The much-loved inventor Wallace and canine companion, Gromit.
Sadly, a fire has destroyed the warehouse of Aardman Animations in Bristol, west England early this morning and claimed much of its animation past.
Thankfully nobody was in the building, but most of the company's history has been lost. Sets and props from 'Chicken Run' and the first 'Wallace and Gromit' shorts are believed to have been consumed by the fire. CNN had this to report:
"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," Aardman spokesman Arthur Sheriff said. "It's turned out to be a terrible day."
Sheriff said the warehouse contained sets, props and models from the company's productions, from the children's cartoon character "Morph" through the Oscar-winning, anthropomorphic "Creature Comforts" series to the Wallace and Gromit films.
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.
You can read more at the CNN article and Bloomberg U.K. site at this link.
Word also comes from BBC News that all is not lost...
"I'm pleased to say Nick Park's original 'A Grand Day' out rocket, that he built by hand, is safe and sound," Mr. Sproxton [company co-founder] says. "It's very close to him."
Park's three Oscars for Wallace and Gromit and Creature Comforts were also elsewhere.
The clay characters themselves are not kept after filming because they disintegrate, and the Aardman film studio is in a different part of the city and so is unscathed.
The original film and negatives are stored in a humidity-controlled vault at a different location and the sets from the current Wallace and Gromit feature film, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, were also elsewhere.
and regarding the studio's future...
Although the company's history may have gone up in smoke, its future is still looking rosy.
"The fire doesn't really affect future productions because even the Wallace and Gromit sets tend to be built almost from scratch for each film that we do," Mr. Sproxton says.
My best wishes to the entire animation studio and staff in recovering from this disaster. Now get out there and see 'Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit' at your local theater!
As a note of interest: Not only did the studio create award-winning shorts and feature films, but also the much celebrated 'Sledgehammer' video for musician Peter Gabriel. Find more of their history at the official website.
Update: December 11, 2005 - The Big Cartoon Forum has posted an article on the cause of the blaze. It's believed that the fire was started by an electrical fault with an appliance.
Image courtesy of Aardman Animation Studios.