Friday, July 16, 2010

Nick Park

I remember the first time I saw A Grand Day Out on PBS. I felt like I'd found the most enchanting, hilarious treasure a child ever could. The animation was so quaint and lovable, and the interplay between Wallace and his loyal friend Gromit was perfection. I would just laugh, and for months afterwards the word "cheeeese!" became my trademark.

Born in Preston, England in 1958, to a seamstress mother and a photographer/ amateur-inventor father, Nick Park was very keen on drawing cartoons from an early age and animated several little films on his home movie camera. After attending Cuthbert Mayne High School, Park studied Communication Arts at Sheffield Polytechnic, and then went on to the National Film and Television School where he started making A Grand Day Out. Nick says a lot of Wallace's foibles and character traits were inspired by his very own inventor father. Aw.

Park's next film, The Wrong Trousers (1993, probably my favorite), was another triumph that left me beaming and giggling all the way through. The quality of the action and animation was so sharp--especially for stop-motion animation--that it's no wonder it received an Academy Award. It was from watching the behind-the-scenes featurettes of this film (and of the Nightmare Before Christmas) that really got me interested in animation.

Please enjoy a clip of the famous train chase:

Shortly thereafter, The Wrong Trousers was followed by another great film (although not as endearing as The Wrong Trousers in my opinion but still good), A Close Shave (1995), which garnered Mr. Park with yet another Oscar.

Of course there were also the original Creature Comforts series of animations Nick Park did in 1989, which won him his first official Oscar. They're so brilliantly lip-synced to everyday British folk answering simple questions, and they perfectly personify with exactness the animals of which they have been portrayed.

Please enjoy a clip of one of the episodes that always make me laugh out loud:

Interestingly enough, Park seemed to get his big-break animating Peter Gabriel's 1986 hit music video, "Sledgehammer", which was considered one of the very best music videos made. Way to go Mr. Park.

At this point in time we can see the very creative and innovative mind Mr. Park had, which would later give birth to the clever and enjoyable Wallace and Gromit franchise. True talent always shines through in my opinion, with a little hard-work and perseverance of course. ;)


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