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WALLACE AND GROMIT:
THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT

Model Performances
In any animated film, the characters' performances belong as much—or more—to the animators as to the actors providing the voices. That is especially true in the world of stop-motion animation, where the animators spend countless hours bringing inanimate puppets to life, bit by infinitesimal bit.

The process begins with the design of the puppets themselves. In their short films, Wallace & Gromit rarely encountered other human characters, but that was not to be the case in their first feature film. Model production designer Jan Sanger and her team were charged with the design and creation of an entire neighbourhood of both people and animals of assorted ages, shapes and sizes. In addition, because the characters' hair and clothing are molded and hand painted on each individual puppet, the modelmakers also had to serve as a de facto costume designers and hairstylists—albeit for clients with decidedly eccentric tastes.

Park offers, "The central characters of Wallace & Gromit were already established, but there were many more townspeople involved in the story. We had a great team building the models for about 40 additional characters in the film, including Victor and Lady Tottington. It was a lot of work designing those two characters, especially Lady Tottington, who needed an entire wardrobe of dresses. There were some pretty heated debates about which dress she would wear in what scene,” he admits laughing.

Sanger says, "It was very interesting having Lady Tottington and Victor come on the scene, because they are flamboyant and it allowed us to introduce another dimension to Wallace & Gromit's world. They were fantastic characters to work with. Victor is quite pompous and has his own agenda for what to do with the rabbits. We generally had him in his safari hunting outfit, which leaves no doubts about his intentions. And Lady Tottington: with her grace and elegance, we spent a lot of time looking through fashion magazines to create a wonderful costume range for her.”

Sanger reveals that Wallace's flirtation with the posh Lady Tottington even had an influence on his all-too-familiar wardrobe. "Wallace sets out to charm Lady Tottington, so we managed to get him out of his green vest and into a new zigzag patterned vest. Obviously, we had to work closely with the directors to get just the right zigzag vest, so we went through several stages of designs on that one.”

Each of the puppets has essentially the same construction, beginning with a metal armature, which acts as the character's skeleton. Obviously, there are variables based on size and whether the character stands on two legs or four legs or, as in the case of Gromit, whichever suits him in the moment.

The model department then molds each puppet using a special blend of Plasticine, nicknamed "Aard-mix,” which is slightly more durable than ordinary Plasticine. Audiences who remember Aardman's first feature film, "Chicken Run,” will notice a distinct difference in the puppets used in "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.” Where the chickens had a smooth exterior, the models in this film were intentionally designed to retain the irregular appearance of clay, in keeping with the tradition of the Wallace & Gromit shorts—to "see the thumbprints,” as Nick Park was often heard to say.

Peter Lord expounds, "You can see the fingerprints. It tells you that they are real; they are tangible. Luckily for us, our audience has always appreciated that personal touch.”

"It's that slight imperfection that gives it that handcrafted look,” David Sproxton adds. "I think when something is handcrafted, you register that it was made by somebody with love and care.”

Every character had to be duplicated in different poses and in various costumes—some more than others, depending on how many scenes he or she was in. For example, there were 35 versi

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