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Wallace & Gromit - The best advice we had was to make sure we kept Gromit at the centre of everything



Feature by: Jack Foley

IT'S taken five long years for Nick Park, Steve Box and the team at Aardman Animation to bring Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit to the big screen but the wait has been worth it.

In America, the film shot straight to the number one spot with a healthy $16.1 million weekend take, while critics in the UK have been lining up to heap praise on it.

And deservedly so, for The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is one of the most lively and inventive family films this side of Pixar!

For the talented Park and Box, however, a feature film wasn't as inevitable as some have suggested.

"Part of the reason we did Chicken Run first was because I was naturally cautious – what works as a short film format often works because it’s short," explained Nick.

"There were certain things that worked because it was a short. We were really waiting for the right idea to come along, that had the size and scope for character development as well. And that turned out to be vegetables!"

The ensuing adventure finds Wallace and Gromit attempting to protect their neighbourhood and its vegetables from a mythical were-rabbit and draws on plenty of film references for laughs.

But it also retains a distinctly British flavour, as well as some risque humour that pays homage to the heyday of English comedy.

"Nick and I share such a love of cinema, especially British movies, even including the old Carry On films," explained Steve, at a recent press conference. "So there’s a touch of that in the new characters, and those sort of jokes just started to creep in really."

As careful as Nick and Steve had to be to keep things family-friendly and not too risque, their biggest challenge came in keeping the whole film entertaining for its longer running time.

"That was perhaps the biggest challenge, to go from short films to the big screen," adds Nick. "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.

"So 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."

Adds Steve: "The best advice we had, from people like Jeffrey Katzenburg 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."

So having conquered both TV and film with their plasticine creations, will Nick and Steve be taking a break from Wallace and Gromit, or are they constantly still inventing new scenarios for them that may be put to use in their everyday lives?

"Yes, and I have a whole mechanism that slides me down to my car and takes me to work," laughs Nick, sensing the irony.

"But seriously, it hasn’t got that involved. I have a lot of the merchandise around the house, which has been called the Wallace Collection.

"But I’m trying not to collect it any more. It was a thrill for the first five years to have your own stuff on the shelves in the shops. But now the novelty’s worn off quite a bit.

"And I don’t wear tanktops. It [Wallace and Gromit] has taken over in the sense that they were characters that were created as a silly idea at college and now we are seeing them in the shops - even in the cheap basket at Sainsbury’s along with the Best of Sooty!

"But I can’t help but think of new ideas for Wallace and Gromit. Steve and I are always thinking of things. They’re like our own children.

"You know, they have their own life now. Whatever idea you have, you can put Wallace and Gromt in that idea and they’ll bring their own absurdity and their own logic to it.

"It’s like something I do in my spare time now, think of Wallace and Gromit ideas."

So another film is a definite possibility?

"I don’t see why not," Nick concludes, to the obvious delight of film fans everywhere.

Related stories: Read our review

Read the full Nick Park interview

Read the full Steve Box interview

Watch clips from the film

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