World in stop-motion

You started out pretty young, right?
I've always played with Plasticine really. I have memories of my first day at school, being given a blob, making a train out of it and all the kids and teachers going, "Ooooh!"

Did you try copying animation you saw on the telly?
Monty Python's cut-out stuff, early Morph, Noggin The Nog, The Pogles Wood, Wombles... Anything really! Jason And The Argonauts and King Kong were probably my top two films up until the age of 13.

So how did you first come up with Wallace and Gromit?
At art school, I was put on a student attachment on Dark Crystal, the Jim Henson/Frank Oz film. After three days standing around, I was getting bored and I started to come up with this idea of a man who built a rocket in his basement. That was the joke: how would he get out of there? He started off as a typical stereotype of a Northerner: flat cap, moustache, a bit eckie-thump.

And Gromit?
Gromit was a cat, actually!

What's the difference between Tim Burton's stop-motion stuff and yours?
The Nightmare Before Christmas - which I was in awe of when I first saw it - and Corpse Bride create a more surreal, super-real effect. We're more the opposite, closer to The Simpsons. There's that chunkiness and emotional softness when you're in close. That's the beauty of Plasticine for me.

Are DreamWorks pushing you to go CG after Curse Of The Were-Rabbit?
There's a healthy tension between art and commerce! We've been very guarded about not letting it get too slick and straight-off-the-shelf. I don't know. I might have a go at CG one day. But I think there's a certain charm to the fact that the animator has lovingly teased the character out of Plasticine, tweaking the eyebrow with every frame, you know, every 24th of a second.

Must be a painstaking job, though...
Yeah! I tend to liken it to writing a book. If you have an idea, you don't count the words, you look past that to what you're achieving. But all the time I've been at Aardman, it's been seven days a week, all hours. DreamWorks, Pixar, we're all the same - animators generally look very unhealthy!

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