The Longevity Wallace and Gromit, a Cheese-loving Man and his Canine Companion 

Categories: A PicnicCharacterFilm

Nick Park takes his time. A lot of time. With everything he does, he commits completely to every detail. There might be changes to the characters and stories and other details over the course of creating the finished product, but the creative momentum is what he is devoted to. It took Park seven years to finish his college film because of this level of attention to detail, and his love for each project. It’s that attention to detail and passion for his characters as if they’re real people, along with his loyalty to Aardman Animations, that fuels his dedication to keeping the rights to the characters he lovingly created.

Nick Park and Aardman Animations remain in agreement on protecting the future of their creations, such as the famous Wallace and Gromit for a few key reasons, all of which could pave the way for future independent studios. The combination of Park’s love for his craft, Aardman’s determination to stay independent to retain full control over its creations, their determination to embrace British humor, and the studio’s newfound employee ownership are creating a truly unique animation studio.

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Aardman Animations along with Wallace and Gromit and a growing number of other characters are on their way to becoming enduring classics, by which other studios will be measured.

Nick Park’s love for every detail of his work is a large part of why we are exploring claymation. He has created accurate claymation characters. His college film, A Grand Day Out (1989), took 7 years to finish due to his almost insane attention to detail and letting his characters evolve as they required.

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Gromit was originally a cat and Wallace sported a mustache. He also has a natural British humor that is well practiced. Wallace and Gromit are many evolutions from Art Clokey’s Gumby and Pokey, who debuted in the Howdy Doody television show in the 1950s. With Wallace and Gromit, the audience is caught up in the characters, the story, the humor, and the vivid sets in the world of Wallace and Gromit.

Wallace and Gromit films are becoming classics in the way that Monty Python films are now classics. So it isn’t surprising to find a Monty Python humor connection. Park said, “I was influenced by Terry Gilliam’s paper cut-out animation.”. It’s also obvious that Park is a movie fan with an internal database of film references, and an admirer across genres and techniques. “Park’s frame-by-frame films are also distinguished by their extraordinary detail and high production values. They are shot, in fact, as if they were miniature live-action films. The grounding of fantasy in live-action realism extends beyond technical details, such as lighting, mise-en-scène, and camera moves. Park also weaves into his films affectionate references to cinema classics–sci-fi thrillers, Hitchcock mysteries, film noir, Keatonesque inventions and chases, and even (in his latest film)

David Lean romance. Little wonder that among Park’s many fans are a number of famed filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg, John Lasseter, and Terry Gilliam, and the former Monty Python animator who, after viewing Creature Comforts, said: ‘Nick Park should be made God tomorrow.’”  Every set piece is meticulously crafted by hand and carefully calculated to the scale of the set. The handmade quality gives the finished product a natural, homemade look and feel that also speaks of artisanal and traditional work associated with “non-capitalist, i.e. non-profit-oriented Eastern Europe.” Many of the set pieces are recycled but depending upon the storyline, new pieces are always being made. Aardman believes their use of lighting is one of the major differences in their finished films. They use lighting including shadows to create realism, meaning, dramatic tension, and comedic relief, which draws the audience into the experience.

“Colour, texture and expressive lighting effects all contribute to the creation of a believable new realm.” Nick Park and Aardman Animations are committed to retaining creative control of their characters. This dedication is rare in today’s high tech world, but Park points out, “I think people will always like the authenticity in a technological world. People always like things that are handmade or crafted or loved. It helps to keep us sane. In a way, we always thought we [at Aardman] would die out as a technique in favor of CGI. But now we actually stand out. It’s our hallmark.’ (Zemler). This level of integrity and fidelity to quality is what defines Aardman Animations and part of what is paving the way for future studios. They are proving that attention to craft and character can also be prosperous for an independent studios.

They are also showing that keeping control is what will ensure their characters’ classic status. In America, Park and his team had become fed up with being told to cut their model-animation cloth to suit western or Midwestern tastes, “We dug in our heels a lot to keep our identity.”That included not selling the rights to Park’s and Aardman’s most precious characters. In keeping with retaining the ownership of their characters, Aardman Animations has also refused to sell out. Established 40 years ago, with ups and downs, but overall excellent endearing characters, high-quality production values, and talented staff, founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton sold the company to its 140 employees in November 2018. “EO [employee ownership] is a perfect way of future-proofing that independent spirit and thinking, and allow us to protect the legacy whilst continuing to nurture new talent and ideas and diversify our storytelling into new areas,” said board member Heather Wright (Amidi).

Nick Park’s college film, A Grand Day Out, is the introduction to the beloved characters, Wallace and Gromit. Since I have been researching this subject, I now notice the imperfections in the clay characters and I see how that does make Wallace and Gromit more realistic; after all, we humans are imperfect and perhaps we can better relate to them for the very reason that they are imperfect. I also notice the details more, the combinations of normal and absurd: the spaceship with curtains on the window, for instance, and the ball that doesn’t fall back down from the sky. The whole idea of going to the moon for the love of cheese and bringing an actual picnic basket and spreading a picnic blanket on the surface of the moon is so clever and Wallace and Gromit already seem so well developed, and it is only the first film.

I remember seeing Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit in the movie theater and some scenes still stand out in my memory, but with my newfound research knowledge, I can see that certain scenes probably do reference past suspense films, like the scene when Gromit has a large knife and is about to slice something which we then see is a carrot. I also was able to appreciate the use of lighting and shadows throughout this film. During the beginning film credits, the camera pans the room and along with the photos of Wallace and Gromit, and Wallace and his cheese, a lamp provides a warm glow and a shadow. In fact, all throughout this film, the shadows are 100% realistic. It is astonishing! And the addition of the funny little rabbits and their new love of cheese is so clever. It seems as though no detail has been left unattended. It is amazing when I realize that, as Nick Park explained

‘You move each limb of the character, or the eyes, or the face, in small increments and take a picture, move it again, take a picture, and so forth. And when you’ve done 24 of those you’ve got one second of film in the can.’ Nick Park on stop-motion animation (Chakrabarti). It is mind-boggling that the filmmakers have that degree of focus and that the results are smooth and seamless. In both films I examined for this paper, I appreciated the advances in claymation. The characters, including the “stars” and the addition of human characters, rabbits, and another dog, are all well developed. The humor enriches every aspect and the fact that they have embraced British humor serves a vital purpose in ensuring that it will live on as a classic. And looking at detail, it is quite extraordinary that Gromit exhibits so much emotion with only 2 eyes, 2 ears, and a button nose. I had read that the secret to that was in making Gromit’s movements very subtle, rather than overdone.

Park and Aardman insist on retaining control of Wallace and Gromit. Even when the studio’s popularity in the U.S. waned temporarily, they did not sell any portion of their two most-loved characters. Apparently, Park has more ideas for the duo. Employee ownership is such a genius move on the part of Aardman Animations, allowing them to continue to thrive, maintain their high standards, develop new talents and avenues for entertainment, and open the way for future independent studios to be successful creatively and financially.

Aardman has defied the current common practices of bland productions that sacrifice quality for quantity, and dumbing down humor to appeal to the masses, and laying off employees to increase the bottom line, it is positively uplifting to see a company do all the right things creatively and in business, and show that you can still win. For me, as I researched so many many hours for weeks, trying to find what I was looking for in this story, the pointers actually showed themselves to me, for this is about more than claymation but about any craft or anything one is passionate about. It is an inspiring example of what is possible when you believe in your work, don’t take shortcuts, and produce a product that entertains and uplifts the audience.

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The Longevity Wallace and Gromit, a Cheese-loving Man and his Canine Companion . (2022, Jan 02). Retrieved from

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