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24 September 2014

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You are in: Bristol > History > Historic Figures > An animated history

Gromit from Curse Were-Rabbit - copyright Aardman

Gromit gets to work in the new film

An animated history

As Aardman prepare to bring Wallace and Gromit back to the small screen, we take a look at the 30 year history of the company which brought us that cheese-loving dynamic duo.

1976 - Aardman Animations is set up by Peter Lord and David Sproxton and named after a cartoon character they created for the BBC series Vision On. Its headquarters are in Bristol.

1977 - Lord and Sproxton create a claymation character named Morph who soon becomes a big hit on children's show Take Hart.

1982 - Channel 4 commission a short series of conversation pieces.

1985 - Fresh from the National Film and Television School, a certain Nick Park joins the animation team at Aardman. He works on completing A Grand Day Out, Wallace and Gromit's first adventure in which the duo build a rocket and blast off to the moon in search of cheese, which he had begun as a student.

Lady Tottington - Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Lady Tottington stars in the new film

1986 - The Aardman team produce the ground-breaking Sledgehammer video for singer Peter Gabriel.

1989 - Another commission from Channel 4 results in a series of pieces based on real people's experiences lip-synched onto animated characters. These include War Story and Creature Comforts.

1990 - A Grand Day Out is nominated for an Oscar but is beaten by another Nick Park short, Creature Comforts - which went on to become a series of highly successful Heat Electric ads before returning to TV in 2003 - but it does win a Bafta. 

1993 - Wallace and Gromit's second adventure is BBC commission The Wrong Trousers in which the pair take in a lodger who turns out to be a villainous jewel thief, and penguin to boot.

The short wins Nick Park a second Oscar and introduces Steve Box to the team as lead animator on the penguin. Former Speedwell School pupil Box goes on to co-direct the latest Were-Rabbit feature film.

1995 - A Close Shave is the third outing for the inventor and his hound and this story of a psychopathic mechanical dog and his sinister sheep dealings makes it an Oscar hat-trick for the studio.

1999 - Aardman sign a reportedly £167m deal with Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks company to make five feature films.

2000 - The first film of the new partnership, Chicken Run, filmed at a new feature department at Aztec West, is released and proves a big hit.

Work on a second film Tortoise and the Hare begins, but after months of work runs into pre-production difficulties and is put on hold - though Aardman insist it will return.

2002 - Cracking Contraptions - a series of 10 animated five minute stories - are launched on the web and later screened by the BBC. Each is animated by a different person and looks at weird inventions created by Wallace.

The series helps train the animators in the "way of Wallace" before work begins on the film.

May 2005 - At the Cannes Film Festival Aardman announce that John Cleese will be writing their next feature film - a "pre-historic" comedy with the working title of Crood Awakening.

2005 - Wallace and Gromit hit the big screen in Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit - which has taken three years to produce.

March 2006 - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit wins the Academy Award for best animated feature - to the delight of the whole city. A campaign is immediately mounted for a statue to be erected in Bristol in their honour.

Flushed Away - copyright Aardman/ DreamWorks

The Aardman deal goes down the toilet

September 2006 - Aardman celebrate 30 years of animation and receive the Freedom of the City of Bristol.

2006 - The latest "Aardman film", Flushed Away, is  released. The film, about a group of rats and voiced by Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslett, has a limited connection with the Bristol company and is shot entirely in Los Angeles at the Dreamworks studios that produced Shark Tale and Shrek.

Made using CGI rather than claymation characters, it is however still counted as part of the original five picture deal.

2006 - Shaun the Sheep, the woolly star of the Wallace and Gromit short A Close Shave, gets his own show on CBBC.

Jan 2007 -  Aardman and Dreamworks end their five-film deal early, after Flushed Away and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit reportedly underperformed. Dreamworks said the firms now had "different business goals", while Aardman said their "ambitions have moved apart".

April 2007 - Aardman agrees a three-year deal with Sony Pictures.

October 2007 - Aardman announce that Wallace and Gromit are set to return in a half-hour television adventure - the first since 1995's A Close Shave.

last updated: 16/03/2008 at 15:23
created: 31/01/2007

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