Sunday, 4 October 2009

MORE CRACKING STUFF

I mentioned, the other day, the new book on Aardman animation, The Art of Wallace and Gromit to which I contributed an introduction. Well, here I am at the book signing with Wallace and Gromit's 'onlie begetter', Nick Park...

Nick Park and Brian Sibley

And here are a few more fascinating images from the book, beginning with a prototype Gromit...


Followed by a couple of early sketches of some of the cast-members of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit...


And a portrait of the two females who bring such havoc into Wallace and Gromit's lives in A Matter of Loaf and Death...


When I last wrote about W&G, I and regular 'Comment Maker' (and fellow-blogger) Good Dog were discussing the fact that the Plasticine pals had made relatively few outings on which their considerable fame was founded.

However, in listing their various film projects, I completely overlooked their 140-second-long Cracking Contraptions, a series of shorts cataloguing such potentially useful (and, needless to say, potentially problematic) devices as the Tellyscope, the Snoozatron, the Soccamatic and the Bully-Proof Vest. These mini-misadventures are not currently available for upload, but you can view them all here, and this is an early sketch, from the book, for what the Bully-Proof Vest might look like...


W&G have also been picking up a bit of extra cash from time to time (essential, of course, for their weekly cheese-and-crackers shopping) by devising and demonstrating useful machines for various commercial companies.

Here, for your enjoyment and amusement, are a couple of examples of the inventors at work...






An exhibition of Wallace and Gromit art - storyboard sketches, original drawings of the dynamic duo and limited edition prints remains on show at The Illustration Cupboard - 22 Bury St, London, SW1Y 6AL - until 24 October where you can also purchase copies of The Art of Wallace and Gromit signed by Nick Park (and very probably myself) along with other Aardman books, including Cracking Animation on which I collaborated with the studio's co-founder (and creator of Morph) Peter Lord.


Photo of Nick and Yourstruly was taken by Katy Williams of Egmont (thanks, Katy!) and uploaded by flickr.
All other images © Aardman Animations

10 comments:

Good Dog said...

Oh, good grief, I forgot all about these. I love The Snoozatron and The Tellyscope (simply because of the When Penguins... Turn! programme). Weren’t the various Cracking Contraptions devised as a test run for the various creations that would appear in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit?

And of course Wallace & Gromit also had the honour of appearing in the BBC’s Christmas idents last year. On some days during that holiday period I would have preferred to see them repeatedly sledging rather than the programmes that followed.

The commercials could be seen as a sell-out but I find them very endearing. After all, they need to pay the bills at West Wallaby Street.

I wonder if after watching them people can remember the products they are promoting? After all, people mistakenly thought that the Creature Comforts series of Heat Electric commercials were advertising gas central heating. Even though I keep seeing the ad featuring the sheep in the loft I can never really know what it’s for.

Andy J. Latham said...

Wow, I can't believe I've never even heard of the Cracking Contraptions shorts! I'm ashamed! Looks like I have a fair bit of viewing to do.

Incidentally, do you know if Nick directs everything Wallace and Gromit related? I wondered if he bothered with the TV commercials. I would guess not.

Brian Sibley said...

GOOD DOG - I agree, one doesn't feel that W&G (or rather Nick & Co) have sold out because we have such affection for them and because the commercials are so much 'in the spirit of' as well as being made with the same loving care and attention to detail as the original films.

Whether anyone ever remembers the advertiser is, as you say, suspect; although I do think their tie-in with Wensleydale probably helped widen people's awareness of what is a cracking good cheese.

And Jacobs biscuits most certainly ought to be paying for Wallace's frequent product-placement of all those orange-and-black cracker packets!


ANDY - Whilst Nick doesn't animate the commercials (any more than he did the later series of Creature Comforts) he does, as far as I know, sign-off on all the art-work for films featuring his characters.

Andy J. Latham said...

Ah right, thanks Brian. At the place where I work, when animators work their way up the ranks to be the equivalent of directors, that seems to be the end of their animating days. I do hope that doesn't happen to me! I'm guessing that Nick still animates on the big projects rather than just overseeing the work of everyone else. He doesn't seem the type to give up doing the art himself.

Bitter Animator said...

Yes, Andy, unfortunately that's the way it usually goes. As much as many directors of animation would love to be animating (after all, they'd get to choose the best scenes), it becomes more and more difficult as the other responsibilities mount.

And, as you'd know, it's so easy to get lost in a scene, in the details. But directors need to be constantly aware of the big picture. Not so tough in a small short but, as productions get bigger, that requires more and more distance. I'd be surprised if he had the luxury of animating on the bigger productions.

This book looks really good. I must pick it up.

On the advertising, I'd be the first to cry 'sell-out' but Good Dog is right - these are really endearing. Still, to me, direct advertising cheapens the characters and forever taints motivations.

Nevertheless, Wallace and Gromit are cracking good fun and what a contribution to animtion from this side of the Atlantic.

Brian Sibley said...

BITTER ANIMATOR is right: on the features, Chicken Run and Were-Rabbit Nick and his co-directors (Peter Lord and Steve Box respectively) were totally involved in directing which, for all of them, is not their first love.

One of the biggest challenges, as BA says, is the need to have an overall vision and not allow one animator to dominate the picture through his or her scenes...

You have only to take a look at Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951) to see how sequences animated by particularly forceful characters among the animation staff (such as Ward Kimball) were allowed to overpower, and ultimately unbalance the movie...

Arguably, their material is among the best in the picture, but, somewhere along the line, that all-important overall vision was allowed to falter...

Diva of Deception said...

The thing about the advertisements was that they brought the Nick Park creatures to a wider audience and thus I feel they became a springboard for the shorts and the films.

How many other animators become household names after winning an award for their short? As a total ignoramus on these things I have to say I only know Nick Park, Disney and Hanna Barbera!

Mind you - although we knew the ads, what really brought them to our attention was the short at MoMI on the South Bank. They showed it in their 'cinema' and we were sitting there in fits of loud laughter - whilst everyone around was silent (maybe foreign) and we came straight out to the shop and bought the video!

Good Dog said...

Brian,

Without harping on about Wallace and Gromit being used in advertisements, it’s interesting that you mention the Jacob’s cream crackers. Although I mentioned that their appearance in commercials could be seen as a sell-out, the fact that they haven’t gone the easy routes shows integrity on Nick Park and Aardman’s part.

Knowing what agency “creatives” are like – having regularly been in their presence without the aid of a decent haz-mat suit – I wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t tried getting W&G to hawk just about everything. No doubt the idea was floated for Feathers McGraw to flog penguin biscuits.

On the few occasions they do appear, the products seem to be relevant to the characters and involve one of Wallace’s wonderfully daft schemes. When I catch one during a commercial break, to heck with the product, I’m just pleased to see the pair.

And at least they haven’t stooped to advertising cigarettes. Yes, Fred and Barney, I’m looking at you!

Brian Sibley said...

Harp away, GD!!

Actually, after mentioning Jacobs, I find they made an ad for Jacobs Crackers with a machine (the Cinematic Snack-o-matic) for making crackers with toppings inspired by film titles like Ham Busters, The Great Eggscape and Apocalypse Chow... :-)

SharonM said...

So I suppose that would have been a cracking cracker-making machine.