A Cannes day out for Wallace and Gromit

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The Independent Culture

Unfinished clips of the first feature-length film starring the much-loved animated clay heroes Wallace and Gromit were unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival, showing them battling to outwit a marauding giant rabbit wreaking devastation in vegetable plots.

Unfinished clips of the first feature-length film starring the much-loved animated clay heroes Wallace and Gromit were unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival, showing them battling to outwit a marauding giant rabbit wreaking devastation in vegetable plots.

As 30 animators work flat-out to complete Wallace and Gromit - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit in time for its premiere this October, their creator, Nick Park, brought his pint-size models to the Croisette at the start of a worldwide promotion. A 40ft statue of Gromit was unveiled on the seafront yesterday.

Fans of the tanktop-wearing Northerner and his hound, whose previous films, The Wrong Trousers, and A Close Shave, won dozens of awards including an Oscar apiece, have long waited for a full-length version of their adventures. It is being backed by Dreamworks, founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg.

In the new story, the pair found Anti-Pesto, a pest-control business, but find themselves facing an enormous challenge from the beast destroying vegetable plots across the neighbourhood to the dismay of gardeners entered in a giant vegetable competition.

New characters include Lady Tottington, Wallace's love interest, voiced by Helena Bonham Carter. But Wallace's rival for her affections is the dastardly, bloodsport-loving Victor Quartermaine, as brought to life by Ralph Fiennes. Peter Sallis is the voice of Wallace.

A battery of logic-defying machinery features in the plot with improbable action sequences such as those which generated much laughter in the other tales.

The story of Wallace and Gromit, who was first conceived as a cat but evolved into a dog, began life 23 years ago as a college project when Park was at the National Film and Television School. He completed his - and their - first film, A Grand Day Out, in 1991 after he had left the school and joined Aardman Animations in Bristol. It was nominated for an Oscar.

He followed with The Wrong Trousers in 1993 and A Close Shave a couple of years later, both of which won Oscars, and spawned a worldwide merchandising brand worth millions.

Jeffrey Katzenberg said he had been a fan since the days when he worked at Disney before leaving to start DreamWorks, and described the animated friends as "great stars".

But Peter Lord, who co-founded Aardman with Dave Sproxton, admitted making feature films was 100 times more difficult than shorter ones. "Everything is so much bigger," he said. "It's difficult to tell a story that works in 80 minutes."

The animators are working with 30 cameras on 30 sets. They can produce about three seconds of footage on a good day.

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