While this year’s animated feature contenders include three films that employ stop-motion animation — Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On and Wendell & Wild — the animation technique that dates back to the mid-1800s received very little love in the category until 2005.
That’s when Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit became the first (and only) stop-motion animated film to win best animated feature (stop-motion shorts are a different story, with Were-Rabbit creator Nick Park alone garnering three Oscars, for 1989’s Creature Comforts, 1993’s The Wrong Trousers and 1995’s A Close Shave, the latter two also starring Wallace and Gromit). It’s also almost certainly the only “vegetarian horror film,” as Park described Were-Rabbit, to win any Oscars at all.
Wallace and Gromit’s adventures began in 1982 as a film-school graduation project, created with 2,200 pounds of Plasticine clay (provided to Park free of charge by the Harbutt company, Plasticine’s creator). Wallace is a chubby-cheeked inventor who loves cheese, loosely based on Park’s father. His inventions are the Rube Goldberg type — “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut” is how Park has described them. Gromit is his highly intelligent pet beagle. (His name is derived from the grommets Park’s electrician brother often mentioned.) Gromit was supposed to speak, but Park realized the character said much more with just a lift of the eyebrow or cock of the head and made him mute. The late actor Peter Sallis, meanwhile, voiced Wallace until 2010.
Were-Rabbit — in which the duo runs a humane extermination service called Anti-Pesto to protect vegetable gardens from rabbits — was Park’s second feature, after 2000’s Chicken Run. (Steve Box, his longtime collaborator at Aardman Animations, served as co-director.) “The studio now hits its stride in a second outing,” raved THR‘s review, “displaying the same technical flair, wonderful British wit and a sharper story sense.”
This story first appeared in a December stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.