While dozens of animated movies come out every year, stop-motion animation movies are a bit less common. Nick Park is the creator behind Wallace & Gromit, a franchise that spans several movies, shorts, and TV specials. Nick Park was hired by Aardman Animations in 1985 while he was working on A Grand Day Out at the National Film and Television School in England.
Aardman helped put Nick Park on the map and in turn, made Wallace & Gromit a staple of British culture. This year marks the 30th anniversary of A Grand Day Out so in celebration of Nick Park’s achievements on the series, here are 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Wallace & Gromit.
10 Nick Park’s Father Was The Inspiration For Wallace
Peter Sallis is known for voicing Wallace, but it is less known that Nick Park’s father helped inspire the character. Park has revealed in a few interviews over the years that Wallace was based on his dad since his father was always tinkering with things and had a can-do spirit.
Wallace originally had a thick mustache and smaller cheeks, but after hearing Sallis say the word “cheese” he knew Wallace had to have bigger cheeks and a wider mouth with big teeth. It is also worth mentioning that Wallace originally wasn’t even named Wallace, but rather Gerry.
9 Nick Park Has Won 4 Oscars In His Career
Nick Park has a total of eight directing credits under his belt, only three of which are feature-length films. The Wallace & Gromit movies and shorts make up a good portion of his filmography, which has helped him snag a few Oscars to put on his shelf.
During his career, Park has won a total of four Academy Awards for his work on Creature Comforts, The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. A Grand Day Out was nominated for an Oscar in 1991 but lost out to his other film Creature Comforts. A Matter of Loaf and Death was also nominated in 2009 but lost out to a French film called Logorama.
8 Nick Park Once Had Lunch With The Queen
While Nick Park hasn’t won an Academy Award for all of his Wallace & Gromit shorts, he was able to get the attention of the Queen herself. In 1997, Nick Park was offered an invite to have lunch with the Queen of England after he was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for his work in filmmaking.
Park, of course, accepted the honor and lunch invitation, where the Queen supposedly asked to sit next to Park. Park isn’t the only celebrity to receive a royal title, but that doesn’t take away from the achievements Park has made in his career.
7 Gromit Was Almost A Cat
While Gromit has become just as iconic as his buddy Wallace, Gromit almost looked completely different. Nick Park has previously revealed that when he was developing A Grand Day Out, he almost made Gromit a cat. According to Park, Gromit was almost a cat but he quickly realized dogs were easier to sculpt than cats, so he changed Gromit’s species from his original sketches.
He also said that he had a packet of dog noses on him from an arts and crafts store when he was sculpting the character, so that also influenced his decision. The name Gromit also came from his brother who worked as an electrician and used grommets, which are pieces of rubber used to insulate wires.
6 Wallace & Gromit Films Helped Sell Cheese
Anybody who has seen a Wallace & Gromit movie knows that Wallace loves cheese. Cheese is at the center of A Grand Day Out, with Wallace and Gromit traveling to the moon since “everybody knows the moon’s made of cheese”. In the 1990s, Wensleydale Creamery almost had to shut down production on Wensleydale cheese, but they were soon helped by Wallace and Gromit.
After Wallace suggests the moon is made of Wensleydale cheese in A Grand Day Out and then says that Wensleydale is his favorite type of cheese in A Close Shave, sales of the cheese sky-rocketed. The same thing happened to Stinking Bishop cheese in 2005 when The Curse of the Were-Rabbit came out, with farmer Charles Martell stating his orders had increased by 500%.
5 DreamWorks Wanted Creative Control Over Curse Of The Were-Rabbit
While Nick Park had been with Aardman since 1985, he was hired by DreamWorks in the late ‘90s to make a feature-length animation film called Chicken Run. The film was a huge success at the box office. Eventually, they wanted him to make a full-length Wallace & Gromit movie, which would be called Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
The film was also a success for DreamWorks, but Park and DreamWorks often butted heads. DreamWorks wanted a lot of control on The Curse of the Were-Rabbit so that the jokes would land with kids in America, but Park just wanted to do justice for his characters. Park explained that Dreamworks had an issue working with characters they didn’t own the rights too, so filming the movie wasn’t exactly an easy task.
4 The First Film Could Have Been Four Hours Long
It is no secret that stop-motion animation takes a long, long time to make. In fact, an entire day’s work on a stop-motion animation film can sometimes result in only a few seconds of useable footage at the end of the day. It took Nick Park seven years to finish A Grand Day Out, but if he would have gone with his original script, it would have taken him even longer.
A Grand Day Out is only 23 minutes long, but Park once explained that his original draft would have been a four-hour-long movie. According to Park, “At one point, there was a moon McDonald's that served banana milkshakes. It was going to be like that Star Wars scene with all the aliens in the bar.”
3 The Wrong Trousers Only Had 2-3 Animators
The Wrong Trousers was the second Wallace & Gromit short to be released. The short came out in 1993 and centered on Wallace renting out a room in his apartment to a small penguin. The penguin would later be known as Feathers McGraw and try to rob a museum by putting Wallace in a pair of high-tech trousers.
While it takes a lot of work to make a stop-motion animation, Nick Park once revealed the film only had 2 to 3 animators. This just goes to show how Park was still an up and coming filmmaker since his later animated adventures would have dozens of animators working at once.
2 Several Scenes Had To Be Trimmed From A Close Shave
The third Wallace & Gromit adventure saw Wallace fall in love with the owner of a wool shop named Wendolene. A Close Shave was not only the first time we saw a character other than Wallace speak, but it also introduced Shaun the Sheep, who would eventually get his own movie and TV show. While the short has many memorable scenes like when Wallace and Gromit are being chased by Preston, one scene was left on the cutting room floor.
Aardman co-founder Peter Lord confirmed that A Close Shave was almost 50 minutes vs 30, so certain scenes had to be cut. He remembered one scene specifically that was a romantic scene between Wallace and Wendolene, which was comparable to a scene in Brief Encounter. Lord even called it, “the best scene we ever had to cut”.
1 A New Wallace And Gromit Short Is In Development
The last time fans saw Wallace and Gromit was during Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention. That was nearly a decade ago, but it sounds like Wallace and Gromit are coming back for another adventure. Park confirmed to Yahoo that he was working on another Wallace & Gromit project saying, “[It’s] early days, but I’m working on some new Wallace & Gromit ideas”.
Park elaborated that while Wallace and Gromit may not return for a theater release, the characters might appear in a short film. Park has said before that he has thought about a sequel featuring a released Feathers McGraw or even a Wallace & Gromit prequel story, but it’s still unknown what he’s planning.