Chat with Nick Park and Peter Lord

<BBC Host> Hello and welcome to today's live chat with Nick Park and Peter Lord.
Before Nick and Peter arrive, here are some interesting facts. Aardman Animations was co-founded in 1972 by David Sproxton and Peter Lord. Morph (created by Peter Lord) made his first appearance in 1976 in Take Hart. Nick Park won Aardman Animations first Oscar with Creature Comforts. In Chicken Run, Babs' knitting is real and was knitted with needles measuring approximately 17cm long. In total 534 puppets were made with 16 Gingers and 12 Rockys. Each puppet costs around £3,000 to make. Chicken Run took 3 1/2 years to complete and the research into the film included a visit to a chicken farm in Yorkshire.

<BBC Host>Peter Lord will go first and is ready to start answering your questions. Here's the first question.

<Gary Low> How did you come up with the idea for Morph?

<Peter Lord> Peter: Wow. We had been working on a programme called "Vision On" for four years when we were students and part-timers. When "Vision On" finished, the producer asked Dave [Sproxton] and me to come up with a new character and we started with a ball of plasticine which moved around by itself and occasionally turned into a litle man, and over the first six months that little man evolved into Morph.

<Stacey> How do you decide which animals would make the funniest characters? Dogs, penguins, chickens... How about giraffes? They look funny!

<Peter Lord> We employ a team of researchers who conduct interviews in the street and study the world's press and, um, determine which is the funniest animal creation. Experts agree the chicken is the funniest every time!
PS. Somebody told me that any animal with the letter K in its name is funny!

<Nick_Graham> Peter, how is Nick to work with?

<Peter Lord> Nick is very easy to work with. We've been colleagues for 15 years or more, but we've never co-directed before this film. We have great mutual respect. We have the same tastes in humour. It was the hardest job we've ever done in our lives and I think we both felt that we were allies against the other world.

<Kavitha Ganesan> Congratulations on your phenomenal success! Your story lines are always fun and interesting, but what is most entertaining is the facial expressions of your characters. How do you manage to get that degree of perfection and how long did it take to create and film 'Chicken Run'?

<Peter Lord> Thanks for those kind remarks. We had the first idea for "Chicken Run" four and a half years ago and we spent the first two and a half years designing the characters and doing the storyboard. When we finally did the shoot that took 18 months. When we started it was just the two of us writing away in a quiet room and by the end we were working with a crew of about 250 people, so it's a huge team effort.

< Bex> Did you have any major disasters during the making of "Chicken Run"?

<Peter Lord> Hmm. Well, I'm sorry to say I can't think of any spectacular disasters, no. It depends on your point of view! For the production we were lucky, but some animators might tell you a different story. I can think of one guy called Bill Osmond, who had a camera fault that took six days so all his work was wasted, so that was a disaster. Funny enough, right at the end, at the last week, when we were really rushing to finish, the studio had a power failure which could have been a disaster if the camera motion control computers had gone down, but we got away with it! It was a bad couple of hours, but we were soon back in business again, thank heavens.

<Ben Snell> Are the chickens made out of plasticine or clay?

<Nick Park and Peter Lord> Peter: Well, now... Their heads and their hands are made of plasticine. We often say clay, and people often say clay in articles when they mean plasticine. Plasticine is the classic animation material that we've used for 30 years. The chickens' bodies are made of other materials that we try to make look like plasticine as well. Originally, they're all sculpted in plasticine from which we take moulds then we make them in silicone rubber. Inside they have strong steel skeletons. We use silicone rather than plasticine because we wanted further detail and we wanted to use paint effects and you can't paint plasticine effectively. Things would get smudged.

< James> Who creates all the pictures or logos that are shown on the wrapping of the chicken pies in the film?

<Peter Lord> Good one. Partly done by our designers, partly by people at Dreamworks. Michael Salter at Aardman is responsible for the best drawings of chickens that you'll see!

<BBC Host> Thanks to Peter Lord and now here's Nick Park to answer more of your questions.

<Angie Smith> Nick, when you made "A Grand Day Out" did you ever think that Wallace and Gromit would become so successful and well-loved?

<Nick Park> Um... gosh! No, not really. I guess it's always been a kind of personal secret dream that I could create a character that would be so well loved. I never thought it would become a reality.

<Paul Evans> Gromit is such a fantastic character, is he modelled on somebody or a pet you once had?

<Nick Park>, not consciously. I haven't had many pets! My sister had a pet chicken when I was small, so there might be some connection with "Chicken Run". I see myself in Gromit more than anybody, though I can't even go into why.

<Julie Adams> When can we see a movie of "Wallace and Gromit" and will Jeffrey Katzenberg make you give Gromit the power of speech?

<Nick Park> No way! I was thinking of getting Tom Cruise to do the voice of Gromit, but seriously we are planning to do a "Wallace and Gromit" feature film. I am going to spend the next year writing the script with my colleague Bob Baker, I have the idea in my head and it's brilliant. I had the idea before "Chicken Run".

<Jenny Ferguson> What was it like to meet Mel Gibson and how did you persuade him to take the the part of Rocky?

<Nick Park> Peter and I first met him at the Oscars in 97 or 96 or whenever and he invited us for lunch to his cigar lunch and there we discovered he was a "Wallace and Gromit" fan and that was quite separate from choosing him to play Rocky. Later when we were watching "Maverick",his character was not that far from Rocky. We tested his lines by stealing lines from "Maverick" and animating to his voice. We thought he would be perfect. You can't audition Mel Gibson, you have to know you want him I'm sure he'll be offered more poultry roles after this.

<Martyn Edwards> What's it like working in a world where time has been slowed down so much? Does the real world seem extremely fast when you move back into it?

<Nick Park> Yes. Animators think of time differently. Producing three seconds a day, you learn to value how much you can fit into those three seconds. I'm amazed how many words you can say in a second. It may only be three seconds a day, but boy what you can do.

<Wesley Mitchell> How many film references are there in "Chicken Run"?

<Nick Park and Peter Lord> Nick: I don't know. We put some in. Many people have made lists of them. They're there if you spot them and they're not that important. Some people credit us with more than there are. The whole movie started from a joke, a spoof, on the "Great Escape", which is the obvious one, of course. We watched a lot of escape movies. One was "The Flight of the Phoenix". When Fowler says, "I've never flown a plane before" that's a reference from "Flight of the Phoenix".
Bouncing the brussel sprout against the wall was another reference. None of them are mean't to be there as a big joke.

<Anon> PS. Loved Chicken Run. Good to see a British success amidst the big Hollywood summer movies. Well done.

<Nick Park> Thank you for your comments.

<Marcus Woolcott> You've successfully proved with Chicken Run that you don't need huge special effects budgets and egotistical actors to make a good successful film. Do you ever see yourselves moving away from plasticine animation and trying CGI i.e."Toy Story" and "Antz"?

<Nick Park> There's a lot of people using computer graphic images. Much as I admire "Toy Story" I think we've found a niche, really. I think we're producing something quite special. I don't like comparing the two. We all depend on good direction, good script, good gags, imagination, all that kind of thing, which can't be done on the computer or with plasticine. It's the way you execute the ideas that's important!

<Bishop> When did the question "Will it work?" begin to haunt you?

<Nick Park> Constantly, yeah, I constantly asked that question. I think it's importat to feel a sense of insecurity, not to get complacent. I often felt like Ginger in "Chicken Run"! You know, trying to pull off an idea that's never been done before. It parallels what it was like making the film.

<BBC Host> Just time for one more question...

<Piersb> Can you give us a clue as to what the "Wallace and Gromit" film will be about?

<Nick Park> Oh, boy! The film is in it's very early stages of development, ie. in my head, and it'll be 3 or 4 years before we see anything, so it's too early to say. Sorry.

<Kirstie> I believe Aardman are involved in the internet with a project called "Angry Kid", can you tell me more about that?

<Nick Park> Yeah, I haven't been involved in it myself, but it's directed by a young animator called Darren Walsh. He's made pilots. It's been his baby for quite a while now and I don't think he has any ambitions for it to be on TV or cinema. It's perfect for the internet, really. I don't know when we could see it, sorry. I'm a bit out of touch with it, to tell you the truth.

<BBC Host> Here is Nick Park with a final word.

<Nick Park> Thanks to everybody who has joined in the chat. Bye!

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