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Wallace and Gromit Studio Loses History 246

TheFarmerInTheDell writes "CNN is reporting that the Aardman Animations building in Bristol, home of Wallace and Gromit, has been destroyed by fire From the article: 'Today was supposed to be a day of celebration, with the news that 'Wallace and Gromit' had gone in at No. 1 at the U.S. box office, but instead our whole history has been wiped out'"
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Wallace and Gromit Studio Loses History

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  • APB (Score:5, Funny)

    by sielwolf ( 246764 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:37PM (#13758811) Homepage Journal
    Be on the lookout for a penguin with a rubber glove on its head.
  • by Shads ( 4567 ) *
    ... Good movie, I'm sorry to hear everything is gone. :(

    I guess that's murphy :/
  • Backup (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stian Engen ( 758718 ) <stian@@@kjellerstua...net> on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:38PM (#13758823) Homepage
    And that is why 11 out of 10 firemen recommend off-site backup! How do you backup clay btw?
    • You can keep copies of finished figures at multiple locations, but it's better to keep duplicates of all drawings/prints used to develop the figures, thus making it possible to recreate all the figures, as needed.
    • very very slowly...

      -everphilski-
    • Re:Backup (Score:5, Informative)

      by quakeslut ( 107512 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:05PM (#13759015)
      actually you can't back up clay at all:

      From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4326624.s tm [bbc.co.uk]
      The clay characters themselves are not kept after filming because they disintegrate...

      • Re:Backup (Score:5, Funny)

        by CheeseTroll ( 696413 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:25PM (#13759152)
        Aren't clay sculptures preserved by firing them, as in a kiln? Sounds like some characters were making an attempt at self-preservation!
        • Firing clay figures (Score:5, Informative)

          by pbhj ( 607776 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:31PM (#13759620) Homepage Journal
          I'm a bit of a beginner with this type of thing but ... the only general fire figures I could come up with put burn temperatures below 700C. Granted the commercial setting and open space of a warehouse probably promotes fast burning.

          Earthenware is fired to 1000C (roughly 1700F, I think). It seems that the temps reached may not be enough to properly fire the pieces. Also there's the quartz inversion point at about 570C - heating too quickly up to this point could be disastrous.

          I also doubt that the pieces are wedged properly to remove air (as they aren't intending to fire them) and so explosion with the air expansion is likely.

          Finally ... I thought they used plasticine!

          Plasticine (aka "modelling clay") melts when heated, FWIW.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasticine [wikipedia.org]
          http://www.vanaken.com/howclay.htm [vanaken.com] (note "melting them in a large vat")

          • by dcuny ( 613699 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @06:05PM (#13759883)
            Many of the characters you think of as being plasticine are actually foam latex, or a composite (ie: only the face being plasticine). For example, Morph is 100% plasticine, Wat (from "Wat's Pig) is a composite, with a more traditional foam latex body and clay hands.

            (This is true with a lot of things you might consider being "clay" animation. For example, Klayman from "The Neverhood" was a foam latex character in most of the shots).

            You can get more details in the Aardman book "Cracking Animation: The Aardman Book of 3-D Animation" (in the US it's labled "Creating 3-D Animation : The Aardman Book of Filmmaking"). You can see some really wonderful sets and minatures there - it's really a pity that it's been lost.

            To answer someone else's question, plasticine is an oil-based clay, so it won't dry out. That also means you can't fire (harden) the material as you could with traditional clay.
      • Re:Backup (Score:5, Funny)

        by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:29PM (#13759176) Homepage Journal
        The clay characters themselves are not kept after filming because they disintegrate...

        Point this out to a kid next time you watch a claymation-type feature.

        Hey kids! Gumby's dead!

        I think the child development experts call this a "teachable moment".
      • Re:Backup (Score:5, Informative)

        by steve_l ( 109732 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:45PM (#13759304) Homepage
        I actually got a tour of the studio when they were doing the filming for The Wrong Trousers, which is where I learned their dirty secret: There is more than one gromit.

        They were filming different scenes in different parts of the studio, with different copies of Wallace and Gromit in each one. So they are truly expendable: cloned for the filming, discarded afterwards.
    • Re:Backup (Score:4, Informative)

      by hyu ( 763773 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:10PM (#13759047)
      You don't. The clay would disintigrate. According to the BBC, they didn't have their studio burn down, but their storage warehouse for things like storyboards and wooden sets that they used. That is the stuff that got burned. They've lost their original Wallace & Gromit storyboards.

      The actual film prints for their work are located at another site, and their studio itself is at a completely different one.
    • Re:Backup (Score:3, Informative)

      by jo_ham ( 604554 )
      I know you joke, but this /is/ their off-site backup facility.

      The studio is unaffected.
  • Fire bad... (Score:4, Funny)

    by RedBear ( 207369 ) <redbear@red b e a rnet.com> on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:39PM (#13758834) Homepage
    Wait, I thought the fire was supposed to come after the /.ing, not before...

    Joking aside, this is pretty sad. But I'm sure they'll be back on their feet in no time and making new stuff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:40PM (#13758835)
    An e-mail sent this morning to all the subscriptors of the Aarmand website:

    On the day that Aardman celebrate a chart-topping opening weekend in the US with
    Wallace & Gromit 'The Curse of the Were-rabbit', news of a fire at our storage
    unit in Bristol has been devastating.

    The facility used to store sets, awards, and historical artefacts, is not a part
    of the Aardman studio, and we are glad to report that no Aardman staff have been
    affected. However, we have lost a number of irreplaceable storyboards, awards,
    props and pieces of film memorabilia from our 30 year history.

    None of the material from the new Wallace & Gromit film 'The Curse of the
    Wererabbit' was in storage at the time, but we have lost many original sets from
    Chicken Run, Creature Comforts, and the three Wallace & Gromit short films, that
    were used for reference and toured around the world for exhibition.

    This will not in any way affect existing or future Aardman productions as 100%
    of sets and props are purpose built for each production.

    Wallace & Gromit 'The Curse of the Were-rabbit': http://www.wandg.com/ [wandg.com]

    • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:04PM (#13759010) Journal
      Not wanting to sound like an ass, let me make the following pre-comment caveats:
      - I love Nick Park's work
      - I own all the videos/DVDs of his films, including Creature Comforts on compilation
      - I can't wait to see whatever else his fertile brain imagines.

      But, having said that, is this so much a tragedy? The storyboards, the sets - why are we saving all that crap? Isn't the work itself the treasure, not necessarily the tools used to make it? I mean seriously, Shakespeare was great, but would we want to have saved every piece of parchment he scribbled on? "Oh look, here's the backdrop of the setting which hung outside the prop window on his One-Act play which only showed one night and then closed because it sucked!"

      The artworks themselves are treasures. The other stuff is honestly refuse, unless they seriously plan to use them again. Extrapolated further, in 50 years we're all going to be posting our bitter comments on Slashdot from rooms hip-deep in "priceless memorabilia" (Reese Witherspoon's earrings from Legally Blonde XVII, the dorsal fin worn by a stuntman from Jaws III, etc.). Eventually we'll have to develop the technology to build dynamic-foundation skyscrapers on the mounds of movie-memorabilia that cover the countryside....
      • by yali ( 209015 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:21PM (#13759111)
        I don't think Nick Park would completely agree with you, but he certainly has a healthy perspective on this. From TFA:
        Wallace and Gromit's creator, Nick Park, said the earthquake in South Asia helped put the loss into perspective.

        "Even though it is a precious and nostalgic collection and valuable to the company, in light of other tragedies, today isn't a big deal," he said.

      • An animated movie isn't an island. You can learn how things were done in previous shows by actually looking at how they did it. Digging into the storyboard, layouts, sets, etc. can be very helpful. During the movie if artists needed to see what Wallace's bedroom looked like previously, they didn't have to look at the DVD and try and construct a 3D model in their minds--they could actually go and look at the sets used in the previous shows. Blueprints, too, I would imagine. Then there is the world of li
      • For the folks that work there, I'm sure this hard to take. Remember, they probably have a long history of the location, they lost lots of awards and other physical assets including the sets that were used in four movies.

        I would imagine that some of these sets might have been re-used in the future, had they not been destroyed.

        Moving making, espedcially using claymation is much more physical than programming. If my office burned down tomorrow, I'd need the offsite backup take restored onto a new server, a new
      • by john82 ( 68332 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:32PM (#13759203)
        I mean seriously, Shakespeare was great, but would we want to have saved every piece of parchment he scribbled on? "Oh look, here's the backdrop of the setting which hung outside the prop window on his One-Act play which only showed one night and then closed because it sucked!"

        First off, your example is not going to make your argument. IF such a thing from Shakespeare existed, I have no doubt that collectors would pay through the nose for it. Sotheby's would make a small fortune from the auction comission alone.

        However Nick Park noted that, "in light of other tragedies, today isn't a big deal". I would have thought they had reused some of the props (like the insides of Wallace's house). Instead, they state that each was "purpose built" for their respective films.
      • I think the worth is relative. For example, I own a few original animation cels that I consider extremely valuable. If I lose them in a fire, I will be upset and the loss would cause a certain amount of grief for me. Is it as bad as the tragic loss of life in natural and unnatural disasters we see on the news? Certainly not. I'd trade all my cels if I thought it would save lives, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't miss my cels. The loss of these "treasures" in fire is tragic because they had value, some
      • by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:43PM (#13759290)
        With this crowd, you can provide perspective by asking "how would you feel if the original storyboards from the three original star wars movies were destroyed by fire, along with the original models of the millenium falcon, et al?"
      • by arloguthrie ( 318071 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:52PM (#13759339) Homepage
        And Leonardo DaVinci's notebooks were nothing but pieces of parchment that he scribbled on, too.

        For many artists, process is often more valuable than the finished product. As a graphic design student, I find seeing the sketches and previous versions of some of the designers I admire very illuminating. Paul Rand famously provided his clients with process books (including one client [wikipedia.org] notable to /.). This isn't about eBay fodder -- this is about the process and development of an artist. Should future animators wish to learn from Nick Park's storyboards, they'll have to look at his later work. And that's very sad.
      • don't say that too close to some Star wars/star trek/ghostbusters/whatever movie fans. they get rabid about some obscure piece of fodder from the sets and fawn over owning some random piece of crap one day at an extremely high price.

        "This is the cloth they were going to use for darth vader's cloak but changed it before shooting... it's very rare."

        "I paid $390.00 for this roll of toilet paper stolen from Wil Weatons trailer when they were filming the last episode with him in it on location! it's very very r
      • ...a great deal of the production art from the classic Warner cartoons aka "Termite Terrace" aka Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies era would be gone. The standard operating procedure at animation studios was to wash and reuse cels...Clampett would sneak out the occasional cel, the occasional sketch, etc. and keep them. It is only since the 1960s that there was any care taken to preserve the ephemeral art that were by-products of animation production.

        Who's to say that an original set from Chicken Run or The
      • Well, why keep the source when you have a working app?
      • As someone who's lost his office and everything in it to a fire, let me tell you - it smarts. The decades of data that you painstakingly helped to collect, even though you've written a few papers out of it, are worth countless human hours, blood, sweat and tears. They may still have a use, and they're worth a lot to you and your colleagues. To see them senselessly destroyed takes a few days to get over.

        Of course, when you put it into perspective of the bigger human tragedies in the world, it suddenly see
      • I mean seriously, Shakespeare was great, but would we want to have saved every piece of parchment he scribbled on?

        For centuries, historians and literary scholars have longed for hard evidence of how Shakespeare worked or what his literary background was. Unfortunately:

        "with the possible exception of a few pages of Sir Thomas More, a play that Shakespeare may have helped write, no manuscripts of Shakespeare's survive [ise.uvic.ca]. The only certain evidence we have of his handwriting is his signature."

        Our knowledg

  • by MikeyTheK ( 873329 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:40PM (#13758841)
    Since The Wrong Trousers made an appearance at a shorts festival, I've been a fan. The good news should be that the clay figures should be ok evermore now that the heat has turned them into...ceramic...
  • arson? (Score:3, Funny)

    by matt4077 ( 581118 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:41PM (#13758848) Homepage
    It's either the smurfs or a rabbit from the Isle of Man.
    • Isle of Man? Don't you mean Portland, where the cement comes from?

      Never mind, to cheer you up, a pair of clever sods have just shown that Dark Matter is just an epicycle and that Einstein was more right than you could ever imagine.

      Darn, there goes my Nobel Prize :-)

      • Cement doesnt come from Portland, its just named Portland cement because the effect it was used to create was that of well used stone from Portland in the Victorian times. Here endeth the history lesson.
        • Darned spoil-sport!

          Just like the folks who applied GR to galactic dynamics.

          If it hadn't been for those pesky meddling kids, we'd have been selling snake oil for years to come.

    • Re:arson? (Score:4, Funny)

      by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:00PM (#13758990) Homepage
      It's either the smurfs...

      I put my money on the Smurfs. An airstrike [spiegel.de] has already been launched in retaliation.

    • Just after the fire broke out, eyewitnesses heard a high screechy voice proclaim "It's a surprise! Yuck! Yuck!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:41PM (#13758853)
    Maybe a pyromaniac is burning all the animation studios in alphabetical order?
  • From TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by proverbialcow ( 177020 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:41PM (#13758856) Journal
    Wallace and Gromit's creator, Nick Park, said the earthquake in South Asia helped put the loss into perspective.

    "Even though it is a precious and nostalgic collection and valuable to the company, in light of other tragedies, today isn't a big deal," he said.


    Good to hear that Nick Park is so well-grounded.
  • by Excen ( 686416 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:43PM (#13758871) Homepage Journal
    . . . that Wallace and Grommit are Pottery?
  • Argh. That's not all Park said.
    Wallace and Gromit's creator, Nick Park, said the earthquake in South Asia helped put the loss into perspective.

    "Even though it is a precious and nostalgic collection and valuable to the company, in light of other tragedies, today isn't a big deal," he said.

    Historic things were lost, yes, but still, they were only *just things*.

  • That will teach Wallace and Gromit to partner with the Madagascar Penguins leading in with a Christmas Caper short. Heard one of them talking about 'boom now?' just the other day.
  • Overkill (Score:5, Funny)

    by g0bshiTe ( 596213 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:52PM (#13758941)
    If the critics didn't like it a simple it sucked would have sufficed.

    They didn't have to resort to arson, unless they felt that Wallace and Grommet are really that evil and must be destroyed at all costs.


    Keep the faith guys, from the ashes will rise a phoenix.
  • They're pissed that a claymation took top spot over some crappy cookie cutter film and that they didn't need to hire an "actor" at 7 digits to draw a crowd.

    Oh, the humanity!
  • by OSXpert ( 560516 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:54PM (#13758953)
    This is what happens when you beat Captain Malcom Reynolds at the Box Office. I imagine investigators will reveal that the cause of the fire was a "Crazy Ivan" Gorram claymation.
  • by settsu ( 839887 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:54PM (#13758955)
    ...was there no preventative measures in place to protet the irreplaceable memorabilia?!
    • ...was there no preventative measures in place to protet the irreplaceable memorabilia?!

      Would have been tough, I imagine. I mean, sprinklers would have caused about as much damage. And I doubt anyone considered specially designing a special fireproof storage room for the purpose.

    • I feel bad for them, but...was there no preventative measures in place to protet the irreplaceable memorabilia?!
      It's only recognized as such now, because there was another hit movie. In 2 years, if the next movie flops, it'll be back to the fire that destroyed regular collectible trash. Some people thought Chicken Run was good, some like W&G, I do not belong to either populace. I'm glad there's perspective from Mr. Park.
    • Yeesh, they had a roof to protect them from water damage, but then that wound up keeping the water out that would have put out the fire! You can't win!
  • by OgGreeb ( 35588 ) <og@digimark.net> on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:04PM (#13759013) Homepage
    Halliburton will announce they have received a FEMA no-bid $10 billion dollar contract to rebuild a devastated chicken farm in England.
  • Some are saved (Score:4, Informative)

    by Renesis ( 646465 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:08PM (#13759038)
    This was only their storage unit and not their main offices which are near the docks, so there at least there was no chance of anyone getting hurt.

    Plus I talked to someone there today and they said that some of their best sets are already out on loan for exhibitions, so those "off-site" backups are safe!
    • The studios are actually out Aztect West way, if you're going to picky. The offices on Gas Ferry Road down by the docks are mainly admin and CGI stuff, with a couple of studios for small projects.
  • by elgatozorbas ( 783538 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:18PM (#13759087)
    Police are on the lookout [guidetocinema.com]
  • A shame (Score:3, Informative)

    by MrNemesis ( 587188 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:22PM (#13759122) Homepage Journal
    I've been a colossal fan of Wallace and Gromit ever since I first saw A Grand Day Out when I was in my early teens, and I'm quite saddened by this loss. I know that, as far as things go, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference to Aardmann as a company, but... the prospect of me owning a piece of genuine W&G on-set memorabilia has now diminished quite considerably! Whilst their financial value may have been little, it's very sad to hear that remnants of some of the best animation I've ever seen no longer exist.

    As an aside, I saw a preview screening of the Were-Rabbit this weekend (first time I've been to the cinema in over a year and I noticed that the Federation Against Copyright Theft are now busy telling all and sundry that using a camcorder will land you in jail for 10 years) and it's well worth a watch. Humour "for all the family" (i.e. it's not dumbed down toy marketing fodder purely for kids) and the wealth of visual puns and arcane geekery will have any seasoned /.'er with a sense of humour stifling a giggle or two. As an even more OT aside, it's a pity that the USA doesn't have Wendsleydale cheese as readily available as we do here in the UK!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @04:38PM (#13759248)
    First the great library of Alexandria, and now this???

    Let's hope Western Civilization can withstand the blow.
  • Wallace and Gromit meet the Brothers Quay.
  • Wikinews story (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
  • Well, maybe this is the solution to promoting fresh new content instead of allowing studios like Disney to live entirely by rereleasing old content.
  • by ediron2 ( 246908 ) * on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:04PM (#13759426) Journal
    I had a house burn down once, and the thing that ended up being most useful afterward was a videotape showing inventory and carefully showing irreplaceable stuff like a portrait photo of my great grandfather.

    If only Aardman had taken the time to create a video archive of all these props and objects... something like a movie...

    erm... nevermind.

    (Especially on grim days like today, I really miss Emily Latella. And Nick Park's classy reaction to this personal catastrophe impressed the hell out of me. Thanks, Nick.)
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <.moc.nozakeeg. .ta. .guodpoons.> on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @01:58AM (#13762580) Homepage
    The loss of the Wallace and Gromit material is just one instance of a much larger process of history destruction that goes on continuously. More than half of all the movies ever made have been lost forever, because they mouldered away in vaults and filing cabinets instead of being out in free circulation, their owners hoarding them on the chance that one day they might produce profit, or forgetting them entirely and letting them crumble away. Simple neglect can be as destructive as fire or any other disaster.

    As Intellectual Property rights are strengthened, this type of loss is going to happen more and more. Rights holders will have tight control over the distribution of "their property," even to the extent of disabling it whenever they want. Fewer and fewer unmonitored copies will exist, and more and more material will be simply yanked out of circulation because it competes with something newer that somebody wants to sell.

    I collect Old Time Radio shows from the 1940s and earlier. Thanks to our Congressmen-for-hire, these shows and ALL audio recordings made before 1972 are still copyrighted, and will remain so until the year 2067. Theoretically the only legal copies are those kept by the rights holders. Ironically, most of the shows that still exist have survived only through the illegal activities of a diehard fan community. Most old time radio shows were never intended to be heard again. They were recorded only so they could be retransmitted later to different time zones, or simply so the studio didn't have to be in the same building as the transmitter. Most were destined for the trash, or sometimes already in the trash, when they were rescued and taken home by radio station engineers and the like, later to be copied to tapes, CDs and mp3s over the years, and sold/traded/handed out to other collectors. These "pirates" have kept this material alive for decades while the original rights holders in most cases did absolutely nothing. These old shows may not be great literature, but they do provide an invaluable record of popular American entertainment during one of the greatest times in our history, showing us what average everyday people thought was funny, interesting and frightening at that time. You can't get that sort of thing out of a book, and we wouldn't have it today if everybody had played by the rules.

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