WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT - Q&A with NICK PARK & STEVE BOX
Movie Interview by Neils Hesse
Nick, why has it been such a long journey from the successful short films to this feature length one?
NICK PARK: With the success of the shorts it seemed like an obvious step to make a feature length film, but I was very cautious as in most cases short films work mainly because they are short. I was waiting for the right idea that could sustain a feature length picture.
STEVE BOX: Yes and the right idea turned out to be vegetables!
Steve, was it always the plan to include the risqué humor that is in the film and how did you manage to keep it in the final cut?
STEVE BOX: Nick and me love all sorts of cinema including the CARRY ON... films with the likes of Sid James, so all those suggestive little comments crept in and stayed in.
NICK PARK: Overall it is all still pretty innocent stuff.
Nick, I notice that you've brought along a model of Wallace and one of Gromit as well, were those two also used in the film?
NICK PARK: Yes they were. They are essentially Plasticine with a metal frame to facilitate easier movement and it also makes it easier to set up different frames. Wallace's trousers are actually made from latex.
Nick, the level of detail is amazingly joyous, to the extent that in one shot the tax disc for the Anti-pesto van is visible, why so much attention to detail?
NICK PARK: I think that it's a combination of a love for the medium we use and actually having everything there makes it a better overall film. Nick and me have to approve everything right down to the right color of socks for the models.
It must be very time consuming?
STEVE BOX: I think it might help sell the DVD and doing it right is worth putting in all the time.
Nick, what ideas didn't make it?
NICK PARK: The first pitch that I made to Jeffrey Katzenberg was four hours long! I remember seeing Jeff struggling to stay awake after the first couple of hours. Well I can't really think of anything right now other than Victor the character voiced by Ralph Fiennes was originally Lady Tottingham's son.
It didn't hurt you to leave out anything in particular?
STEVE BOX: Yes many little jokes like Wallace and Gromit tipping over all the rabbits that they've caught at the Yorkshire border! We also planned to show Wallace buying a top at Tank Top Man Ltd!
So were there a lot of changes to the script that needed to be recorded again by the cast?
STEVE BOX: Yes, we have to have the actor's dialogue in advance, so we did have to do some things again.
How hard was it to make it cinema worthy, and to make it topical with all the neat cinema references like the King Kong bit?
NICK PARK: We had to constantly look at it.
STEVE BOX: Yes and we decided that like the shorts we had to keep Gromit in the centre of things!
Was there any pressure to have American stars amongst your voice talents?
NICK PARK: No, DreamWorks were happy for us to have homegrown talent and we had two Oscar nominated actors so nobody was complaining!
STEVE BOX: With CHICKEN RUN the character of Rocky was an outsider so it suited Mel Gibson perfectly.
What do you think that people in the USA will think of Peter Sallis' outrageous sayings?
STEVE BOX: I think that even people over here don't understand all of what he says! It is an opportunity for us to export some of our colloquialisms to the USA for a change. They have flooded us with all of theirs so hopefully they'll find ours amusing!
Nick, seeing as it took you so long to make this film, did you maybe get bored at some point?
NICK PARK: We knew from the beginning that we were in for the long haul, so we had to find it funny ourselves to keep it going and the story and characters have so much potential. So no, we didn't get bored at all.
So are you both happy with the finished product?
NICK PARK: Yes, very much so.
STEVE BOX: I am still getting used to seeing it. I can only relax when I am watching the sequences that Nick did, I am very nervous when I watch the bits that I did. I love the fact that the film is generally quite nutty and whimsical.
Nick, to what extent have Wallace and Gromit taken over your life? Do you perhaps have a life size version of the whole waking up mechanism that Wallace uses to get up in the morning?
NICK PARK: Yes, I do! No not really. I have a lot of the merchandise. I used to keep almost everything but now the novelty's worn off so I don't keep that much anymore. It's nice to see my stuff on the shelves in shops even when they are in the bargain bin at Sainsbury's, for me it's still a good feeling! It's like having kids and watching them grow up and pursue their own lives.
So why did you switch Wallace's cheese this time around, and apparently now he can't cope with the demand?
NICK PARK: It was purely for the name. The guy who makes the cheese gave us some and it really stinks but it also really tastes good. I sincerely hope that all the work hasn't turned his life into a nightmare. He is a very nice chap.
STEVE BOX: Yes, we should have probably bought shares in his company.
Why did you cast Ralph Fiennes?
NICK PARK: Well we searched forever, and we kept on searching whilst we were writing and modelling then we thought of John Steed in the Avengers and his voice just seemed perfect for the character of Nathan.
STEVE BOX: Then we made him [Ralph Fiennes] give us these hilarious performances and I remember saying to him, "I bet that you didn't do that in SCHINDLER'S LIST!"
Was it easy to work with Jeffrey Katzenberg, did he try to influence you to perhaps add some CGI?
NICK PARK: Jeffrey was always a fan and he helped with the script. He would fly in and help as much as he could, but ultimately he wanted us to keep it British. Our next big thing is going to be a holiday, we need some rest!
Did you leave out any jokes?
STEVE BOX: The only one that comes to mind is the one about Lady Tottingham saying to the Were rabbit, "Are you going to ravage me like you've ravaged my prize melons?"
Apparently you have had to change marrows to melons for the American market?
STEVE BOX: Yes. We got Helena Bonham Carter to come in for a day and say melon and melons for the whole day!
Was the opening sequence a homage to the Thunderbirds?
NICK PARK: Yes we are both fans of the Thunderbirds!
Nick, would you ever have Wallace go solo?
NICK PARK: No, they are almost like an old couple, they need each other and that bond is a big part of the whole thing.
Will any deleted scenes be on the DVD?
STEVE BOX: I am not sure what exactly will go on, but apparently there will be shots of me and Nick acting out the scenes before we shot them!
Nick, do you find it hard to delegate since you are so attached to it?
NICK PARK: Yes but even though Steve and me are not really doing any animation, we spend a lot of time on the set approving colours and everything.
STEVE BOX: We can be control freaks.