ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.03 - JUNE 2000

Aardman’s First Feature Egg-stravaganza!
(continued from page 1)

Longtime Aardman fan Mel Gibson voices the character of Rocky. © DreamWorks Pictures.

The Voices
Rocky is voiced by Mel Gibson, in his second animated feature role following John Smith in Pocahontas. According to Nick Park, "Peter Lord and me already knew Mel was a fan of Wallace and Gromit. We met up with him in Los Angeles a couple of years ago and he invited us out for lunch. We went wondering what it was about and it wasn't about anything really! But we knew we had a good contact. By the time we saw Gibson in Maverick we had created the character of Rocky, and made him as a model. So we took a bit of Gibson's dialogue from Maverick, animated Rocky to his lines, and it fitted perfectly."

"Working with a studio like DreamWorks gave us the opportunity to use someone who was already a star," Park continues. "For a long time we knew Rocky was going to be an 'outside' chicken but we couldn't decide what to make him. Then after Maverick it all seemed to fit: the proximity of the war, how the GI's came over to Britain... It made sense to have an American among these very English backwater chickens, who have no life. It reminded us of films where new music comes in and livens up the fuddy-duddies. With Rocky, we were thinking of a happy-go-lucky, loveable rogue, extremely likeable but very unreliable. We didn't just want the American to come in and be the hero!"

Julia Swalha voices all of Ginger’s joys and tribulations. © DreamWorks Pictures.

The female lead Ginger, perhaps the true 'hero' of the film, is voiced by Julia Swalha, well-known to British TV comedy fans as the long-suffering Saffron (the daughter) in Absolutely Fabulous. She's also appeared in TV dramatisations of Pride and Prejudice and Martin Chuzzlewit, plus Kenneth Branagh's film In the Bleak Midwinter. Swalha is joined by AbFab co-star Jane Horrocks. In fact the chicken Babs is very close to Horrocks' dimwitted Bubble in the live-action series. The actress is best known for her extraordinary multi-vocal performance in the stage and screen versions of Little Voice. The sinister Mrs. Tweedy is voiced by Miranda Richardson, recently seen in Tim Burton's effects-laden Sleepy Hollow. Her past films range from Damage and Tom and Viv to Interview with a Vampire and Spielberg's Empire of the Sun.

Director Peter Lord. © DreamWorks Pictures.

The Directors
Directors Peter Lord and Nick Park need little introduction to stop-motion fans. Lord co-founded Aardman with Dave Sproxton, though as Lord puts it, it was a matter of "Two schoolboys picking a name, little dreaming it would hang around so long." The pair's inspirations included Ray Harryhausen, Terry Gilliam's Monty Python animations, and stop-motion TV shows such as The Wombles and Magic Roundabout. Aardman was the name of an inept hero in one of the teenagers' early cel sequences, bought by the BBC in the late '60s. Subsequently, Lord and Sproxton focused on plasticine/clay animation, mainly because no one else was working in the medium. The duo have animated numerous acclaimed shorts, many now available on Aardman video collections, while Lord was Oscar-nominated twice for Adam (1991) and Wat's Pig (1996).

It was Aardman's films that in turn inspired Nick Park, who invited Lord and Sproxton to give a lecture at the National Film and Television School where he was studying. At the time, Park was working on his first Wallace and Gromit adventure, A Grand Day Out, in which the duo go to the moon. After Park left school, he was invited to complete the film at Aardman (it was released in 1989). A wild success, it was followed by Park's short Creature Comforts (1990) and the Wallace and Gromit sequels The Wrong Trousers (1993) and A Close Shave (1995). All three won Oscars, with Comforts beating fellow nominee A Grand Day Out. Park subsequently joined Lord and Sproxton as company director of Aardman. (A common mistake, even promoted by the UK press, is that Park is sole manager or founder of Aardman, which is like saying Lord created Wallace and Gromit!)

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Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to editor@awn.com.


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