While you may know everything there is to know about Wallace and Gromit, you may not know so much about their creator, Nick Park. Aardman gets countless emails and letters from fans interested to know a little more about the man behind some of Aardman’s best loved films, asking everything from how Nick comes up with his ideas to what type of cheese he likes most!
On this page we’ll try to answer some of your most pressing questions, as well as giving a little insight into the day to day life of one of the world’s most famous animation directors.
Nick was born in Preston, Lancashire. As a boy, Nick loved drawing, especially cartoons as he was a huge fan of the The Beano comic. He would use his mother’s home movie camera to record his early films; his childhood interest in film-making continued, leading Nick to study animation at the National Film and Television School in Buckinghamshire. It was during his time here that Nick created the characters that would develop into Wallace and Gromit.
Nick created a bald inventor and his intelligent dog assistant for his graduation project, and used traditional stop-motion techniques to bring his characters to life. However, the labour-intensive nature of creating an animation in this way meant that Nick’s film wasn’t complete when he finished his film course.
Nick invited Aardman's Peter Lord and David Sproxton to the National Film and Television School as guest speakers, having seen their animated films and Morph on television. At the time Nick was making his graduation film, which was to become the much loved "A Grand Day Out". Peter and David, who had only recently established Aardman, mentioned they were on the lookout for an animator to come and help with various projects, and Nick ended up visiting Bristol for 2 summers to help them mostly with their work for BBC TV. Nick first worked on prop-making for Morph, Aardman’s lovable terracotta hero! He then moved onto animating Morph the following summer and later joined Aardman full time in 1985 to work on various other projects including a Channel Four funded short called Babylon, and the multi award-winning video for the track 'Sledgehammer' by Peter Gabriel.
The Aardman team then to helped Nick complete his graduation film and later embarked on the "Lip Sync" series of 5 minute films for Channel Four. Nick took on one of these films and created "Creature Comforts". By the time both films were finished it was 1989 and both "A Grand Day Out" and "Creature Comforts" got Oscar® nominations in the short animated film category. Creature Comforts took the award at the 1990 ceremony and Nick started on his collection of the gilded statuettes, adding to it regularly over the next few years.
One of the most frequently asked questions to Nick is where he got the inspiration for Wallace and Gromit from. In Wallace’s case, this came from his own family:
"After making the film it became very apparent that Wallace was incredibly like my dad in many ways, particularly because of his whole attitude to life. He’s naïve – not that my dad was naïve, but he had ideas and got on with them…."
The visual look of Wallace was inspired by a postman Nick knew called Jerry; he was later renamed after a Labrador Nick encountered on a bus in Preston. Gromit, meanwhile, got his name after Nick heard his brother, an electrician, talking about ‘grommets’ – rings, or washers, used in the trade. Gromit’s intellectual, cultured character is perhaps a little inspired by the character Snowy from Tintin - Hergé's classic cartoon creation was a favourite of Nick’s when he was growing up.
With the release of subsequent Wallace and Gromit films, the public quickly took Nick Park’s creations to their hearts. The film industry was pretty impressed too, with Wallace and Gromit films winning three Oscars® to date!
On the back of his Oscar® win for A Close Shave, interest in the man behind the Wallace and Gromit films really started to pick up, with Nick featuring in the Sunday broadsheets and tabloids. Nick was also awarded a CBE 1996 and later that year flew out to New York to do some publicity for fans in the US. It was during this trip that the original Wallace and Gromit models from a Close Shave went missing during a mix up in a New York taxi! Thankfully Nick was eventually reunited with the models. On their flight back to the UK, Nick’s fellow passengers were assured by the captain that “We have Nick Park on board, and Wallace and Gromit are safely in the hold!” The whole plane gave Nick a hearty round of applause!
Having built up a huge fan following and winning critical acclaim for his short films, it was a natural step for Nick to make his first foray in feature films, with the release of Chicken Run in 2000. With a central character voiced by none other than Mel Gibson and an imaginative storyline, Nick’s first cinematic release was a hit with both Aardman fans and film critics, winning a BAFTA for Best British Film.
Then, in 2005, the first full-length Wallace and Gromit film was released, entitled The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Nick teamed up with writers Steve Box and Bob Baker for the film which took five years to complete. Shot entirely in Bristol, the plot fused some of Nick’s earlier story ideas and was originally intended to feature Wendolene from A Close Shave as the female lead. Gradually the story began to evolve – Lady Tottington was introduced as a love interest, the giant vegetable competition was invented and ‘Anti-Pesto’ was born.
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was number one at the box office worldwide for three weeks in a row and earned Nick another Oscar®...a fourth statuette to add to his trophy cabinet!
As Nick has become increasingly busy with other projects and commitments he has entrusted the role of Creative Director for Wallace and Gromit to his long-term colleague Merlin Crossingham. Merlin, who started his career as an animator at Aardman back in 1996, was Second Unit Director on The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and he also co-directed another much-loved Aardman classic, Creature Comforts USA, the series.
As Creative Director for the characters, Merlin oversees everything to do with Wallace and Gromit, including new commercials, live shows, products and more – to make sure that the special and unique charm of Wallace and Gromit continues to enchant and inspire fans both old and new.
Nick’s next full-length feature is scheduled for release in 2018 and is called ‘Early Man’. It will use the classic stop-motion style of animation that characterises Nick’s earlier films and sees him teaming up with screenwriters Mark Burton and John O’Farrell. Set in a dramatic prehistoric world, the film tells the story of how one plucky caveman unites his tribe against a might enemy and saves the day!
Nick says: "I’m very excited to be making this film with such great partners – STUDIOCANAL and BFI. And with the support of the incredible team at Aardman, bringing this inept bunch of cavemen to life is going to be an hilarious adventure!"
Quick fire questions
Nick learned animation by practicing at home with his parents' camera! Take a look at the 20 questions video above to find out more!
Nick is always drawing funny anecdotes and things that make him laugh, so this is where his initial ideas come from. Most ideas have been in Nick’s head for many years but haven’t yet formed into the idea that you see on film.
It’s quite difficult to pin down a ‘normal’ day in Nick’s schedule! He’s always involved in the development of new ideas – he could be working on story and models, or collaborating with story artists and editors, or a combination of all these things! As you can see, he can keep a very busy schedule in the studio!
Because Aardman is a busy studio that is often working on confidential projects, we’re not able to open it up to the public. However, you can take a virtual tour of some of Aardman HQ’s key areas and see what a typical day is like on set or in departments including storyboarding, model making and edit. Aardman also has a fantastic animation exhibition at @Bristol that has been designed to give fans a good insight into our studio.
Nick has a passion for art, so he’d still be doing something creative, but in another form instead of animation!
The chase scene in ‘The Wrong Trousers’!
Yes – it’s Gromit!
If you’d like an autograph, please write to Aardman Animations, Gas Ferry Road, Bristol, BS16UN. Nick tries to make sure everyone gets a reply, so to make things fair as possible, please don’t request multiple copies to share or sell on.
Keep an eye on the Aardman website – we advertise all our jobs here, across all the different departments in the company.
Nick’s got loads of sketchbooks full of Wallace & Gromit ideas for the future, so Aardman isn't looking for external submissions at the moment.
Nick was an Executive Producer on Shaun the Sheep The Movie – he was involved with the initial story idea, and gave feedback during to production to help shape the final movie. It was a very fun job!
It’s brilliant to hear when a class has done a project on Wallace & Gromit! Due to the volume of letters Nick gets it’s not always possible to reply to every single one, but he tries to reply to every group that writes in.
Nick cites comic books, TV shows, movies and games, as well as observing people, as influences.
Nick’s partial to a bit of sausage and mash. And cheese, of course!
Not at the moment, apart from his clay pals!
Nick loves to draw and paint, plus he enjoys getting out and about and observing nature.
Wensleydale, of course!