Nick Park hasn’t much. The film maker from England’s north who has won Oscars for his Wallace and Gromit shorts, is quietly unassuming, which Wallace and Gromit have become iconic classics. Now the pair hit the big screen in their funniest cinematic outing to date. In Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Wallace and Gromit are cashing in with their humane pest-control outfit, “Anti-Pesto.” With only days to go before the annual Giant Vegetable Competition, business is booming, but Wallace & Gromit are finding out that running a “humane” pest control outfit has its drawbacks as their West Wallaby Street home fills to the brim with captive rabbits. Suddenly, a huge, mysterious, veg-ravaging “beast” begins attacking the town’s sacred vegetable plots at night, and the competition hostess, Lady Tottington, commissions Anti-Pesto to catch it and save the day. Lying in wait, however, is Lady Tottington’s snobby suitor, Victor Quartermaine, who’d rather shoot the beast and secure the position of local hero – not to mention Lady Tottingon’s hand in marriage. With the fate of the competition in the balance, Lady Tottington is eventually forced to allow Victor to hunt down the vegetable chomping marauder. Little does she know that Victor’s real intent could have dire consequences for her…and Wallace & Gromit. Garth Franklin caught up with the director for this exclusive interview.
Question: When did you decide you could finally get this one off and running?
Nick Park: After The Fox and the Hound fell through – I mean we were sort of writing this one already like at a leisurely pace, and then when that one fell through we pushed this one forward. But we were quite well developed by then and before that I was kind of waiting for kind of an idea really, for lightening to strike. You’ve got to have something that would really make a kind of full-length feature idea: How shall I fill 80 minutes especially as the shorts were successful in their own right. You know, it’s a question of sometimes things work because they’re short and so you’re a bit kind of nervous to go into long format. That was also why we were sort of… I was a bit cautious about going straight into a Wallace and Gromit film before Chicken Run in fact.
Question: How much has the technique of the animation, you employed so beautifully in the shorts and in Chicken Run -developed since then?
Nick Park: Well, we’re pretty much using the same technique really -stop-frame animation – in all the characters in the new movie are , just the same scale and the same sort of… what do you call it – materials, clay – plasticine we call it. But it’s handy sometimes to be able to rely on CG techniques -but only, only occasionally have we done that though. for example, there’s a scene where Wallace starts sucking up these rabbits into the Bun-Vac 6000 and it was going to be really hard for us to reach all the bunnies – all the floating around inside the vacuum cleaner because of the glass casing so we thought it’d be good just to kind of do some CG animation and we made a little bunny and got him scanned into the computer and we were able to replicate that bunny many times and have lots of bunnies floating around.
Question: Are you surprised at how much more sophisticated a filmmaker you have become since doing the Wallace and Gromit shorts?
Nick Park: that’s an interesting one. I haven’t really thought of it like that. I suppose I can kind of track a kind of development I guess since A Grand Day Out, which was kind of this string of visual gags I suppose. Then, gradually things have deepened a little and I’ve had to think more about character arcs and plot. Now I have to expand Wallace’s character and make him a bit deeper and with a romantic interest.
Question: Do you feel that it’s, um, more of a challenge to market the Wallace and Gromit movies in the United States as opposed to England where humour and the characters are so much more identifiable?
Nick Park: Yeah. it has been something that we’ve had to kind of think about. Obviously DreamWorks have their eye on the marketing side: how are these kind of quirky British characters going to go down in America? But we’ve been always encouraged by the short films. At one point I was asked to change Wallace’s voice to an American voice – not by DreamWorks but by the people distributing the videos back then. And we dug our heels in and didn’t do it, and I think we would have shot ourselves in the foot if we did because I’ve had so many kind of letters and responses from people all over America of how much they like the British kind of quirkiness and the strange accent and they find it kind of cute or something and with a certain charm. So we never have given in on that kind of thing. And I think Jeffery Katzenberg and DreamWorks because they’ve loved the shorts, seem to very much respect what kind of property they’re dealing with. Somebody in Australia recently described it as that lumpy British animation – and I think that’s quite a good description really…
Question: Do you think you’ll get The Tortoise and the Hare off or not?
Nick Park: it’s still actually in development I believe. Yeah, I haven’t been working on it myself – I never was involved with that one, it was something that was going to be done after Chicken Run and it’s gone back on to the backburner again.
Question: so what are you going to be working on next, and do you think that we’ve seen the end of Wallace and Gromit or do you think just the beginning?
Nick Park: Oh I think it’s not the end. You know, I feel I can’t help but think of more… I’m always there at home thinking of Wallace and Gromit ideas. I mean whether I’ll do a feature or not… I’m not sure, you know, whether I’ll do another one.
Question: Well what do you want to do ext personally, do you know?
Nick Park: M brain cells need a little bit of a break and then I’ll decide.
Question: So do you have any idea what you’ll do after this or do you think you’ll… you’ll decide that later?
Nick Park: Yeah, I’ll decide later I think. I just need to… my brain cells need to regroup…
Question: What about… what about Aardman itself? Is Aardman’s next project set yet or no?
Nick Park: Yeah, we’ve not got anything very soon but we’ve actually – sorry, what am I saying… we’ve got another feature out next year actually.
Question: Your first CGI film, yes?
Nick Park: Yeah, about rats living in the London sewer. That’s being done by a small group of Aardman people at DreamWorks and that’s exciting actually. The guy who’s directing that is very funny and very – you know, he just looks very promising. I’m not involved with it myself… but we’ve also John Cleese writing a story about prehistoric people.