Triumphant return to Beaconsfield National Film and Television school for Nick Park

(L-R) Nick Park, NFTS director, Jon Wardle and Julian Nott
(L-R) Nick Park, NFTS director, Jon Wardle and Julian Nott

Wednesday night was a celebratory evening for the  National Film and Television School (NFTS) in Beaconsfield, where Wallace & Gromit writer Nick Park returned to where it all began.

To celebrate 30 years of the iconic British duo, Wallace & Gromit, guests were treated to a question and answer session with Nick Park and composer, Julian Nott.

Nick Park looks over the NFTS students redesign of the 'A Grand Day Out' space rocket

Nick Park looks over the NFTS students redesign of the 'A Grand Day Out' space rocket

The night began with a performance of Wallace & Gromit's 'Musical Marvels', where Wallace & Gromit created a new musical show, complemented with new scenes created by Aardman.

The plot follows the usual capers of the two unlikely inventors, as they look to air Wallace's new composition, " My composition in Ee, Lad",

Guests were then treated to a showing of Wallace & Gromit, 'The Wrong Trousers' with a full orchestral accompaniment from The Picture House Orchestra with the musicians dressed as some of the nation's favourite Wallace & Gromit characters.

This was followed by a Q&A session with Nick Park and Julian Nott hosted by NFTS Director, Jon Wardle.

6 NFTS graduates who worked on Nick’s graduation film, 'A Grand Day Out' were present at the show.

Nick Park said: "It's incredible to be back. It's changed a lot, for the better!

"It brings back a lot of happy memories for me, when I started as an animation student. I was one of two stop motion animation students, the first at the school I think.

"I remember it wasn't really highly regarded as an art form back then. I remember a writing tutor told me at the time it was a bit whimsical, and I agreed.

"It was just parts of things I loved, Tin Tin and adventure stories, just things I loved as a child.

"I worked in different techniques since I was 12, but somehow got pulled towards stop motion. I was taken by the way you could be so expressive with the clay, it had a certain magic to it.

"Wallace evolved from sketchbooks at art school in Sheffield, I got a lucky placement on Dark Crystal at Borehamwood - to see what they were doing and how they achieved it was really inspiring.

"Gromit was originally going to be a cat - but a dog was much easier to make out of clay!

"I feel like these characters are family, I'm in the early days of thinking of new ideas, we've definitely got more stories to tell!"

Nick revealed that 'A Grand Day Out' took seven years to perfect.

He also won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film for The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and has three times picked up an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for Creature Comforts, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave.

He has also directed the movies Chicken Run and most recently the prehistoric comedy Early Man.

Nick talked about the difficulty of the stop motion craft.

He said: "It's so easy to write words. There was one sentence in the script, “now Wallace and Gromit build a rocket”, which took a whole year to film!"

A Grand Day Out was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 1990 Oscars, but it lost to Creature Comforts, another stop motion animated short film made by Nick Park and Aardman, released in the same year.

Julian Nott spoke fondly of his memories with Nick at the School, and it was actually complete chance that they ended up working together.

Julian said: "Nick was a bit of a mystical student. You're supposed to stay for about three years but I think he was here for about ten! We were introduced by accident after another composing student Nick approached was unable to do the job because he was busy. I think he still regrets it to this day!

"The music came in when the film was almost finished. Nick's main note was for the music to feel like it came from where Wallace came from, so we thought brass bands, with trumpets. It was to be Wallace's music - We would have loved a live brass band but unfortunately had no money for one! We managed to persuade the then director at NFTS to give us some money which got us five classical musicians and we put their sound on top of some cheap primitive synthesizers

"When we got to ‘The Wrong Trousers’ we had 40 musicians and recorded at Abbey Road!"