Bristol Zoo inspired Creature Comforts, says Nick Park

Johnny Morris in Animal Magic Nick Park said Johnny Morris's "funny voices" inspired Creature Comforts

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The creator of Aardman Animations film Creature Comforts has revealed he was inspired by Bristol Zoo and veteran TV zoo keeper Johnny Morris.

Nick Park said the way the former Animal Magic presenter did his "funny voices" for the animals was the start of it.

"I was probably unconsciously inspired by that. It really put Bristol Zoo on the map," he said.

Bristol Zoo is celebrating its 175th anniversary on 11 July.

Mr Park said he had been inspired as a child by Animal Magic - part of which was filmed at Bristol Zoo in the 1960s.

"I did do a lot of research there and there was a polar bear pit which was all concrete and painted white to make the bears think they were in the Arctic.

"I remember there was a little archway into a cave and I put that in the film.

Fete at Bristol Zoo An early postcard illustrating a fete at Bristol Zoo

"It's painted like a public toilets in the 1950s. You've got a Plimsoll line where you have one colour below and the other above - usually white or blue just to give Arctic colours I guess.

"I'm not sure whether they were there for the polar bears or the public."

He added: "In a way that's what I was playing on in Creature Comforts, the way we've built that environment which is pretty awful but the animals, like people, tend to accept this in a kind of strange way."

Bristol Zoo was set up in 1836 and records show its original investors included Bristol's most famous engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and the chocolate manufacturer Joseph Fry

In the early days, the ethos was to provide a zoological society for people to learn about the animal kingdom.

But by the 1970s the old Victorian animal enclosures were replaced with more spacious, natural environments.

Bristol Zoo stopped keeping many larger animals and focused instead on conservation, education and the protection of endangered species for future generations.

The Animal Magic Zoo is broadcast on Monday 11 July at 1900 BST on BBC One West and afterward on the BBC iPlayer. The programme will be repeated on 21 July on BBC Two at 1900 BST.

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