Triumph and Tragedy for Wallace and Gromit

A fire in Bristol, England, on Monday may have destroyed much of the original work by the creators of the animated movie characters Wallace and Gromit. The fire broke out at a warehouse owned by Aardman Animations. It came on the same weekend that their latest movie opened, and won the weekend box office race, in the United States.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

"Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" was the number one box office draw this weekend, but the success of the clay animation film has turned bittersweet for its creators. A fire broke out today at a warehouse that stored many of the film's original drawings and models. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has details.

ELIZABETH BLAIR reporting:

Nick Park, who created "Wallace & Gromit," kept most of his original materials at a warehouse owned by his company, Aardman Animations, in Bristol, England. Today's fire may have destroyed models, story boards and props for such films as the three "Wallace & Gromit" movies and "Chicken Run."

(Soundbite of "Chicken Run")

Unidentified Man: Oh, that's jumpy, that is. What is it?

Unidentified Woman: It's a time machine, you idiot. Chickens go in, pies come out.

BLAIR: Aardman Animations' marketing director Sean Clark says nothing from the new "Wallace & Gromit" movie was at the warehouse, but it did house some of those very early Nick Park models.

Mr. SEAN CLARK (Marketing Director, Aardman Animations): They're made from a sort of a mixture of materials from plywood, and they're all hand-painted and handcrafted. So they have all the detail in that you may have seen in the movie. But what we tend to do is we don't keep the plasticine characters because they don't last very long. Their arms will fall off or lighting or cold will affect them. So we actually create resin hard copies of those characters to use in various exhibitions to try to replicate what you seen on the screen.

BLAIR: The fire is believed to have started early this morning. Sean Clark says while the material inside the warehouse wasn't being used for films, it represents 30 years' worth of work.

Mr. CLARK: Most of these sets are used for exhibitions and then sort of marketing events, so it doesn't impact our business going forward. It's just--you know, it's just what we've collected over the years, historically really.

BLAIR: An investigation into what caused the fire is under way. Meanwhile, box office estimates for the opening weekend of "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" are more than $16 million. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

SIEGEL: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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