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'Something of your soul goes into the character': Wallace and Gromit creator on the magic of claymation

Nick Park, who received a lifetime achievement award at the Spark Animation 2018 Film Festival in Vancouver, chats with The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn about his career.

Nick Park receives lifetime achievement award at Spark Animation 2018 Film Festival in Vancouver

Wallace, left, and Gromit in a scene from Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. 'It was the way Wallace said "cheese" that made me give Wallace a big wide mouth,' says creator Nick Park. (DreamWorks/Associated Press)

From lifesaving dogs to caveman soccer players, Nick Park has created some memorable characters.

The creator, stop-motion animator, writer and Academy Award winner best known for his characters Wallace and Gromit received a lifetime achievement award at the Spark Animation 2018 Film Festival in Vancouver on Thursday.

Before the festival, Park sat with host Stephen Quinn during CBC's The Early Edition, to share the story of his animated career.

A lot of stop-motion technology exists now that didn't when you got started. Are you envious of how much easier it is for people today?

What young people have today ... the iPhones and animation apps you can get ... And you can put your stuff straight on the computer — I started with a Bell & Howell 8-millimetre movie camera with a single frame button on it that could do animation.

You had to wait two weeks for your film to come back from Kodak. One of my films never came back. I spent about a week filming it.

When you build a character, do you imagine what the voice will sound like?

Voice casting is really important. Peter Sallis, who sadly passed away, he always provided the voice for Wallace. And it was the way Wallace said "cheese" that made me give Wallace a big wide mouth. So the voice very much dictates the design for the character.

Your films are not just funny to children, but parents as well. How do you achieve that?

I think we make films for ourselves. We're all kids. The child is very much alive in us today. And that's who we aim to appeal to, the child in everybody.

Nick Park, along with the original Wallace and Gromit figurines, stopped by the CBC to share stories from his career. (CBC)

Where does inspiration for your characters come from?

I didn't know it at the time, but after making my first college film, A Grand Day Out — about Wallace building a rocket — I realized I'd made a film about my dad. He had the same look.

He was a bit of tinkerer, kind of an inventor. He was a handyman — he made everything in the garden shed. And he looked a bit ... I mean, his eyes weren't that close together, but he had a similar attitude.

He loved it. He loved people being told that Wallace was based on him. It was very satisfying just to see how much he laughed at my films.

I can't think of a more painstaking process to make a film than through stop motion. From where do you summon the patience?

I think it's just the love of doing it. Like writing a story — you don't think about how many words it's going to take. Because you have an idea and there's something very satisfying about seeing that idea realized on screen.

I know computer animation is the current thing, and next thing. But there's something charming about this technique.

Gromit himself was born because of clay. I'm not sure I would have created him if it was on a computer screen. The fact of stop motion, that you have to handle the figure for every single frame ... Something of your soul goes into the character.

This interview aired on The Early Edition on October 25 and has been edited for clarity and structure. To hear the complete interview, click on the audio below.


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