AARDMAN'S NICK PARK & STEVE BOX
Interview and illustration by Jeremy Scott

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WALLACE AND GROMIT ARE THE BRITISH DYNAMIC DUO OF PLASTICINE, WHO TOGETHER HAVE STARRED IN SUCH AWARD-WINNING ANIMATED SHORTS SUCH AS A GRAND DAY OUT AND THE WRONG TROUSERS. NOW THE MAD-CAPPED INVENTOR AND HIS TRUSTY DOG ARE ABOUT TO EMBARK ON THEIR GREATEST ADVENTURE TO DATE: A FULL-LENGTH MOTION PICTURE, THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT. I RECENTLY HAD THE PLEASURE OF DISCUSSING THE NEW FILM WITH WALLACE AND GROMIT'S CREATOR, NICK PARK, AND CO-DIRECTOR/WRITER STEVE BOX.

Jeremy Scott: When did you realize clay animation was what you wanted to devote your life to?

Nick Park: I think it was never really a decision. I felt that it found me. We both started as teenagers in animation. Itís something that just gets into your blood once you start. My mother had a home movie camera that took single frames, and I discovered it one day. I loved drawing cartoons and making clay models of them, so I started animating and never stopped.

Steve Box: I have a similar story. I always loved to draw, and I was drawing all the time. We also always had a lot of clay around the house-- well, we call it plasticine. The next step was making three-dimensional models. It wasnít until I was about 16 before I actually managed to move them and start animating. I just thought it was magic. I still do, actually. Itís the closest thing to real magic you can get.

JS: What were your biggest influences growing up?

NP: I used to love cut-out animation. I loved Terry Gilliamís Monty Python stuff because it was so surreal and stupid, and it was so full of visual ideas that you just had to love it. That was a real inspiration for a teenager.

SB: I really loved Ray Harryhausen stills. They were amazing.

JS: So where exactly did the idea for Wallace and Gromit originate from?

NP: I was trying to think of an idea for film school. I had been doing a student attachment for The Dark Crystal for Jim Henson. I was making tea for the special effects team. I found it inspiring seeing how certain effects were done, and I got this idea of a guy with a dog who built a rocket in his basement. That was kind of the joke, the premise for a very short film. I went back and looked through sketchbooks from art school and found these drawings of characters. So I made this man and this cat called Gromit, but found it was easier to make a dog than a cat. It all started from there, really. Gromit was going to be very extroverted, but I found it was much easier to animate his eyebrow up and down. So his character came out of laziness, really. But it was a great contrast to Wallace, who was very extroverted.

JS: Nick, you started A Grand Day Out pretty much by yourself. So was it strange when you began work on the other shorts with a team of people working with you?

NP: A Grand Day Out was almost single-handedly done, but not completely. In The Wrong Trousers, Steve and I pretty much were doing all the animation; Steve did more than me, in fact. There were two or three of us doing all the animation, with a crew of ten, and it stepped up gradually from there. It is a very personal style that is hard to let go of. In The Wrong Trousers, the reason Steve came on board was because it had to be somebody I looked up to and trusted, and had the ability to share the same vision, humor, and outlook. It worked out really well. It gradually has come down to the fact that, if you want to make bigger films, you have to stand back more. That being said, Steve and I are very hands-on people, and that makes our job incredibly difficult. We want to get involved on every micro-managing level and become complete megalomaniacs, which makes filmmaking very, very difficult.

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