LISBON – It takes 24 tiny mouths made out of modeling clay to make just one character that features in the long-running beloved British export “Wallace and Gromit.”
Visitors to the Portuguese capital Lisbon now have the chance to see the popular putty stars created by Aardman Animation studio in real life as part of an exhibition entitled “A Magia dos Estudios Aardman” (“The Magic of the Aardman Studios”).
The characters are “as famous as if they were flesh and bone actors,” the exhibition’s curator Fernando Galrito told EFE.
The exhibition, showing until April 21 at the Puppet Museum, offers an incredibly detailed look into the behind-the-scenes world of the studio that made the 2000 hit “Chicken Run.”
In November last year, Aardman Animation, based in the southwestern English city of Bristol, announced it was handing over ownership of the company to its employees in what its co-founders said would make it fit for success in the coming decades.
It was no mean feat for those who have made Wallace and his dog, Gromit, one of animation’s most beloved duos for 30 years.
The pair, considered a national treasure in the UK, makes a regular appearance in the BBC’s programming, drawing big audiences, with viewers tuning in from living rooms in all corners of the country.
“Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” (2005) took the 2006 Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.
“The idea is always to show the makers a little bit. People know the films, but often know little about what goes on behind each film,” he added.
Besides the characters themselves, visitors can see objects used in their creation, such as storyboards, the design work that goes into making them, according to Galrito.
“We have the mouths and we understand how they speak, the changes in different facial expressions,” he added.
Other items on display were a string that T-shirts hang from in Ginger’s (one of the main chickens in “Chicken Run”) bedroom, Gromit’s biscuits and the flowers that feature on a 20 centimeter-long (7.8 inches) bedspread.
Eight scenes from various films have also traveled to Lisbon, as well as 47 characters, some from the studio’s latest work, including “Early Man” (2018), which tells the story of Dug, a man from the Stone Age, who has to defend his home from a Bronze Age army.
The makers of Wallace & Gromit use the stop motion technique, which involves manipulating the clay figurines, and while it is not unique to Aardman the studio has used it in such a way that makes it completely its own.
“There’s a specificity, not only on the side of creating the characters but in the way they are animated, there’s a kind of philosophy behind their films, which is their style,” Galrito said.
The work of the studio “is very hard to imitate,” according to Galrito, which means Aardman has been able to maintain its own identity, style and win over the hearts of the public.
“It’s not enough to tell a story, you also have to stir emotions inside the viewer, and I think Aardman always did this very well and it’s still doing it,” he added.
The exhibition takes place alongside the 19th edition of the MONSTRA animated film festival, which takes place until March 31 and of which Galrito is the artistic director.