Fathers of Invention

Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit adapt to new roles as patron saints of gizmo creators from all over the world.

Gadgets, gizmos and fun contraptions have always played a big part in the Wallace & Gromit universe. So, it’s not surprising that when the folks at Aardman Animations decided to branch out a little in the live-action universe, they would create a show that highlights witty inventions from all over the world.

Titled Wallace & Gromit Present A World of Invention, the first season of the show is planned as a six-half hour package’and each episode will feature about two to four minutes of stop-motion animation. ‘We have been planning the new series for about a year now,’ says Miles Bullough, the show’s exec producer and head of broadcast at Aardman. ‘We were looking for a way to move Wallace & Gromit forward and keep them in the public mind, without the massive investment that comes with making another half-hour film.’

Each episode of the show will feature several live-action segments focusing on a variety of people and their quirky inventions all over the planet. Wallace and his brilliant pooch Gromit will do the intros to these light-hearted profiles. ‘The inventors are a mix of amateurs and professionals,’ notes Bullough. ‘We will travel to Japan, the U.S., Africa and Switzerland’it’s very international in scope. Although the show isn’t animated, it has that quirky touch people expect from Aardman. Our segments won’t focus on the latest micro-chips. The inventions are likely to be things that you can hold in your hand.’

While the show is overseen by Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park, it’s directed by Aardman regular Merlin Crossingham (A Matter of Loaf and Death, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit). The team will spend about three months shooting the live-action portions, then return to Bristol to work on the animation bits for four months (with eight animators). The show will be ready for delivery this fall.

‘I love the tone of the show,’ says Bullough, ‘I like the fact that it’s entertaining and informative and mixes history, culture, science and comedy. I think it’s got the potential to hit a wide audience. It’s not a kids’ show’it’s more of a family show, which is scheduled to air in the early evening on BBC1 here in the U.K.’

In addition to Inventions, Aardman continues its hugely successful stop-motion TV spin-offs of Wallace & Gromit, offering a new 26-episode season of Timmy Time (grand total: 72), and a 20-episode season of Shaun the Sheep (total count: 80 episodes).

Meanwhile Aardman’s feature division is also moving ahead with two eagerly awaited projects with Sony. Pirates! will be directed by Aardman founder and Chicken Run co-director Peter Lord and co-directed by Jeff Newitt. The movie is an adaptation of The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists, the first in a series of books by Gideon Defoe, who is also writing the script. The movie follows the misadventures of a band of cheerful pirates as they try to go for the Pirate of the Year trophy. Also on tap is the CG-animated Arthur Christmas, a clever look at Santa’s high-tech operations, directed by Sarah Smith and Barry Cook, based on a script by Peter Baynham (Borat) and Sarah Smith.

Although all of this news bodes well for the house of Aardman, Bullough says it’s still an incredibly tough market in the TV animation business in general. ‘It’s not getting any easier,’ he warns. ‘Broadcasters are really suffering because of the decline in ad revenue all over. On the positive side, Disney’s investment in Europe is something to be celebrated’it’s good for us Europeans. Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Disney continue to be reat partners for us, although we may not see things loosening up until 2011.’

Wallace & Gromit wouldn’t want us to leave you on a less-than-positive note, so Bullough hastens to add that a big exhibition and a variety of multi-platform online experiences are currently being planned for A World of Invention. It’s all going to be a cracking, fantastic new way of looking at contraptions.

For more information, visit www.aardman.com.