|Wallace and Gromit: a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic
British films are rarely successful in the United States. However, the animated adventures of a cheese-loving,eccentric inventorand hiscanine companionare proving to be a surprise hit in America, having taken the number one position in the US box office on the weekend of its release.
In a year which has seen poor ticket sales for big-budget, action movies it seems that the gentle,quirky humourof ‘Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ has captured the American public’s imagination.
Although Wallace and Gromit have been stars in the UK for a number of years, they are less well-known abroad. For those who don’t know, Wallace is a hare-brained inventor with a passion for Wensleydale cheese. Gromit is hiswilydog. Both areclay modelsbrought to life through thepainstakingprocess ofstop-motion animation.
Their creator, Nick Park,dreamed them upwhilst still a student at the National Film and Television School in the 1980s. Their first film ‘A Grand Day Out’ began as his graduation film and was completed whilst working for his first employers, Aardman Animations.
Since then their rise has been steady but slow. Because the technique of stop-motion animation is solabour intensive, typically producing two seconds of film per day’s work, Wallace and Gromit films arefew and far between. They have appeared in only three half-hour films for television and ten one-minute films specially made for the Internet.
Nevertheless, they have received a great deal ofcritical acclaim. Their first film was nominated for an Oscar whilst their second and thirdoutings‘The Wrong Trousers’ and ‘A Close Shave’ both won Oscars.
Hollywoodcame callingin 2000 when Aardman Animations made a five-movie deal with Steven Spielberg’s film studio Dreamworks. ‘The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’has taken four years and a reported $30 million to make, and features the voices of international stars Helena Bonham-Carter and Ralph Fiennes.
Despitehitting the big time, one thing hasn’t changed since their earliest days. Wallace’s voice remains that of veteran, sit-com actor Peter Sallis. Sallis first agreed to take the role after receiving a letter fromthen studentNick Park and an offer of a ￡50 donation to the charity of his choice.