October 10, 2005

UK blaze destroys Wallace and Gromit’s history

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - All the props and sets from the Wallace
and Gromit movies were feared destroyed in a fire on Monday,
the day after the plasticine pals' debut feature film went
straight to the top of the North American box office.

Production house Aardman Animations said a blaze at a
warehouse in Bristol, western England, was thought to have
wiped out its entire history, including models, memorabilia and
awards from the Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit short films.

"We woke up to the most fantastic news this morning that
'Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit' had debuted in
the United States at number one," said company spokesman Arthur

"But this has really thrown us," he added. "It's our entire

Sixty firefighters battled flames 100 feet high that
engulfed the warehouse at around 5.30 a.m. on Monday, causing
the roof to collapse, a fire service spokeswoman said.

"It looks like most of the contents of the building have
been destroyed," she said, adding the cause of the blaze was
under investigation.

Wallace and Gromit are the creations of animator Nick Park,
who was also the brains behind the 2000 animated feature film
"Chicken Run."

He was said to be philosophical about the fire, saying it
was put into context by the massive earthquake in Pakistan.

"Nick has been on the phone and while this is devastating,
in light of the other news he has been hearing on the radio, it
is immaterial," Sheriff said.

Park's latest chart-topping film revolves around intrepid
inventor Wallace and his faithful canine sidekick Gromit. The
adventure sees the pair using a complex vacuum system to
protect vegetables from a rabbit problem in their village.

The film took $16 million in its first three days of
release in North America, more than movies featuring the likes
of Cameron Diaz and Jodie Foster.

Aardman Productions, established in 1976, was also behind
"Morph" -- another plasticine figure whose adventures on BBC TV
won an army of young fans -- and helped make the celebrated
video "Sledgehammer" for singer Peter Gabriel.

Sheriff said although all archive material could be lost,
the fire should not affect the company's future productions.