I am a huge Wallace & Gromit fan and today the English filmmaker Nick Park, CBE, best known as the creator of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, celebrates his birthday. Born 6 December 1958, He grew up with a keen interest in drawing cartoons. He also took after his father, an amateur inventor, and would send items – such as a bottle that squeezed out different coloured wools – to Blue Peter. He studied Communication Arts at Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University) and then went to the National Film and Television School, where he started making the first Wallace and Gromit film, A Grand Day Out.
In 1985, he joined the staff of Aardman Animations in Bristol, where he worked as an animator on commercial products (including the video for Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”, where he worked on the dance scene involving oven-ready chickens). He also had a part in animating the Pee-wee’s Playhouse which featured Paul Reubens. Along with all this, he had finally completed A Grand Day Out, and with that in post-production, he made Creature Comforts as his contribution to a series of shorts called “Lip Synch”. Creature Comforts matched animated zoo animals with a soundtrack of people talking about their homes. The two films were nominated for a host of awards. A Grand Day Out beat Creature Comforts for the BAFTA award, but it was Creature Comforts that won Park his first Oscar.
In 1990 Park worked alongside advertising agency GGK to develop a series of highly acclaimed television advertisements for the “Heat Electric” campaign. The Creature Comforts advertisements are now regarded as among the best advertisements ever shown on British television, as voted (independently) by viewers of the UK’s main commercial channels ITV and Channel 4.Two more Wallace and Gromit shorts, The Wrong Trousers (1993) and A Close Shave (1995), followed, both winning Oscars. He then made his first feature-length film, Chicken Run (2000), co-directed with Aardman founder Peter Lord. He also supervised a new series of “Creature Comforts” films for British television in 2003.
His second theatrical feature-length film and first Wallace and Gromit feature, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, was released on 5 October 2005, and won Best Animated Feature Oscar at the 78th Academy Awards, 6 March 2006. On 10 October 2005, a fire gutted Aardman Animations’ archive warehouse. The fire resulted in the loss of most of Park’s creations, including the models and sets used in the movie Chicken Run. Some of the original Wallace & Gromit models and sets, as well as the master prints of the finished films, were elsewhere and survived.
Park’s most recent work includes a U.S. version of Creature Comforts, a weekly television series that was on CBS every Monday evening at 8 pm ET. In the series, Americans were interviewed about a range of subjects. The interviews were lip synced to Aardman animal characters.In September 2007, it was announced that Nick Park had been commissioned to design a bronze statue of Wallace and Gromit, which will be placed in his home town of Preston. In October 2007 it was announced that the BBC had commissioned another Wallace & Gromit short film to be entitled Trouble at Mill (retitled later to A Matter of Loaf and Death).In February 2011, Park made his first ever appearance, himself as an animated character in The Simpsons episode, “Angry Dad: The Movie”. His new Willis and Crumble short, Better Gnomes and Gardens also borrows elements and themes from Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Park has been nominated for an Academy Award a total of six times, and won four with Creature Comforts (1989), The Wrong Trousers (1993), A Close Shave (1995), and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005