From his early experiments. Park went on to a communications course at Sheffield Art School where they recognised his interest in animation and let him loose with a Bolex camera. Then came the National Film and Television School at Beaconstield where he started the first Wallace and Gromit adventure. A Grand Day Out. After a year. only the first of the twenty pages of script had been shot. and Park was invited to join Aardman who provided the funding and studio space to finish off the film.
As with the best characters. Wallace and Gromit evolved by a series of happy accidents rather than the application of a set formula. Park ‘sort of ended up’ using Plasticine to model them. ‘I can’t remember the original idea or lreason.’ he says. ‘I remember being impressed by things like Morph. also the lack of sophistication that goes with it. You just buy a few boxes of different colours and you can make anything. It is more dependent upon your own creativity rather than technique: having to buy the right moulding kits and expensive metal armatures to go inside the figures.’
Gromit’s forehead. undoubtedly one of the most expressive in cinematic history. was also accidental. ‘When I first wrote the Grand Day Out script. Gromit was a much more outward- going dog. he leapt around. did somersaults and gnashed his teeth a lot. and was generally more extrovert and active.’ remembers Park. ‘But when I came to shoot the first scene it would have been so much trouble to do that, that I found just moving his eyebrows did quite a lot more than I intended. It was a kind of a lazy way. but because it was more minimal it became more expressive with a lot less effort. And also it made a good contrast with Wallace.’
Park’s success must in part be ascribed to the detailed richness of his animations. which deserve several viewings with a healthy reliance on the pause button to be fully appreciated.
‘I remember being impressed by things like Morph, also the lack of sophistication that goes with it. You
just buy a few boxes of different colours and you The can make anything.’
Besides the obvious puns: the sledge in A (Irand Day Out. Wallace's trophy on the
kitchen wall and the headlines on the newspapers. the visual texture is littered with jokes and self-referential gags. ‘lt was quite hard to think of something new every time.‘ admits Park. ‘There is a thin line between being genuinely interesting and funny and at the same time not becoming distracting.‘
Film buffs should beware. however. of indulging in trainspotting. ‘I didn’t actually go and look at any films.‘ says Park. ‘lt was more from what’s in the back of my mind from a lot of films. so there are no direct references. more of a kind of a feel.’ scale of The Wrong Trousers. which at half an hour is long for the tortuous process of stop animation. necessitated bringing in a whole production team. with fellow Aardman animator Steve Box taking on responsibility for the penguin. ‘With model animation it is hard to find the people who can work in the same style.’ says Park. ‘Wallace and Gromit are very personal to me. so it is hard to trust anyone else.
‘Given the choice. I would like the process to be much quicker. The Wrong Trousers took
thirteen months to film. which for most filmmakers seems a long time. but in animation terms is quite quick. Having
finished it now. and being able to sit back and look at it. is quite rewarding. You don’t really think of the amount of effort that was put in.’ Park in fact still nurtures hopes of a full-length Wallace and Gromit feature. although recalling that: ‘lt really was hard work actually. a hell of a lot of hours were put in.’ U
Inside The Wrong Trousers is broadcast on BBC 2 on Christmas Day a! 1 [.45am. A Grand Day Out is on BBC 2 the same day at 5.35pm.The Wrong Trousers will be broadcast on BBC 2 on Christmas Sunday at 5.35pm.
BACK TO THE
DRAWING BOARD: Nick Park’s formative inﬂuences
I Peter Lord (creator of Morph) ‘He is probably the main clay animator who I admire for his expertise. But he is very close to home, I suppose because there aren’t many people who use clay.’
I Terry Gilliam ‘He has always been a favourite, both in his live action films and his animation. It is rather dated now, but Ijust like the wit behind it and the inventiveness. He always started off with quite simple scenes. perhaps a statue and an old man walking along and then something very unexpected would happen. it is surreal and very quirky. it’s the charm of his stuff. I think. and the ideas that are so inspired.’
I Bob Godfrey Roobarb and Custard was the first hand-made animation that I’d seen. Disney looked so sophisticated so you had no idea how it was done. but with Roobarb and Custard you can see the joins. Again it is the ideas. the ridiculousness of it all. that had a big appeal to me. I try to put that into Wallace and Gromit.’
I King Kong ‘I was also very keenly into dinosaurs, long before Jurassic Park. but films like King Kong and Jason And The Argonauts really enthralled me. Those were the sort of things that inspired me as a child. King Kong lived in my imagination for months and years afterwards. You might not call them great films. btit i think it is the fantasy element that appealed to tne.’
I Disney ‘I always liked Disney films as a child. and 1 do now, but I tend to find the schmaltziness that goes with them a bit hard to handle. They are a bit too sickly. It’s very good story-telling; that’s what Disney is so good at.’
The List l7 December 199343 January l994 7