PUBLISHED: 17:55 11 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:19 20 February 2013



Wallace and Gromit look far too young to be celebrating their twentieth anniversary, but then they had a good start in life – Beaconsfield.<br/><br/>Nick Park created them at the town's National Film and Television School (NFTS).

Extract from Q&A with Nick Park at the NFTS by Venetia Hawkes

Q When did you decide to become an animator?

NP I started age around 12, making short films at home on standard 8mm film. It seemed like a miracle or something thinking back, especially coming from my home town in Preston which is kind of miles away from anything to do with film. But my parents had a home movie camera, which happened to have an animation button on it, which is quite incredible because no-one used the word animation back then, so no-one really knew what that button was. I remember hearing about how animations done, I was into cartoons so I decided to try it.

Q Why do you like to use plasticine for your animation?

NP - Gromit was born out of plasticine, he might not have happened in any other medium. I think its because you can manipulate the brow and because youre manipulating every single frame youre somehow putting your own life into the character. Because its done with small nuances, youre not just bending youre actually sculpting, so you can do these very subtle human things with it.

Q How do you cast the voice-actors?

NP - The choice of the voice-over actor is very important. But you cant audition the A-list actors. So what we do is get a film theyve done where the character might be slightly similar. With Mel Gibson in Chicken Run we got a piece from Maverick and animated the chicken puppet to a line from that. Then you decide if you believe the voice is coming out of the character.

Q How long does it take to make an animated film?

NP - 18 months for an 80 minute film, thats the average shooting schedule. But that is about 25 units, teams of animators, sometimes 30 units, shooting for 18 months. Each animator would shoot on average about 3 seconds a day. Wed be aiming for 2 minutes a week, something like that thatd be a very good week!

Q Do you have ideas for characters other than Wallace and Gromit?

NP I do have other ideas. But if I have other ideas I tend to test them out on Wallace and Gromit first. In a way its a lovely thing, to have two characters who sort of write themselves. Because they exist. And Im always looking for that slightly surreal, British, quirky thing and they bring it automatically. I dont have to look far, I just think Oh, what would Wallace do?, How would Gromit react?

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