Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. It’s been a long journey to a Wallace and Gromit
feature – how come it’s taken this long to get these
characters to the screen?
A: Well, with the success of three half hours now, it
all seemed a natural step to go to a feature film. 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. 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. Which turned out to be vegetables. Naturally.
Q. The models you’ve brought with you – are
these from the film itself?
A: Yes. They’ve got metal skeletons inside with
ball and socket armatures so they can be positioned and hold that
position while each picture is taken. And they’re covered
mainly in old, traditional Plasticine. It smells the same.
It’s just a technicality, really, but Wallace’s tanktop
– they were originally Plasticine but then we took a mould.
For the ease of the animators. And his trousers are now made of
latex rubber, and the tanktop is made of resin. It gives the animators
somewhere to get hold of that doesn’t smudge the detail.
Q. The level of detail is amazing. I noticed things like
the tax disc on Wallace’s car – presumably the writing
is perfectly legible when you guys were animating. I wondered
why that level of detail was so important?
A: I think from the beginning I think it just comes from
the medium – the fact that you’re working with models.
Steve and I both started out separately as teenagers making our
own movies just with 16 or 8 millimetre cameras. It’s that
kind of level of making the models and actually having them there
physically. You have to put in all these jokes wherever you can.
And now it’s gone to a wider format, bigger screens. And
the model makers sometimes come up with jokes. They all have to
go through an approval process.
Q. I read somewhere that Gromit was going to be a cat
but was too difficult to recreate. And I wondered what else was
left out of the film that was just too difficult to put in?
A: There were many ideas that never made it to the final
film. I remember when we first pitched the idea to Jeffrey Katzenberg
at Dreamworks. It was probably about four hours long that pitch.
I remember Jeffrey’s eyelids were drooping. He did have
jetlag at the time. I remember we had Victor as Lady Tottington’s
son for quite along time, didn’t we?
Steve Box: For the first couple of years, probably.
We have no shortage of ideas which sometimes makes it difficult
to get down and make things.
Nick: it’s hard to think of specifics.
Q. There’s nothing in particular it hurt to leave
Steve: We had to leave lots of jokes out. We once had
Wallace going to buy his new tanktop at Tanktop Man.
Nick: We had lots of different solutions as to
what to do with all the rabbits. We had them driving to a drystone
wall at night and tipping all the rabbits over it and as they
were driving away you see that they’re on the Lancashire/Yorkshire
Steve: We had to lose more jokes than we kept
Q. These things are lost at the script editing stage,
Nick: Yeah. The script editing stage is throughout the
making of the movie, really. We spent a couple of years writing
and, at the same time, designing characters and sets. While you’re
filming you’re constantly revising every scene – re-storyboarding,
rewriting, rewriting dialogue, going back to the actors.
We have to have the dialogue from the actors before we shoot the
animation. Quite often we’d be re-recording dialogue the
day before we shot the animation. It was just mad.
Q. Was there ever any pressure from Dreamworks to have
an American in the cast, especially after Mel Gibson in Chicken
A: Jeffrey at Dreamworks knew that it was a very home
grown thing, that we were playing on our home turf with Wallace
and Gromit. It was an appropriate character, Rocky [in Chicken
Run]. Because he came from the outside.
I think they were very happy for us to choose two of our new characters
to be known in America. We didn’t go for really young, current
actors – we went for ones we really liked ourselves and
they were more than happy with Ralph and Helena.
Q. Did you find it as funny at the end as you did five
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 to 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
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. You’ve been working
on Wallace and Gromit for 20 years now – I wondered to what
extent they’d taken over your life. Do you have the models
at home and do you wake up to the alarm clock?
A: Yes, and I have a whole mechanism that slides me down
to my car and takes me to work.
No, it hasn’t got that involved. I have a lot of the merchandise
around the house. It has been called the Wallace Collection. 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.
I don’t wear tanktops. It’s taken over in the sense
that they were characters that were created as a silly idea at
college and now seeing it at the shops. Even in the cheap basket
at Sainsbury’s along with the Best of Sooty.
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’s like something I do in my spare time now, think of
Wallace and Gromit ideas.
Q. Will we see them in another film sometime in the future?
A: I don’t see why not.
Q. Why Ralph Fiennes when he’s not known for comedic
A: We searched forever for the voices. When we’re
writing and sketching and making the prototype puppets, we’re
always imagining the kind of voices. And then we start thinking
about who might be appropriate. Ralph was on the list quite early,
actually because of he played Steed in The Avengers.
Q. That wasn’t meant to be a comedy...
A: Well, we tried the puppet with a line from that film
and it just fitted brilliantly. He’s got such an unusual
quality to his voice. He’s fantastically hilarious. We forced
him to do performances that he seemed to enjoy so much. And with
Helena as well.
I remember I had to ask Ralph to do an evil laugh – I think
it actually got cut in the end – but he was so funny. I
remember saying to him, “I bet you didn’t have to
do that in Schindler’s List.” They were so complying,
the whole cast.
Steve: It was great getting in classical British
A-list actors and getting them to ham it up. And they did, they
just played along and had fun.
Q. Do you find it easy to push actors, to give them direction
A: They were like putty in our hands.
Steve: I remember you got Ralph to shout “potty
poo” when Victor was in a rage. It got lost in the mix.
Q. Did you choose Hans Zimmer for the music?
A: Julian Knox wrote the music – I was at college
with him. Hans Zimmer came over to offer and overview.
Q. Did you have to change the word ‘marrow’
to ‘melon’ in America?
A: that’s right. To be fair on Dreamworks. One
paper in America had said that they’d put in the slightly
cheeky jokes and it was actually us. They were saying to take
them out, that it might not go down too well in Middle America.
The one change we made in the end was because they didn’t
understand what a marrow was. We’d already animated the
word ‘marrow’ and ‘squash’ wouldn’t
fit so we changed it to ‘melon’. We got Helena Bonham
Carter in for a day just to say the word ‘melon’,
just for the American version.
Q. Was Gerry Anderson an influence?
A: Yes, I grew up with Gerry Anderson. I loved Thunderbirds.
Q. Would you consider doing a movie with Gromit on his
Steve: How could you say such a thing?
Nick: it’s always been a problem if there’s
any romance involved. You can’t really split Wallace and
Gromit up. It’s always been a dilemma – how do we
end the story? In a way they’re like an elderly married
couple – can’t live with each other, can’t live
without each other. They always look out for each other. Gromit
can’t really go off on his own.
Q. Do you find it hard to delegate – do you get
nervous when other people are looking after your children, so
A: Yeah, I do really. It’s got its own personal
kind of look. It’s something that both Steve and I have
worked on since The Wrong Trousers. I kind of feel that, although
Steve and I aren’t doing animation any more, that we’re
still very hands on. While we’re writing the story we’re
modelling all the different characters because it helps inform
the writing. Every single colour of every single sock is approved.
Q. Is there a style guide about the angle of Gromit’s
ears and things?
A: Yeah. We spend a lot of time down there on the set,
lining up every single shot, going though every bit of action,
even though we may not do the animation, the pay off is that you
get to control a much bigger picture. We’re just control
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