for peace and order; Wallace is the side that goes off on tangents.”
When Park was visiting New York to publicize the video version of “A Close Shave” in 1997, he accidentally left the figures of Wallace and Gromit in the trunk of a cab.
“It ended up getting us more publicity than we ever imagined. The headlines said, ‘British Oscar-winning stars lost in New York.’
“I didn’t have a receipt for the cab, so we couldn’t track it down,” he recalls. “But the driver brought them back the next day.”
For the record, the Wallace figure is 10 inches high, while Gromit measures 4 inches tall.
As for his inspiration, Park can’t really point to one — especially in the case of Gromit.
“I never had a dog,” he admits. “I know nothing about dogs.”