Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

ACMI stars Wallace & Grommit

Photo: Courtesy Aardman.

Myke Bartlett, Wallace & Gromit star in ACMI’s The Magic of Aardman, The Weekly Review, June 2107

It’s surprising where a little plasticine and a lot of patience can take you. Britain’s long-running Aardman Studios first won fame with a series of short stop-motion animations featuring the appropriately named Morph, who could transform his clay body into anything and everything. These days, Aardman is best known for loveable duo Wallace and Gromit, whose adventures form the basis of ACMI’s newest exhibition.

ACMI director Katrina Sedgwick says she fell in love with the exhibition when she first saw it in Paris. But she was already an Aardman fan of some years standing – and has the cat to prove it.

“We showed our boys A Grand Day Out and, when my eldest son was four, he was allowed to name our cat,” Katrina says. “He named this beautiful brown Burmese Wallace and Gromit. He’s called Gromit for short.”

In an age when kids are spoiled for computer-generated spectacle, the lure of Aardman’s slightly quaint approach to animation might seem something of an oddity. Katrina says much of this appeal is down to the warmth, cheekiness and humanity with which the studio imbues its eccentric characters. But, equally, they’re appealing for the very fact that they weren’t built in a computer. Wallace and Gromit actually exist, on display here alongside studio-buddies such as Shaun the Sheep.

In an age when kids are spoiled for computer-generated spectacle, the lure of Aardman’s slightly quaint approach to animation might seem something of an oddity. Katrina says much of this appeal is down to the warmth, cheekiness and humanity with which the studio imbues its eccentric characters. But, equally, they’re appealing for the very fact that they weren’t built in a computer. Wallace and Gromit actually exist, on display here alongside studio-buddies such as Shaun the Sheep.

“One of the most beautiful things about Aardman is everything is a physical object,” Katrina says.

“There’s so much to show. One of the displays is almost a cabinet of curiosities, where you get to see these incredibly detailed objects the animators have created for antique shop sets – exquisite little clocks and tea cups. You have to be impressed by the skill of it, they’re artisans as well as artists.”

Studio founders David Sproxton and Peter Lord will be at ACMI for the exhibition launch and will even run a couple of workshops designed to help budding animators get started. After all, there’s something particularly inspiring for kids about the simple, if painstaking, nature of stop-motion animation.

“It’s something that anybody can do with whatever is at hand,” Katrina says.

“To do it at the Aardman level requires many years of training, obviously, but with the technology we have now, you don’t need a film studio. You can do stop-motion on your smartphone.”

Wallace & Gromit and friends: The Magic of Aardman: ACMI, June 29-October 29, $15-$24, acmi.net.au

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2020
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