When it comes to animated short films, few people can touch the excellence of Nick Park and Aardman Animations. In an industry dominated by motion-capture suits and computer-generated imagery, Park continues to make magic with clay figures and classic stop-motion camerawork.
"A Grand Day Out" sets the tone
In 1990, Park created his most lovable characters, cheese-loving Wallace and his faithful dog Gromit. Wallace is a tinkerer by nature but Gromit, who doesn't have a mouth, is obviously much smarter than his owner.
"A Grand Day Out," the short film that introduced the pair to audiences, is built around Wallace's lust for cheese. Facing a cheese shortage at home, Wallace and Gromit construct a spaceship for a lovely green cheese holiday on the Moon.
Park and his crew include wonderful sight gags, in particular Gromit relaxing at the kitchen table with a copy of "Electronics for Dogs." During launch, their homemade ship refuses to take off until Wallace releases the emergency brake.
"Creature Comforts" wins the Academy Award
As he finished work on "A Grand Day Out," Park worked on a project called "Creature Comforts." The premise of this short film is that zoo residents are actually down-and-out animals with no place else to live. In order to survive, they have to spend their lives entertaining visitors.
Park asked various people to say the things that zoo animals might say, creating clay characters to match their responses. Pretending to be a lion, one gentleman with a slight European accent went into a monologue about the lack of fresh warm meat in his diet.
"Creature Comforts" was a truly inspired short that won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film at the 63rd Annual Academy Awards.
Park has taken Wallace and Gromit on other adventures, including the shorts "A Close Shave" and "The Wrong Trousers." Each film earned Oscar gold, as did the feature-length "Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit."
"A Matter of Loaf and Death"
With four Oscars under his belt, including three for Wallace & Gromit shorts and films, Nick Park is an animator who focuses on quality instead of quantity. He even changed gears a bit in 2000 for "Chicken Run," a somewhat dark adventure about chickens planning a P.O.W.-style escape from a farm before they are all turned into pies.
For those who have been waiting since 2005 for the next Wallace & Gromit adventure, "A Matter of Loaf and Death" now is available on DVD. In typical Wallace style, the would-be inventor converts his house into a granary and bakery that he calls "Top Bun." Unfortunately, someone is kidnapping the great bakers of Europe, and Wallace could be next.
With clever capers, witty dialogue, and outrageous sight gags, each new Wallace & Gromit short is a real treat. Nick Park can take as long as he wants between shorts as long as he keeps making them.
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- Nick Park
- Wallace and Gromit
- Wallace & Gromit
- Creature Comforts