They met in the back of a British classroom when they were just 12 and never expected their hobby would one day be a global phenomenon.
For Peter Lord and David Sproxton, it was simply enough to build worlds and be creative with their animations and clay moulds.
But 40 years later, their Aardman Animations powerhouse — which includes fellow creative Nick Park and is responsible for Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep — is still exciting kids and adults.
Gromit was originally going to be a cat before his creator, Nick Park, changed his mind. (ABC News: Patrick Wood)
“There was one empty desk left in the classroom. I sat down next to [David] … and after a few years we decided to experiment with animation,” Lord told News Breakfast.
“We were hooked very early on and very slowly, step by step turned it into a career, amazingly.”
Sproxton adds: “At the basic level you can do it on your kitchen table.”
Peter Lord and David Sproxton are in Australia ahead of an exhibition at ACMI. (ABC News: Patrick Wood)
Wallace and Gromit lived in Park’s sketchbook for years before first hitting TV screens in 1990 and becoming a cultural hit.
It spawned a series of short films and TV series and led to other stop-motion features like Chicken Run and The Pirates.
Shaun the sheep was originally a side character to Wallace and Gromit before capturing fans’ imagination. (ABC News: Patrick Wood)
Lord and Sproxton are in Melbourne for a series of events and workshops at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and will open a special exhibition of their work — Wallace & Gromit and Friends — that showcases four decades of animation.
But Sproxton revealed the famous duo of inventor Wallace and his faithful dog Gromit was originally very different.
The ACMI exhibition has a number of displays featuring Wallace and Gromit mid-action. (ABC News: Patrick Wood)
“Gromit was originally a cat in one of Nick’s early sketchbooks but he realised we don’t have the same relationship between a man and a cat as we do between a man and a dog,” he said.
“And cats aren’t quite as loyal as dogs are and that’s the unbreakable relationship.”
Going back to their roots
Riding the highs of international success eventually meant fielding offers from the big US studios and taking their small operation to a much larger scale.
But making a feature film like The Pirates came at a cost.
“The whole team had to grow by 100 per cent,” Lord said.
“I hate to use the word, but you have to get slightly industrial about it and what we do is so handmade and intimate.
“So that was difficult, but it worked for us.”
Now, however, the pair has decided to focus their attention back on their Bristol, UK centre.
“There was a kind of pressure. Ultimately I think that’s why we moved away from the American studios,” Lord said.
Aardman Animations has created a whole suite of characters off the back of Wallace and Gromit. (ABC News: Patrick Wood)
“I understand that they want a big commercial success in their own territory. We want the success too, heaven knows, of course we do.
“But we believed in staying true to our roots — that’s important to us.”
The ACMI exhibition will run from June 29 to October 29.