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Wallace & Gromit - Steve Box interview



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. The film retains the wholesomenessof the short films and yet it’s epic in style and also there’s some risqué humour in there. That must be easier to say than do. Tell us about that...
A:
Yeah. The gags that you’re referring to – I think I know which ones you mean. We were very cautious about that, we agonised about them, the double entendres. Nick and I share such a love of cinema, especially British movies, even including in that the old Carry On films.
Often the character of Sid James or Hattie Jacques… there’s a touch of that in the new characters in the crowd so those sort of jokes just started to creep in really. We had lots of discussions about whether to keep them in.
Nick Park: We tried to keep them kind of innocent at the same time.

Q. It must be extraordinarily time consuming, something like a tax disc that the audience will only glimpse at?
A:
If you didn’t put that level of detail in, you’d actually miss it. You’d know it was fudged. It had to be made so you try to think of something comical that you’ll see on the DVD one day. It’ll help sell the DVD.

Q. There are quite a few cinema references – were there any you had to leave out and, also, how difficult was it to direct it for a film rather than TV. The pace must be difficult.
A:
Yes it was. That was perhaps the biggest challenge, to go from short films to the big screen. How to tell a story, how to keep it entertaining and compelling for the whole 80 minutes, especially as it’s only worked in a short format. How did we do that? By constantly looking at it a hundred times a day. Brainstorming, trying to come up with new gags and better ways of telling the story.
Steve: The best advice we had, from people like Jeffrey at Dreamworks, was to make sure we kept Gromit at the centre of everything, so the film was from Gromit’s point of view. If we ever got into trouble, we made sure Gromit was in there so you experienced the film through his eyes.
Nick: I don’t think there were any film references we took out. I think we used most of them.
Steve: I can’t think of any we took out.

Q. What did American audiences or executives make of Peter Sallis’ thick accent because he gives so much to the character but you sometimes read that British films have to be subtitled for American audiences.
A:
We had reams of notes, actually, about what “Give it some more welly, mate” meant.
Steve: Or, “You’ll buckle me trunnions.” The whole point is that it doesn’t matter. We’ve been fed a whole dialogue of American colloquialisms for the past 30, 40, 50 years and we’re just sending a few over that way now.

Q. Is there a risk you could get bored by what you’re doing – are you as thrilled with it at the end as you were at the beginning?
A:
We know it’s going to be a really long-haul thing. In this case, a good four or five years. So it has to be an idea that we really find funny. When we got this idea at the beginning that, rather than a werewolf like in an old Universal horror movie, it’s a Were-Rabbit. And then with the vegetables, it just contains so much potential.
You sort of know when you’ve got such an original idea that you’re going to have a field day with it. That’s when you know you’ve got an idea that’ll last.

Q. Did you find it as funny at the end as you did five years ago?
A:
Personally, I’m still getting used to seeing it. Obviously we’ve both seen it a million times but we’re still watching it and thinking about the dub or maybe a certain edit. I think you have o start believing that people are really enjoying it, that they’re not mucking about or kidding you. I can enjoy the sequences that Nick’s done because I can relax.
Nick: And vice versa. I can tell that it’s nutty and whimsical, and that’s fine. Even though we want you to care about the characters and be moved, all the time we’re undermining that by being ridiculous and that’s fine.

Q. Cheese – why the switch of allegiance from Wensleydale to Sinking Bishop and what’s the story about the guy who’s produced it being terrified that demand will exceed supply?
A:
I think it’s a local thing – it’s Gloucestershire isn’t it? We asked him if we could use it and he was really happy. I’d never experienced it before and I tried some of the cheese – it stunk.

Q. Why did you alight on it anyway?
A:
we needed something to revive Wallace like smelling salts and it had the right name.

Q. How does it feel to be the two men who’ve revitalised the British cheese industry?
A:
We should have bought shares in it.
Nick: I hope we’re not making his life a misery or anything. We purely used it, as Steve says, for the name. It sounded really funny. I got a packet of it as well and it stunk my kitchen out for about a week. It’s very nice, though.

Q. Was there a lot of pressure from Dreamworks to use CG? And what are you going to do next?
A:
There wasn’t any pressure to use CG. They came to us because they love what we do and the way that we do it. Jeffrey’s always said what a fan he is of Wallace and Gromit. Someone in Australia called it “that lumpy British animation style”. We’re proud of that, that you can see the fingerprints. To be fair on Jeffrey he came in and helped us in quite strong ways. When we were stuck he offered help. He was never slow with his opinions.
Nick: We had total creative control. He’d fly in on his private jet, stay for a few hours in the studio, watch everything we’d done, we’d pitch scenes that we were about to do and he’d make his comments and it was very much take it or leave it. We were left to find our own solutions to those problems or sometimes ignore them. We were determined to keep that very British quirkiness, that absurdity.

Q. What’s next?
A:
A holiday. It’s been such a long haul – five years. It’s nice to just be able to start enjoying the film. I’m exhausted.

Q. Was there anything in the script that you had to leave out because it was too risqué?
A:
I think everything that’s in there was always in there, really. I think there was a line when Lady Tottington said to the Were-Rabbit, “Aren’t you going to ravage my vegetables” or something. It was just a bit repetitious.

Q. What extras can we expect for the DVD?
A:
We’re not exactly sure what’s going to go on the DVD. I know there’s some of us acting out sequences with the animators and that’s going on, embarrassingly. But there are pieces that have been cut out.

Related stories: Read our review

Read our special feature

Read the full Nick Park interview

Watch clips from the film

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