In a café, a notice invites lonely hearts to sign up to Carbon Dating.At a Bronze Age market, the butcher sells Jurassic Pork, and on the way to the stadium, you pass a zebra crossing made of real zebra.“Hognob sometimes reacts the way Gromit does, although Hognob is closer to a happy puppy than Gromit, and Dug is a lot younger, and he isn’t an ideas man like Wallace.”Peter Sallis, the actor who brought genial eccentricity to the voice of the cheese-loving mild-mannered inventor Wallace, died in June last year.He and Park had worked together since 1983, when Park offered him £25 to add a voice to his student film, after seeing Sallis as Clegg in Last of the Summer Wine.“But there are probably more parallels with FIFA making money out of the beautiful game here than anything else.”“In fact, at one point we did ask Tom Hiddleston to do an English voice, just to see if that would calm things, and take away a sense of a particular political stance.But an English villain felt too obvious and typical. Even Studio Canal said, ‘Oh, it’s a pity you lost the French accent.’ So we changed it back again.”Park is not a massive football fan himself, but there are in-jokes scattered throughout Early Man for the faithful.
Signs of Park’s exuberant love affair with puns are everywhere.At the time Park merely hoped the accent would fit Wallace, but Sallis was an even greater influence on the shape of his character: “Something about the way he said ‘cheeeese’ gave me the idea that Wallace’s mouth should be wider than his face.”“It’s very sad to have lost him,” says Park.“He was always funny off-mic, as well as on.” However this does not necessarily mean the end of Park’s much-loved creations: “I always have a lot of ideas for Wallace and Gromit, and many of them have yet to reach the screen so I do see a future for them.He’s now 59, and although he has won four Academy Awards and five BAFTAS for Creature Comforts , The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Chicken Run, he remains both boyishly self-effacing, and prone to the nervous laughter and trailing sentences of a shy teen.
This is the first Park-directed production since Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death a decade ago, and when I visit Aardman, it is tribal hive of activity.
The feature-length Chicken Run was an extended spoof on prisoner-of-war pictures.