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Nick Park - Film-maker

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Certainly, for a man with three Oscars, Park's life is strikingly modest. He lives in a small, two-bedroom cottage near Bristol, [and] drives an old Peugeot...
- Robin McKie reporter for the Observer

Nick Park is a film-maker that works with stop-motion animation to create characters such as Wallace and Gromit. In total, Park has won four BAFTAs, a CBE, three Oscars; one was for Creature Comforts and the other two were awarded to him as a result of the short films about Wallace and Gromit. He describes himself as being an observer, quiet and contemplative, while his colleague Richard Goleszowski is of a similar view stating he is shy but spiritual.

Film-maker in the Making

While my mates were out playing with their bikes, I was in the attic.
- Nick Park

Born 6 December, 1958, in Preston, Lancashire Nicholas Wulstan Park was the third child of five. From an early age, Park was interested in cartoon characters and loved reading the Beano and stories about Rupert the Bear. It was through reading these stories that he became aware of composition and when his father bought his mother a cine camera with a single-frame button in 1967, Park was encouraged to use it. Eventually, he made two films. The first one didn't return from the developers but the second, which took a day to create and was only a minute long, did. The short film featured a rat that climbed a beanstalk and roused a giant.

When Park wasn't at home creating films he attended school. His first was St Oswald's Primary School. He then attended Cuthbert Mayne High School (which is called Our Lady's Catholic High School today). He furthered his education at Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University) and in 1983, began studying at the National Film and Television School, where he persuaded Peter Lord and Dave Sproxton from Aardman Animations to give a talk on animation to the class. Park also started working on a short film at the National Film and Television School entitled A Grand Day Out, featuring the characters Wallace and Gromit who visit the moon.

He didn't realise it at first, but slowly it dawned on him that Wallace resembled his father. He liked to build things - like a shed or a caravan. He had the attitude 'Why buy it when you can make it?'

On Joining Aardman Animations

In 1985, Park joined the animation company Aardman Animations, in Bristol, where he set to work on a story produced by David Hopkins, Babylon and an animated piece set to Peter Gabriel's song 'Sledgehammer'. Then Channel 4 commissioned Aardman to come up with a series of animated characters. The results were Creature Comforts and War Story. Creature Comforts featured models of zoological animals with voice-overs from humans. For example, an animated jaguar is seen complaining about accommodation through the use of a Brazilian student's voice. These short films won Aardman an Oscar and were later used to promote the Electricity Council. Park also finished working on A Grand Day Out, with financial help from the National Film and Television School and facilities provided by Aardman. The short film was released in 1991 and was closely followed by The Wrong Trousers1 in 1993 which featured a penguin who attempts to commit a burglary by getting Wallace into mechanical trousers. In 1995, A Close Shave was released; it featured Wallace falling in love with a lady called Wendolene and Gromit being framed for sheep-rustling. A Close Shave also featured the character Shaun the Sheep who has since gone on to star in his own series for children's television.

Cracking Charity Work Gromit

I've always been a fan of Austins and this particular vehicle inspired me to come up with the Anti-Pesto van that was central to the plot and rehabilitation of the vegetable eating 'pests' in Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The van needed to be big enough to transport Wallace's invention the Bunvac 2000 while at the same time slick enough to go on high speed chases after the formidable Were-rabbit, and the Austin was a perfect match.
- Nick Park

In 1997, 'Wrong Trousers Day' was created, which raised money to rebuild a Children's Hospital in Bristol. People pay £1 to wear trousers that they would not normally wear to work. 'Wrong Trousers Day' has been so successful in raising money for children's hospitals up and down the country, that in 2003 the Children's Foundation was set up. In October, 2007, Park sold his 1958 Austin A35 van, which inspired much of his work, on eBayMotors with proceeds going to the children's charity.

Aardman in America

In 1999, Aardman signed up with Steven Spielberg's company Dreamworks to produce five films. The first was released in 2000 and was entitled Chicken Run. The film made obvious reference to the film The Great Escape but with clay animals and was such a huge success that the team started work on a version of Aesop's fable The Tortoise and the Hare. However, the film ran into difficulty due to script problems and the work schedule made it impossible to carry on. The fable was postponed and a series of short films were released on the Internet entitled Cracking Contraptions, which show Wallace creating a variety of different inventions.

Park has always loved inventing and used to possess a 'Box of Useful Things'. He told the BBC, I collected bits of old toys, electric motors, clockwork things, mainly broken bits and pieces. I don't think I ever used any of them.. However, he revealed to The Guardian that creating these inventions out of clay was easier, the nice thing about animation is that you can realise your inventions without understanding all the hard theory.

In 2005, Wallace and Gromit starred in their very own film. Entitled The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the film showed the characters running a pest control service and trying to save local people's vegetables from being eaten by rabbits. However, Wallace invents a new machine that goes wrong and creates the Were-Rabbit, leaving Gromit to save the vegetables.

The last film Aardman and Dreamworks made together was Flushed Away. The film released in 2006, tells the story of a rat who learns how to live in the sewers. Unlike Aardman's usual use of claymation, Flushed Away used CGI and was created at the Dreamworks studios in America.

Claymation Continues

At the end of 2007, an American version of Creature Comforts with native American animals was broadcast, while back in Britain another version of Creature Comforts was being made. This version was called Creature Discomforts, which aims to make viewers aware of disability and the charity Leonard Cheshire.

Park is currently working on a new short film called Trouble At' Mill, which features the duo setting up a business at a mill and is due to be aired towards the end of 2008.

I'm making this for myself again and the people who love Wallace and Gromit
- Nick Park
1Nick Park co-wrote The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave with Bob Baker who co-founded Doctor Who's companion K9.

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