New 'Wallace & Gromit' Project in Works, Says Nick Park
The U.K.'s legendary stop-motion animation director is returning to his Oscar-winning roots.
Wallace & Gromit should be back on screens in the next couple of years, with creator Nick Park telling The Hollywood Reporter he has ideas for a few new adventures for the calamitous couple.
While Park is not ruling out another Wallace & Gromit movie, it’s more likely the pair will feature in multiple shorts for the small screen. “I think having just reached (age) 60, you sort of start to think how much can I do, you know?” says Aardman director Park. “And I've got so many ideas, and feature films just take so long. So, I'm not saying 'no' but at the moment, a half hour seems far more attractive I must say.”
Park’s last film, Early Man, took about five years to make all in, whereas, writing aside, he says a 30-minute short takes about one year to film. Incidentally, the film rate hasn’t changed really since he began making stop-motion clay characters more than 30 years ago. "(Completing) three seconds a day is quite a good day, and it's the same at Aardman now," he says.
What can fans expect? “I feel I'm onto a good idea,” Park shares, “and I can't give too much away because it would spoil it really, but it's Wallace & Gromit up to their old antics.”
He thinks of 1993’s Oscar and BAFTA winner The Wrong Trousers as the benchmark for his well-intentioned inventor and loyal canine companion. “I tend to hold The Wrong Trousers as a model so to speak for a perfect story. That one seems to have gone down the best and I think it is the best one and there's a simplicity about it that's effective. Less is more, with Feathers McGraw the penguin. I'm not saying this will be exactly like that but there may be more than one speaking character. It's trying to keep the story simple, although the setting can get big.”
Park is also eyeing a possible return to his mockumentary series of animal vox pops, Creature Comforts.
“I've always loved the idea of doing more in the Creature Comforts vein,” he admits. “There are so many people out there you can interview so you'll never run out of material and diverse characters. I meet people and think they are definitely on the list; I'd love to come back and interview them.”
Park is not alone for his interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Wallace & Gromit are on the table, too, their transportation being their own branded lunch box. Having dreamed up the pair for his graduation project at the U.K.’s National Film and Television School, it’s only natural that Park is very protective about his creation. For example, when taking a quick photo, he asks that, where possible, it should show Wallace appearing on the left, with Gromit the dog to his right. It follows then that there are dozens of rules if you ever find yourself working with the plasticine pair.
“There are so many people working on a feature film, great artists and animators,” explains Park, “but everyone has a different style, so everyone would do it slightly differently so there has to be quite a strong rule book about how to do Gromit's brow for example. Because they are clay, they can easily evolve into other shapes as people manipulate them, so there are strong rules about how Wallace exactly walks, how he responds, how high his brows go, how wide is his mouth, lots of things like that. There's a whole kind of bible of drawings, all sorts of things really.”
One example, claims Park, is if somebody makes Wallace's mouth really wide then it doesn't at all go sharp at the end.
"We have this rule, it's like a long sausage really," he says. "His smile is an upturned sausage that's slightly wider at the ends and things like that. Or the brow is like a hosepipe; you manipulate it like it's a hosepipe, don't suddenly make it very sharp or thin, it's about rotund shapes and not sharp shapes. There's no edge.”
Last year, the owners of Aardman Animations, Peter Lord and David Sproxton, handed control of 75 percent of the business to its staff.
“It's early days and we are finding our feet with all that,” says Park of the studio’s reorganization, “but it is very exciting. The staff are finding it very exciting, I think, and we are figuring out different boards with representatives of the workers, and different meetings, and I think it's working out very well as far as I can tell.”
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Wallace & Gromit, a U.K. tour is underway of Musical Marvels, featuring clay animation features accompanied by a live orchestra.
Park attended the opening night and is engaging company, the love for his craft evident in the way he speaks, which in effect does have a Wallace-like quality, although he shrugs off the compliment. Considering he was once told by a teacher at school that working on his clay characters was "rather childish," it’s panned out OK.
“I can't believe it really that these are just a couple of characters that I came up with at college,” he says. “And now just to see they are still on primetime television is amazing to me. I have to pinch myself still, it's more than I ever dreamed of to be honest.”