Born on December 6, 1958, in Lancashire, England, Nick Park made his first stop-motion film at age 13. After joining Aardman Animations Ltd. in 1985, he created the famed Wallace and Gromit Claymation shorts about a shortsighted inventor and his dog. Park has won multiple Academy Awards for his films, while the popularity of Wallace and Gromit have spawned several attractions throughout the United Kingdom.
Early Years and Innovations
Nicholas Wulstan Park was born on December 6, 1958, in Preston, Lancashire, England. One of five children born to Roger, an architectural photographer, and Celia, a seamstress, Park enjoyed drawing comics and adopted his father's habit of collecting spare parts from around the neighborhood as a young boy.
Park began using his mom's 8-millimeter camera and pieces from her dressmaking kit to create stop-motion films, and at age 13 he finished his first short, Walter the Rat. At 15, he submitted another creation, Archie's Concrete Nightmare, to the BBC's Young Animator's Film Competition; the piece didn't win, but it aired on BBC2.
Park studied art at Sheffield City Polytechnic before moving on to the National Film and Television School, where he began work on his first 35-millimeter Claymation film. A Grand Day Out tells the tale of a middle-aged man named Wallace, who builds a homemade rocket and takes his quietly frustrated but faithful dog Gromit into space to procure some moon cheese. The unfinished product caught the attention of Aardman Animations Ltd. founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton, who hired Park in 1985.
At Aardman, Nick Park initially contributed to commercials and music videos, including Peter Gabriel's award-winning "Sledgehammer," while finishing A Grand Day Out. Additionally, he began work on Creature Comforts, a five-minute piece in which zoo animals offer a range of opinions on life in confinement. Both were completed in 1989 and nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 1991 Academy Awards, with Creature Comforts claiming the prize.
Park followed with two more Wallace and Gromit shorts, The Wrong Trousers (1993) and A Close Shave (1995), which further refined the characteristics of the well-meaning but shortsighted inventor and his silent canine compatriot. Both were well-received and garnered Academy Awards.
Having secured Hollywood's attention, Park and Lord co-directed Chicken Run (2001), a feature-length animation film distributed by DreamWorks Studios. A feature-length Wallace and Gromit adventure co-directed by Park and Steve Box, The Curse of the Ware-Rabbit (2005) also fared well for Aardman and DreamWorks, but the two studios soon ended their association due to creative differences.
A fire at an Aardman Animations warehouse destroyed several original Wallace and Gromit sets and storyboards in October 2005, a misfortune that was offset by an Academy Award win for Ware-Rabbit a few months later. In 2007, Park oversaw production of Shaun the Sheep, a television series based on a character from A Close Shave. The fourth Wallace and Gromit short, A Matter of Loaf and Death, earned Park another Oscar nomination in 2010, though victory eluded him this time.
Outside the Studio
Known worldwide by fans of all ages, Wallace and Gromit have become cultural icons in their creator's home country. In 2009, London's Science Museum opened the "Wallace & Gromit Present: A World of Cracking Ideas" exhibition, where fans could inspect the duo's famed offbeat inventions. In conjunction with the exhibition, a contest was created for kids to submit their own weird and wonderful creations.
In 2013, Park presided over the opening of the Thrill-O-Matic, a Wallace and Gromit ride, at the Blackpool Pleasure Beach theme park.
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