Posted July 1, 2017

Behind the Wallace & Gromit and Friends Exhibition

ACMI’s new exhibition, Wallace & Gromit and Friends, is causing quite the stir in Melbourne. Whether you consider yourself a claymation afficienado, or simply have a soft spot for the Aardman Animations characters, the exhibition brings to light all that’s involved in creating these miniature worlds.

We had a chat with ACMI Curator, Fiona Trigg, about what we can expect to see and how it’s come together in Melbourne.

What has your involvement been with the Wallace & Gromit exhibition?

I am a curator at ACMI arranging the exclusive Melbourne season of the exhibition Wallace & Gromit and Friends: The Magic of Aardman. I work as part of a small team who organise the safe transport of hundreds of plasticine characters, sets and drawing from Paris to Melbourne and then make sure they look as good as possible in our gallery. I also work closely with the Aardman Animations studio to make sure the exhibition has new material for Australian audiences.

Why do you think audiences connect so much with these characters from the Aardman Animations studio?

The characters have boundless energy and optimism, but also emotional depth. Aardman films and TV shows present a magical combination of excellent storytelling, dry British humour and visual gags, all unfolding in these gloriously detailed worlds created entirely from scratch.

What is Claymation and how does it work?

Claymation is animation made with clay (or in this case a special plasticine-like material) . Every set, character and prop must first be sculpted, and then filmed one frame at a time. The animators move the characters a tiny bit between each picture, essentially acting through their fingers. It’s a very slow process, with each animator making just a few seconds of film each day.

Have you got a personal favourite character?

Definitely Gromit the dog. He’s both funny and soulful, like the classic silent movie stars Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. He never speaks but you always know exactly what he is thinking. Plus, how can you not love a dog who knits?

What has been the hardest part of curating this exhibition?

Trying to find a really good joke that involves both plasticine and the concept of neuroplasticity. I know it’s there, I just haven’t found it yet.

Why is this a ‘must see’ event at ACMI?

Seeing the models of Aardman characters such as Shaun the Sheep, Wallace & Gromit, the Chicken Run chickens and many more up close and in detail, displayed on some of the original sets is a real eye opener and offers genuine insight into the incredible skill and hard work that goes into making these wonderful films. The studio was founded by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, who began animating together as 12 year olds, and still run the company today. I think the exhibition captures that spirit of independent creativity that is the hallmark of everything Aardman do.

Wallace & Gromit and Friends will be showing at ACMI from 29 June-29 October.