name of Nick Park is synonymous with that of Aardman Animations,
the Bristol based company founded in the early 1970s by Peter Lord
and David Sproxton and responsible for a highly successful series
of 3D stop-frame animation shorts made for British television. The
most celebrated of these have been the three films featuring the
adventures of Wallace, a nondescript Northerner with a flair for
ramshackle invention, and his perspicacious but put upon dog, Gromit.
The first, A Grand Day Out, started out as Park's graduation
project at the National Film and Television School, where he studied
animation from 1980 to 1983, and was finally completed in 1989.
The Wrong Trousers was screened on BBC2 at Christmas 1993:
the highest rating programme over the two day holiday period, it
went on to become one of BBC Worldwide's most valuable properties
both for video sales and merchandising. It also brought Park his
second Oscar for Best Animated Short, the first having been picked
up for another Aardman film, Creature Comforts, in 1991.
The third in the Wallace and Gromit trilogy, A Close Shave,
also won an Oscar in 1996.
Park's work with Aardman Animations is a popular manifestation of
the wider, if less frequently reported, success enjoyed by British
animation in the 1980s and 1990s, much of which has been nurtured
by Channel 4 and their commissioning editor for animation. Aardman's
highly successful work on commercials--particularly the captivating
"Heat Electric" campaign, a stylistic and thematic development of
Creature Comforts--has also allowed the company to spread
its wings, a reminder of the importance of this area of television
production as a source of funding and creative experiment in a country
bereft of a subsidised film industry.
began making puppet animations in his parents' attic at the age
of 13, using the family's Bell and Howell 8mm camera. He was persuaded
to show his work at school and in 1975 his entry in the European
Young Film-Maker of the Year Competition, Archie's Concrete Nightmare,
was shown on BBC Television. He completed a BA in Communication
Arts at the Sheffield Arts School before going on to study animation
at the NFTS. His work shows the signs of his early fascination with
science fiction and monster films and the special effects of Ray
Harryhausen, as well as his later admiration for the imaginative
animated puppetry of Ladislaw Starewicz, Jiri Trnka and Jan Svankmajer.
However, it is the influence of a childhood filled with Heath Robinson
inventions (his parents once fashioned a caravan from a box and
set of wheels, fitting it out with makeshift furniture and decoration)
which seems to permeate the world of Wallace and Gromit, with its
handmade objects, idiosyncratic domestic details and, above all,
its enterprising mechanical contraptions.
stop-frame animation of plasticine models has developed into a distinctive
and highly sophisticated technique and is often perceived as the
Aardman house style, though the company have used a number of other
processes--in the Peter Gabriel Sledgehammer pop promo for
example, on which Park collaborated with several independent animators,
including the Brothers Quay. The method grew out of Aardman's work
in the 1970s on sequences for BBC Children's Television featuring
Morph, a plasticine character capable of metamorphosing into a multitude
of shapes. Parks' first job with the company was on the Morph production
line. By this time, Aardman had also made two series, Animated
Conversations for the BBC and Lip Synch for Channel 4,
in which plasticine characters were animated to a soundtrack built
from fly-on-the-wall recordings of real conversations and interviews.
This became the basis of Park's award-winning Creature Comforts,
in which a range of vox-pop interviews about people's living conditions
provide the speech for animals commenting on their life behind bars
in a zoo. It was here that the subtle, psychological and sociological
characterisation and carefully observed facial and gestural expressiveness
that are the features of Wallace and Gromit was developed. For all
their farcical playfulness, these narratives are shot through with
stinging moments of poignancy, as the animated figures momentarily
betray the pain, longing and regret behind a life of repressed British
particularly televisual in its domestic intimacy and attention to
psychological detail, Park's work has also brought a sophisticated
level of film literacy into the process of animation. With their
larger budgets, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave
are not only technically more accomplished than A Grand Day Out,
but are more cinematic in their use of lighting, framing and camera
movement. Both later pieces are also full of film allusion and pastiche,
with references to a number of popular genres and stock sequences,
as well as specific British and American movies.
PARK. Born in Preston, Lancashire, England, 1958. Educated at
the Sheffield Polytechnic, Faculty of Art and Design, B.A. 1980;
National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, 1980-1983.
Animator since the age of 13; worked at Aardman Animation in Bristol,
since 1985; projects include Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer
video, 1986; numerous commercials for Access credit cards and Duracell
batteries; creator of claymation stars Wallace and Gromit. Recipient:
three Academy Awards, three BAFTA Awards.
Sledgehammer, 1986 (animator); War Story, 1989 (animator);
A Grand Day Out, 1989 (animator/director); Creature Comforts,
1989 (animator/director); The Wrong Trousers, 1993 (animator/director);
A Close Shave, 1996 (animator/director); Wallace and Gromit:
The Best of Aardman Animation, 1996 (animator/director).
Gilbert. "That's My Toon." Sunday Times (London), 19 June
Kevin. "A Lot Can Happen in a Second" (interview). In, Boorman,
John, and Walter Donohue, editors. Projections 5. London:
Ben. "Real Lives" (interview). Independent on Sunday (London),
10 March 1992