In "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," the clever dog Gromit once again saves naive inventor Wallace from his too-optimistic nature. It's the first big movie for this odd couple, who originally appeared 16 years ago in the short film "A Grand Day Out," and have since starred in the Oscar-winning short films "The Wrong Trousers" and "A Close Shave."
The silent Gromit, with the ultra-expressive eyebrows, and the toothy, chatty Wallace are the work of animator Nick Park, who creates the characters through a process called claymation. First, a character gets drawn on paper. Then a metal skeleton, called an armature, is built. That is covered with a special clay-like substance called Plasticine that can be molded. (If you look closely, you can sometimes see animators' fingerprints on the characters.) The characters then get moved by hand as many as 24 times for each second of the 85-minute movie -- no wonder it took five years to make!
Park told Bridget Byrne how he made Gromit, who comes in two different forms, standing up and on all fours.
Gromit Stands Up
"I have never been comfortable seeing him standing up on two legs because he looks too human. So whenever he is on two legs there is some important reason for it, like he's pushing a tea trolley, or he's leaning on something, and usually there is something in front of him to cover his legs up."
What Lies Beneath?
"The armature is the same as a skeleton with joints at hip, shoulders, elbows, wrists, neck, et cetera, probably a couple in the neck and a couple in the back. It very much looks like something out of 'Terminator.' "
Do His Ears Hang Low?
No. "He's got aluminum wire inside his ears and his tail, to support them, so they don't wilt and flop under the lights during filming."
What a Face
"In 'A Grand Day Out,' I didn't really animate the rest of Gromit's body because he was underneath the door. All I could move was his eyebrow, and that was when he suddenly became a dog who, just by rolling his eyes, could express all this long-suffering intelligence and show how he was more in control and much more clever than Wallace."
Eyes: "The eyes are beads with pupils painted on. They are stuck into sockets in his face and you can tweak them by sticking a piece of wire or a paper clip into the hole in the middle of the pupil -- it sounds a bit gruesome, but that's how we move them."
Nose: "I can use his nose a bit, moving it up and down, so he can sniff or wrinkle his nose in disgust or whatever, or when he smells something."
Mouth: "I discovered I didn't need him to have teeth, or even the mouth. He just seemed to speak volumes with his eyes."