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Interview with animator, Nick Park

17 April 2015 | Laura Stevens

Aardman animator, Nick Park, sat down with London Calling to talk about his cartoons that have gone on to become national treasures and international superstars.

You may have noticed some unusual creatures popping up at London’s tourist hot spots. With sticking out ears, boggling eyes and a little cute crop of hair, the animals are instantly recognisable as one of Britain’s most loved cartoon characters. It seems that Shaun the Sheep has run amok and escaped to the Big Smoke!

But, something remains rather different about the current herd grazing across the Capital. These are not the normal black and white Shauns, but instead celebrities, designers and artists have decorated 120 five foot sculptures of Shaun and dotted them all around iconic places in London. And to round them all up you can walk the Shaun in the City trail!

Following a map you can chase Shaun all around London, and the trail will culminate in a public exhibition and charity auction to raise money for sick children in hospitals. With a similar art trail, Gromit Unleashed 2013 in Bristol, raising £2.3 million for Bristol Children’s Hospital, it is hoping that Shaun will “raise the baaaar – so to speak”.

Chuckling at his pun, creator of Shaun the Sheep, Nick Park CBE spoke with incredulity at the fundraising success of the campaign: “It is amazing for me to think that the real Shaun is about four inches high, so to see him that big is incredible.

“It’s wonderful because two summers ago we did Gromit Unleashed and that was amazing – the way people responded, the way the artist painted them and the money raised was great.”

Shaun in the City sees Shaun given a makeover by some very famous fans. Two particular favourites of Park’s are model David Gandy’s dapper suited and booted Shaun and designer Zandra Rhodes’ stunning pink Shaun.

However, while Shaun is now currently struggling to keep his famous friends at bay when being broadcast in 170 territories, this was not always the case.

“It’s taken a few years to take off – it hasn’t been an overnight success.

“It’s just gone from one thing, when there’s a success you never know how long it’s going to say in there, so it’s amazing how things keep going from strength to strength.”  

This humility characterises Park’s approach to Shaun’s international fame, along with affection at how a “helpless little character” became a heroic and loved figure. His love for animation and attachment to his creations is clear: “It’s like seeing your children doing well. I see them on magazine covers, and that’s nice for them.

“It’s good they’ve got their own lives now.”

With Gromit Unleashed seeing 1.2 million visitors take part, it is hoping that London’s version will raise even more money for Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Charity to distribute to hospitals nationwide. To join the flock and help Shaun on his way round up your friends and find the sheep across the city!

Shaun in the City runs from 28 March to 25 May. For more details go to their website.

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