Wallace & Gromit and classical music meet up in a new collaboration which brings them to the Brighton Dome on March 30 – a magical combination overseen by creative director Merlin Crossingham.
The show Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels is on the road after a highly-successful debut at the BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall last summer – a family entertainment which sees the audience invited behind the scenes as Wallace prepares to perform his Proms commission My Concerto in Eee Lad.
Specially-filmed Wallace & Gromit animated scenes reveal the duo’s backstage exploits as the Aurora Orchestra keep the audience entertained with classical favourites. Following the interval there will be a special screening of the multi-award winning Wallace & Gromit film A Matter of Loaf and Death with the soundtrack performed live.
“Many many moons ago, the National Youth Orchestra asked us at Aardman Animations if they could have permission to play a live orchestral accompaniment to The Wrong Trousers,” Merlin recalls. “It was great. We started talking and one thing led to another before we knew it, we were talking to the Proms to have a show with BBC Worldwide. The more we thought about it, the more it seemed a good idea. We just found ourselves doing it and it premiered at the Proms last year.”
As for why it worked, Merlin says the answer is similar to the answer to the question why Wallace & Gromit are so popular: “From our point of view, it is just that the appeal is so broad. It is very much a safe and warm and lovely family environment.”
Merlin is now in his 17th year with Aardman, having started out as an animator, Merlin initially worked on TV commercials and Morph shorts, before taking the roles of key animator on the feature film Chicken Run and second unit director on Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of The Were Rabbit. He also co-directed the Creature Comforts USA series for CBS, for which he gained an Emmy nomination.
Since then, Merlin has focused on directing Wallace & Gromit at Aardman, being promoted creative director for Wallace & Gromit in 2009 - a labour of love at every turn.
Behind the flow of Wallace & Gromit is clearly a painstaking attention to detail that surely requires the greatest of patience? No, not according to Merlin.
“You need patience when your mind is elsewhere or idle. When you are working on the animations, there is just so much to do. The animator is getting the actual physical presence on screen. That’s where the life blood comes from, especially with Gromit who does not speak.”
When you step up to direct, obviously, it is the broader perspective that you have to take in terms of pacing - a process helped by the fact that essentially you make the story twice, kicking off with a basic comic strip with temporary sound, against which the flow of the final product can be judged.
“You get the idea in screen terms and then you take a bit of a leap of faith! That’s where the magic comes in.”
And then the public gets to enjoy it in that unique Wallace & Gromit style. As Merlin says, you can take so many different things from them both and their relationship. The children can enjoy the slapstick; the adults can see in the pair shades of a married couple. ”
Ticket prices start at £15 and are on sale at www.wallaceandgromitmusicalmarvels.com.