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Wallace and Gromit hit the big screen!
Nick Mays reviews The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

THEY'RE TWO heroes who, between them have only occupied just under four hours' screen time and yet they're still instantly recognisable, appear on all sorts of merchandise from greetings cards to tea towels and, crucially, are still incredibly popular.

The pair in question are eccentric inventor Wallace and his taciturn, but highly intelligent dog Gromit, residents of 62 West Wallaby Street, somewhere in Lancashire. In ‘real life’, - whatever that is - they are small, but highly detailed clay models, created by Oscar-winning animator Nick Park, 46.

The pair first came into being whilst Park was studying at the National Film and Television School in Birmingham. His project was to become Wallace and Gromit's first adventure, A Grand Day Out.

Unfortunately, he overshot the deadline and ran out of money, but was then fortunate to link up with Aardman Animation in Bristol, who brokered a deal whereby the NFTS would continue to finance A Grand Day Out but that Aardman would provide the studio facilities.

BAFTA award

The film was completed and aired in 1989, with Wallace voiced by veteran actor Peter Sallis and generating a great deal of interest and winning a BAFTA award.

Nick Park worked on several other projects, including the award-winning Creature Comforts series for Channel 4. The second Wallace and Gromit film, The Wrong Trousers followed in 1993, with the third film A Close Shave two years later. Both topped the Christmas TV schedules, scooped bags of awards and Wallace and Gromit became mega-stars on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 2002 as a ‘taster’ for the big screen Wallace and Gromit movie ‘Curse of the Were-Rabbit’, the pair appeared in a series of short films called ‘Cracking Contraptions’, first on the Internet, then on video and DVD. The films were shown over the Christmas holidays and proved as popular as ever.

Park and Aardman have previously gone on to big screen acclaim with their first feature film, ‘Chicken Run’, starring the voice of Mel Gibson.

In the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Wallace and Gromit find their neighbours gripped with veggie-mania as the annual Giant Vegetable Competition nears. "What would we do without our vegetables?" one villager cries out empathically by way of explanation, clutching the front of her blouse. "We’re simple people! We’d be lost without them!"

The intrepid twosome, who have meanwhile been reaping a tidy profit with their humane pest-busting operation, "Anti-Pesto," quickly root out the cause of the destruction: a proliferation of bunnies which are multiplying like, well, rabbits. Anti-Pesto's "humane" method of disposal involves dumping the rabbits into neat little hutches housed in the basement of their cottage.

Naturally, the bunnies rebel and escape from their confines to wreak havoc, squealing with dastardly glee all the way.

The anxious organizer of the vegetable competition, Lady Tottington (masterfully voiced by Helena Bonham Carter) commissions the duo to rid her expansive grounds—which is starting to look like a rampageous putting green—of a rabbit infestation, without hurting the dear little creatures. "They can’t help it," she twitters wistfully. "It’s in their little bunny natures."

Monstrous

Much to the chagrin of Lady "Call Me Totty" Tottington’s trigger-happy suitor, Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes), Wallace and Gromit roll out the Bun-Vac 6000, part-containment unit, part-highly-evolved-vacuum device, which then proceeds to suck up the bunnies. Of course, the little critters are the least of the town’s problem as a monstrous, fuzzy offshoot of their bobtailed family tree skulks onto the scene, and begins gorging himself on the veritable smorgasbord of tomatoes, cauliflowers, pumpkins, cabbages, and melons that are to be entered in the competition.

Directed by Nick Park and Steve Box, and based on a screenplay by Steve Box, Nick Park, Max Burton, and Bob Baker, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is rampant with visual puns and double entendres that occasionally bogged the narrative and caused the need to stifle groans. When Quartermaine asks the Vicar for a way to defeat the beast, he is told that the Were-Rabbit can only be killed with a gold bullet. "Gold?" Quartermaine asks, momentarily stumped. The vicar nod and declares: "24 CARAT!"

As Wallace would say: "It’s a cracking good movie, Gromit!"

‘Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ opens in cinemas nationwide today, Friday October 14th.

A FIERCE blaze at the warehouse of the animation company behind the Wallace and Gromit films has destroyed "the entire history" of the much-loved film-makers.

The roof of the Aardman Animations building in Silverthorne Lane, near Temple Meads station in Bristol, collapsed after fire tore through the Victorian building early on Monday morning.

Early reports suggest the whole building, which housed all the props and sets from the company's history, has been destroyed.