Wallace and Gromit have enjoyed a colourful, fascinating history, from their conception in Nick Park’s student sketchbooks to becoming instantly recognisable stars of the silver screen. In this section we take you on a journey from those early days to the present, taking in the films we all know and love to little-known trivia and interesting stories along the way. So, make yourself comfy and have some crackers and cheese to hand…then we’ll begin!
The story of Wallace and Gromit began when Nick Park was a student at the National Film and Television School. When deciding what to do for his graduation project, he chose to animate a couple of characters he had been sketching and writing short stories for - a man with a flat cap and his cat. The cat later transformed into a dog and the man lost the moustache that Nick had originally drawn him with, but the idea of the ingenious inventor and his cautious canine was there in Nick Park's student sketchbook!
After doing a 3-week attachment at Elstree Film Studios and seeing how all the special effects were being created, Nick began to piece some ideas together about a man who builds a rocket in his basement and flies to the moon to stock up on his supplies of cheese. At the same time that Nick was developing his short film, Peter Lord and David Sproxton (the founders of Aardman Animations) went to give a talk at the National Film School, during which Nick took the opportunity to show them what he was making for his final year project. At the time, Nick had barely shot the construction of the rocket sequence - a paragraph on paper had taken him a year and a half to complete!
Pete and Dave realized Nick's project was overly ambitious for the timescale he had been given and so they offered him an opportunity to work at Aardman animating commercials in exchange for studio time and additional resources to finish his project.
Half hour short
A Grand Day Out was finally finished and transmitted on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve, 1990 - 6 years after production began! The iconic voice of Wallace was provided by Peter Sallis, who had helped Nick out as a favor during his time as a student. Peter helped to direct and shape the character, but once he had recorded the voice he heard nothing more. Naturally, he was very surprised to hear from Nick 6 years later with a transmission date!
A Grand Day Out became a major talking point, along with another of Nick's creations, Creature Comforts, and both stunned the public by being nominated for Academy Awards®. In the end Creature Comforts won the award in the short animated film category, but Wallace and Gromit had captured the public's heart and it wasn't long before the next short film was in production...
Following the success of their first adventure, plans were soon being made for Wallace and Gromit’s second outing. Armed with a sketch book full of ideas and a new writing partner in Bob Baker, Nick Park got to work on the next adventure.
Bob helped to sew Nick's ideas together into a structured plotline, which included picking out the intriguing penguin character who was originally set in a zoo, and making him into a criminal mastermind. Nick also enrolled the help of Steve Box, who had previously worked on the children's animation "Trap Door", to work on the animation with him. Steve had the task of animating Feathers McGraw whilst Nick controlled Wallace and Gromit.
The Wrong Trousers was aired on Boxing Day 1993 by the BBC, following on from A Grand Day Out on Christmas Day - a true television event! The film received great critical acclaim for being even more accomplished than its predecessor - a sharper plot, wittier script, and even more stylish and lovingly detailed. The Wrong Trousers went on to win over forty top international awards including the Academy Awards®, and has become one of the most successful animated short films ever made.
After the immense success of The Wrong Trousers, the pressure was on Aardman to produce another film to rival its predecessor. The successful partnership of Nick Park and Bob Baker teamed up once more and started working on new ideas, and it was decided that this time round there would be a love story…with sheep rustling and a robot dog!
A Close Shave turned out to be an entirely different production compared with the other two adventures - it was more dramatic (the airplane, the chase, the sheep!) and had been shot with a bigger crew in a shorter time frame. In fact, with more people to direct in this production, Nick Park hardly had any time to animate!
To celebrate the film's premiere on the 24th of December 1995, BBC Two used Wallace and Gromit across their channel in between programmes. The main ident featured the two eating Christmas dinner, with a large blue 2 logo situated in the middle of the table, covered with flashing Christmas lights. A Close Shave went on to win over 30 awards including another Academy Award®!
On the night of October 21st 1996, New York was on red alert after Wallace and Gromit were reported missing after being left in the boot of a yellow taxi-cab when they were on a promotional tour with Nick Park. "I feel as though I've lost my best pals" Nick told the press and an appeal was made to all police stations in the city and New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission agreed to hunt for the missing models. Thankfully they were returned the following day by the driver of Nick’s cab. Phew – what a close shave!
With high demand for the next Wallace and Gromit adventure, but Nick Park busy writing the animated duo’s first feature film outing, Aardman decided to produce a series of short films about Wallace’s wacky inventions.
Cracking Contraptions formed into a series of ten stop-motion animations varying from 1 to 3 minutes in length, which were released online in October 2002 and were also broadcast on BBC One throughout Christmas. Each episode featured one of Wallace's new inventions and Gromit's skeptical reaction to it! You can watch the whole series of Cracking Contraptions on Wallace and Gromit's YouTube channel!
In 2003 Wallace and Gromit teamed up with Renault to create a limited edition car, designed to make travelling more pleasurable with a list of inventive equipment and intelligent extras!
Their special car was also featured in an ad shown at cinemas across the UK, where Wallace and Gromit performed MOT-style checks on different parts of their gadget-tastic car, with hilarious consequences! Gromit is seen polishing the headlamps, only to be blinded as Wallace switches them on. Then, with a sudden gust of wind, Gromit is catapulted over the top of the Kangoo as it appears to be speeding down the road with Wallace at the wheel!
Without a doubt, this was Wallace and Gromit's biggest adventure yet! The new writing team of Nick Park, Steve Box and Bob Baker started working on plot, with several other writing consultants joining before completion. The idea of a Were-rabbit started when Nick and Bob were working on A Close Shave with questions like "what would it eat?" - giant vegetables of course! In fact, the original film title was "The Great Vegetable Plot" and featured Wendolene from A Close Shave, but this was later changed to appeal to a wider audience. Gradually the story began to evolve - Lady Tottington replaced Wendolene as a love interest, the giant vegetable competition was invented and 'Anti-Pesto' was born!
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit took 5 years to develop from concept to premiere and was shot entirely in Britain, but it seems like the hard work all paid off. The movie was released in over 3,000 theatres worldwide on October 14, 2005 and remained number one at the box office worldwide for three weeks in a row. The final production features an all-star cast: Peter Sallis (the voice of Wallace) is joined in the film by Ralph Fiennes (as Victor Quartermaine), Helena Bonham Carter (as Lady Campanula Tottington) and Peter Kay (as PC Mackintosh).
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit has been a great success with public and press across the world. Along with many other prestigious awards, it earned Nick Park a fourth Oscar® and "Best Animated Feature" at the Academy Awards®.
To tie in with the release of their movie, Wallace and Gromit starred in a cracking promotion with PG Tips, including a TV ad with Wallace attempting to serve Lady Tottington the optimum temperature of tea! Tea drinkers across the UK also went crazy over the free ‘red nose’ Gromit mug that came free with packs of tea. 1.5 million mugs were produced for the 3 month campaign, but ended up selling out in 4 weeks!
In the early morning of October 10th 2005, a fire at one of Aardman’s storage warehouses destroyed hundreds of pieces of Aardman history, including props, sets, and a complete Wallace and Gromit films exhibition which had recently been brought back to the UK after a tour of Japan. Luckily all film footage had been stored at a separate facility.
Thankfully no one was hurt in the blaze and even though the Aardman team were understandably upset, there was plenty to be thankful for. "Even though it's precious stuff and nostalgic - and it's dreadful news for the company, in the light of other tragedies it's not a big deal." said Nick Park. To this day, the warehouse fire is one of the most talk-about events in Aardman’s history!
In July 2007 Gromit replaced Nipper the dog in the logo for HMV record stores in the UK as part of a 3-month promotion for children’s DVDs. The famous logo is based on the original 1898 His Masters Voice oil painting which features Nipper the dog listening to an early gramophone recording. "It's a great honour to be stepping in the same paw prints as an icon as big as Nipper.” said Nick Park “Gromit will look after 'the seat' for as long as Nipper allows."
Once it was a local cheese produced by monks in the Yorkshire Dales, but since the advent of Wallace and Gromit, Wensleydale Cheese has become known all over the world and foreign exports were reported to have increased by over 23% since our animated duo’s adventures were broadcast.
Sandra Bell, the Wensleydale Creamery's marketing chief, said: 'The Wallace and Gromit effect has certainly raised the awareness of British cheese as a whole and has been particularly helpful with Wensleydale.' Fans can keep a look out for Wallace and Gromit gifts in the Wensleydale Creamery Shop around Christmas.
Wallace and Gromit got a wardrobe makeover from Harvey Nichols in August 2008 when they opened a store in Aardman’s home town of Bristol. Posing for publicity stills, Wallace’s beloved green tank top was swapped for a Dolce & Gabbana fitted shirt and an Alexander McQueen cashmere jacket. With an outfit so flashy, Gromit certainly needed those Raybans!
After the great success of Wallace and Gromit's previous adventures, it was announced on October 3rd 2007 that the famous duo would return to the small screen in a brand new baking-themed adventure for Christmas 2008!
This time round Nick Park decided on a murder mystery “Who-Donut” theme for his new adventure, who’s working title was “Trouble At’ Mill” before being changed later to A Matter of Loaf and Death.
The film premiered in Australia on 3 December 2008, aired in the UK on Christmas Day on BBC One, enthralling a record audience of 16.15 million. It was nominated for an Oscar® in the Best Short Animated Film category and went on to win the BAFTA for Best Animated Short Film. Every Wallace and Gromit adventure has now won a BAFTA and they have all been nominated for an Academy Award®.
In 2009 the Intellectual Propery office (IPO) teamed up with Wallace and Gromit to inspire 9-10 year olds to invent and understand the patent process, through investing in a schools competition and brand new £2m exhibition at the Science Museum.
The world of Wallace and Gromit was recreated in the exhibition, complete with mad machines, giant cabbages, villainous rabbits, extensive research library on cheese, improbable collections – one illustrating the evolution of the welly boot – and kitchen cupboards stuffed with the packets and jars fondly remembered from Nick Park's own childhood in Preston, Lancashire. The exhibition was so successful that it moved to Newcastle and Glasgow after its time in London, attracting over 500,000 visitors throughout the tour.
In March 2009 Wallace and Gromit teamed up with Npower to promote energy efficiency in the home! As a topic well-known to Wallace since the conversion of his home into a wind powered 'Top Bun' bakery, he and Gromit seemed to be the perfect team to get the message across in a series of TV ads, posters and an online game!
In 2009 Wallace and Gromit featured in a video for UK charity Children in Need, encouraging people to ‘do something different’ to help raise funds for the children’s charity. "Don't worry, it's for Children in Need," says Wallace to a terrified-looking Gromit, who is sitting in the motorcycle sidecar as they attempt to jump a double decker bus! Luckily for Gromit, everything turns out OK in the end!
The clip launched on the BBC to promote the appeal in the run up to the annual event on BBC1 on Friday 20 November 2009.
On November 4th 2009, Aardman celebrated 20 years since Wallace and Gromit made their first TV outing in “A Grand Day Out”. To commemorate the occasion, our favourite animated duo hijacked the Google homepage doodle for the day, laying out their workbench to spell out the name of the famous search engine.
Nick Park also answered questions from fans in a special 20 years interview on YouTube, and Mark Kermode hosted a special episode of The Culture Show from Aardman’s HQ, accompanied by a theme tune playing brass band. Cracking stuff!
In 2009, Wallace and Gromit starred alongside iconic UK celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Jennifer Saunders in an ad for Marks and Spencer, a classic department store in the UK. Each celebrity lists items that “it wouldn’t be Christmas without”, with our animated duo opting for ordering the perfect gift online.
In winter 2010 Wallace and Gromit were immortalised on 600 million Christmas stamps in the UK! Each stamp featured the nation’s favourite animated duo going about their Christmas duties including posting their Christmas cards, decorating the tree and trying on their tasteful Christmas jumpers!
Like the duo’s award-winning films, the stamps were packed with detail using specially designed models and props. Keen-eyed collectors armed with a magnifying glass would have seen that the envelope being posted by Gromit on the 1st Class stamp features the actual 1st Class stamp!
As well as stamps, fans also had the opportunity to buy collector’s edition packs and merchandise, plus make themselves into an Aardman character using a special online tool!
In 2010 Wallace and Gromit made a return to TV presenting a brand new show all about inventions and inspiring the next generation of creative thinkers! In World of Invention, Wallace decided to turn his hand to TV presenting and take an eccentric look at some cracking real-life contraptions – accompanied by his faithful side-kick (turned camera-dog) Gromit.
The series of six episodes was first broadcast on BBC One in the UK on November 3rd 2010 before being distributed around the globe. It was supported by a live UK roadshow, online game, downloadable DIY kits and a nation-wide competition, extending the viewer’s experience across multiple platforms and went on to win the company its first BAFTA for New Media.
In February 2011, Nick Park made a special appearance in an episode of smash hit US cartoon series, The Simpsons. In the episode ‘Angry Dad: The Movie’ Bart’s cartoon about an angry dad is turned into a movie and quickly becomes popular with the critics. Nick stars as Bart’s fellow nominee at the Oscars® and is on hand to help Bart and Homer stop squabbling and realise that making a film is a team effort. The list of nominated films shown in the award ceremony also includes a film called "Willis & Crumble's Better Gnomes and Gardens" - a Simpson-styled stop-motion parody film of Wallace and Gromit!
In 2011, Wallace and Gromit got a stylish makeover by Chocolate in Hong Kong when they dressed shop windows as part of their campaign to promote a new range of merchandise. Looking very smart, boys!
In January 2012, Wallace and Gromit made their first step into the mobile app store with their “Chat-O-Matic” app, which seamlessly transformed the mouth of the operator into a talking, grinning Wallace mouth with over 40 famous sayings. Fans can try out the Chat-o-Matic for themselves by downloading it from the App Store.
After the success of the Cracking Ideas exhibition in the UK, and the World of Invention series on TV, a new World of Invention exhibition made its way across the pond to Australia.
Taking place in a life-sized 62 West Wallaby street, the exhibition welcomed visitors into the world of wacky inventions including theTelly-scope II, the Blend-o-matic, the Thinking Cap and the Karaoke Disco Shower, as well as Wallace’s half half-baked ideas – from the Chocolate Teapot to the Ice Hot Water Bottle.
The exhibition landed at Scienceworks in Melbourne in May, and then made its way to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney in December, with over 100,000 visitors walking through Wallace and Gromit’s front door!
Wallace and Gromit took part in a very special proms performance in the UK on the 29th July 2012, where Gromit debuted a special violin solo called My Concerto in Ee, Lad, while Wallace tried to keep things together backstage! For the first time ever, fans also got the chance to watch A Matter of Loaf and Death with a live orchestral accompaniment from the Aurora Orchestra.
They also played at the Sydney Opera house in December 2012!
In 2012, the National Trust and Wallace and Gromit joined forces as two National Treasures to deliver a Summer of Celebrations in the UK!
Celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee, the campaign launched with a brand new animation of Wallace and Gromit decorating their local National Trust manor with bunting, plus special tea parties were hosted across 70 different National Trust properties. The celebrations continued throughout summer with a bunt-a-thon, model making workshops and adventure trails.
In Christmas 2012, Wallace and Gromit starred in an ad for Google Hangouts to help families stay in touch over the holiday period! The ad showed them logging on to celebrate Christmas with their woolly friend Shaun the Sheep, Ginger from Chicken Run as well as Trixie and Captain Cuddlepuss from Creature Comforts – the first time that a mixture of Aardman characters have ever appeared in the same film!
Blackpool pleasure beach
On April 24th a brand new Wallace and Gromit-themed ride opened at world-famous seaside resort, Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the UK! Fans ride the Thrill-O-Matic in a giant slipper-shaped carriage that transports them through the colourful world of Wallace and Gromit, including lots of the classic scenes from each film. There are plenty of intricate details to look out for along the way, and lots of special effects that bring Wallace’s contraptions to life, providing over four minutes of cracking fun for those on-board.
Visit the Blackpool Pleasure Beach website to book your tickets, and don’t forget to pick up a stick of cheese rock while you’re there!
In the summer of 2013, Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal charity embarked on their most ambitious fundraising project to date: Gromit Unleashed! 80 giant Gromit statues, painted by a mix of local and celebrity artists, dotted the streets of Bristol for 10 weeks over summer and attracted over 1.1 million people to the trail.
After the trail ended, all 80 Gromit sculptures took up residence together for a grand exhibition in Bristol, where over 25,000 visitors queued for up to 6 hours to see the hounds. The Gromits then went under the hammer in October 2013 at a grand charity auction, hosted by auctioneer Tim Wonnacott, where an astonishing £2.3 million was raised.
To date, Gromit Unleashed has helped raise £5 million for Bristol Children’s Hospital, and it’s still going strong!
In 2014, Wallace and Gromit joined Visit England’s campaign to show that holidays in the UK are great! In the brand new ad, Wallace packs his bags into his new “Holiday Hot Shots” cannon and sets his sights on exotic lands, while long-suffering Gromit tries to show him that there are adventures much closer to home...
In the summer of 2014, a special new exhibition opened at Bristol’s MShed in the UK, attracting over 30,000 visitors in its 3 month run. Wallace and Gromit: From the Drawing Board celebrated the story making process behind the films, with visitors being able to enjoy drawings from Nick Park’s sketchbooks, film sets, the actual ‘rocket’ from a Grand Day Out and a real Oscar®, plus lots of other exciting items from the years of Aardman storytelling.
In July 2014, 70 Gromit sculptures came together for the first time outside the UK to create an exhibition at ELEMENTS mall in Hong Kong! 'The Greatest Dog Show on Earth' in Hong Kong featured a display of 5ft and 3ft high decorated Gromit sculptures on an ornate, two-tier carousel band (and a 4m high Gromit as the centrepiece!)
The sculptures were transformed by an array of artists, illustrators, fashion designers and musicians, including Nick Park, Merlin Crossingham and fellow Aardman designers Gavin Strange and Richard Webber; along with world-renowned milliner Philip Treacy, whose hats are worn by members of the Royal family and famous Hong Kong celebrities. At the end of the exhibition, the giant sculptures were auctioned to raise funds for Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity, and children's art programmes in hospitals across Hong Kong.
In summer of 2015, WallaceandGromit.com got a spring clean to allow fans to celebrate all the classic moments from our duo’s long history. They also have their very own dedicated YouTube channel, showcasing clips from their classic adventures, promotional partners and a look behind the scenes on the production of their films!
In June 2017 we said goodbye to the actor Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace. Peter charmed millions of fans all over the world and his gentle yet distinctive voice brought Nick Park’s creation to life. Nick Park commented: “Peter's unique, charming quality, together with oversized vowels and endearing performance, helped me fashion Wallace from the beginning; the way he first said "We've forgotten the Crackers, Gromit!" and "Cracking toast, Gromit!” or just "Cheeeese!" soon led to Wallace's enormous 'coat-hanger mouth'. They don’t come along very often like Peter Sallis - he was a unique character, on and off screen, and it was an absolute honour to have known him.”
During the summer of 2018 fans from across the world descended on Bristol for the second Gromit Unleashed trail, organised by our friends at The Grand Appeal, The Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity. Over 60 giant sculptures were displayed across the city, including Wallace and Feathers McGraw sculptures too. For this trail there were some truly trail-blazing sculptures to seek out, including the interactive ‘Gromitronic’ with its wagging tail and moving eyes, and ‘Gromjet’, a turbo-charged sculpture created engineered by Rolls-Royce and able to lift off the ground! The trail also featured designs by LEGO, Pixar Animation Studios and Illumination (creators of Minions). The trail concluded with an auction raising a fantastic £1.62 million for Bristol Children’s Hospital.
A special year in the history of Wallace and Gromit as the iconic duo celebrate their 30th anniversary! ‘A Grand Day Out’ was first aired on 4th November 1989 so 2019 marks a milestone in the history of the Aardman studio. We’re delighted that this original film and subsequent Wallace and Gromit adventures continue to be enjoyed by fans of all ages right across the globe.