Nick Park invented his legacy by accident. Back in his college days, the 59-year-old British writer, director, and animator was sketching 1950s-style rockets inspired by Tintin and had an idea for a guy who tries to build a rocket in the basement of his house. "That was the joke, really," Park says. Eventually he'd name him Wallace. "And then he needed someone to talk to. I was drawing this cat, but I changed it into a dog, and it became Gromit."
Today, Wallace and Gromit are two of animations most quintessential characters -- almost cultural icons. They’ve appeared in a full-length film, released by Bristol-based production company Aardman, and countless shorts, several of which have been awarded BAFTAs and Oscars. While the characters have been at the heart of Park’s career since he first made Wallace & Gromit: A Grand Day Out in 1989, the filmmaker’s work with Aardman is actually much more expansive. He wrote and directed Chicken Run in 2000, and his latest effort is Early Man, a stop-motion project that supposes that cavemen invented soccer. Its inspiration, again, arrived accidentally back in 2010.
"With all these films they originate with some drawings," Park says. "I’m a very visual kind of artist and writer. Chicken Run started with just a doodle of a chicken digging his way out of a chicken coop -- The Great Escape with chickens. So with this, I was drawing cavemen and women. I started doodling a cave man with a typical club, hitting a ball, thinking about baseball. Then I thought, ‘How about cavemen inventing sports?’ It started to gather momentum: ‘What if the sport was a kind of civilizing force?’ Things just gathered."