Nicolas Wulston Park CBE (born 6 December 1958) is a British stop-motion animator and director, best known as the creator of Wallace & Gromit and his various other works through Aardman Animations.
Park was born and raised in Preston, Lancashire, and began making Super-8 films when he was six, making Stop Motion Animation with clay and paper cutouts when it was obvious that the necessary tools for cel animation were too expensive. He attended The National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield in the early '80s, but ran out of time and money to complete his thesis film. (He was however an animator on Alison Snowden's Oscar-nominated short Second Class Mail.)
Aardman Animations hired him right out of school and helped Park finish his film while he worked on other projects, most notably the "Penny" cartoons for Pee-wee's Playhouse and Peter Gabriel's music video for "Sledgehammer", where he animated two dancing plucked chickens.
Park's thesis film, A Grand Day Out was eventually completed in 1989 and aired as a special on BBC to excellent critical and audience reception. Ever ambitious, he had managed to create a second short film, Creature Comforts, while completing his first. And if that weren't impressive enough, both were nominated for the 1990 Academy Award for "Best Animated Shorts" (Creature Comforts won). Park has since had a respectable career, including further installments of Wallace and Gromit and Creature Comforts.
In 2000, he had the honor of co-directing Aardman's feature debut, Chicken Run, with the studio's co-founder Peter Lord.
Films directed by Nick Park
- A Grand Day Out (1989; short)
- Creature Comforts (1989; short)
- The Wrong Trousers (1993; short)
- A Close Shave (1995; short)
- Chicken Run (2000; first feature film)
- The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005; feature film)
- A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008; short film)
- Early Man (2018; feature film)
- Untitled Wallace & Gromit film (2024)
Tropes applying to Nick Park and his work
- Affectionate Parody: Most of his work. Most of the Wallace and Gromit films are genre spoofs, while Creature Comforts was a parody of "man on the street-style interviews" (though considering all the interviews are real, it could be counted as both a parody and an straight example). Even A Grand Day Out, while not a direct parody, is heavily inspired by Jules Verne, Hergé, and Georges Méliès.
- Art Evolution: A Grand Day Out was made almost single-handedly by him, as is rather crude-looking as a result. Once he had a whole staff to help him, the models became better-constructed and his characters developed broad, banana-shaped mouths to make animating vowels easier.
- Author Appeal: Alfred Hitchcock, crazy-ass machines and... knitting.note
- Black-and-White Morality: His protagonists are often very likable and easy to cheer for while the villains are very intimidating and quite threatening.
- Break the Haughty: Anguish is surprisingly common in his films, almost always in the form of the Only Sane Man reaching the end of their rope and breaking down in tears.
- The Comically Serious: He describes his comedic style as "comedies that don't tell you that they're comedies," as most of his films are based around incredibly silly concepts taken dead-seriously.
- He Also Did: Directed the music video for "Plain Song" by Native and The Name. Park and frontman Joe Rose had long been family friends beforehand.
- Nice Guy: Wallace and Gromit are both good-natured and lovable characters. Nick Park himself is a gentle, shy, and nice guy.
- Only Six Faces: While not too bad at this, his character designs have such distinctly common features (small eyes close together, wide, banana-shaped mouths, bald) that it's common for ignorant viewers to assume that every project he's created it a Wallace and Gromit installment. This is most apparent in A Close Shave, where Wendoline is literally just Wallace in a wig. Nick apparently made a conscious effort to avoid this in the more densely-populated The Curse of The Were Rabbit, resulting in a Cast of Snowflakes. Supposedly, when Peter Lord first saw the hairy designs he gave the cavemen in Early Man, his first reaction was "My god, he's finally given them hair!"
- Signature Style: His characters are instantly recognizable for their banana-shaped mouths and eyes a little too close together. Most of his films are Comically Serious genre parodies loaded with background gags.
- Self-Deprecation: The man loves his British stereotypes.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Heavily idealistic. While his films know when and how to play up drama, their main purpose is entertainment.
- Technology Porn: Cool-looking machines are a personal favorite of his. Most famously are Wallace's absurd inventions, which are often described as "trying to crack a walnut with a sledgehammer," and the pie machine from Chicken Run.
- Visual Pun: He appears to love to do background visual jokes. For example, in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Wallace is naked and picks up a box to cover himself that reads "may contain nuts"
- There are a ton of them when Dug walks into the bronze city in Early Man.