Wednesday 12 December 2018

Aardman co-founder remembers ‘lovely’ Peter Sallis ahead of new film

The animation expert said it would be tough to replace the legendary voice of Wallace

Peter Sallis 87th birthday during recording of Wallace and Gromit – London
Peter Sallis 87th birthday during recording of Wallace and Gromit – London

By Francesca Gosling

The co-founder of Aardman Animations has paid tribute to late Wallace And Gromit star Peter Sallis ahead of the company’s hotly anticipated new release, Early Man.

David Sproxton, who also acts as executive chairman of the organisation, said it was a “great shame” that the future of the series would have to continue without the “lovely” actor, who died last year at the age of 96.

While best known for his role as Clegg in Last Of The Summer Wine, he became recognised across the globe for voicing the lovable animated inventor in the early 2000s.

As Aardman gears up to introduce fans to a set of brand new prehistoric-themes characters, Sproxton said it would be tricky to replace the star in any future Wallace and Gromit films.

British Academy Television Craft Awards – London

“There will be somebody out there, he said. “But it’s a great shame because Peter was a lovely actor and there was something very special he brought to the part, which other people did find hard.

“It was his natural warmth and kind of innocence that gave Wallace a real character. It was very sad to see him go.”

But, he quipped: “He had a bloody good innings – his acting career really took off when he was about 72.”

Sallis last brought Wallace to life in 2005 feature film The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, and has since been replaced in Wallace And Gromit videogames by Ben Whitehead.

Asked whether acclaimed director Nick Park is planning on further feature films in the series, he said: “At the moment there is stuff in Nick’s head, but that’s about as far as it goes.

“We would love to do some more but the two things are Nick’s time and financing it. We would like to do another feature film, but the half-hour shorts would be more difficult. We are very keen to do some more; without a doubt, we’ll make it happen.”

Early Man is released this month and stars Eddie Redmayne voicing lead character Dug, Tom Hiddleston as French villain Lord Nooth and Maisie Williams as football enthusiast Goona.

Commenting on the incorporation of more CGI into Aardman’s traditional stop-frame claymation, he continued: “Nick has always loved the hand-crafted tactile feel of stop motion and with clay animation we are very much going back to those original skills.

“We are using some new technology to enhance the film and make it feel really ambitious in scale…most is on set, but our football stadium is a massive CG model full of people that would be almost impossible to do in stop motion.

“The actual process is similar to how it has been for the last 100-plus years. Each animator shoots up to four or five seconds a week, so we need about 30 animators on it every week…we reached critical mass of how much we could fit in the studio.”

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