The clumsy inventor Wallace and his loyal dog Gromit have been gracing our screens for more than 30 years. Aardman Animation’s crowning achievement, Wallace & Gromit feel like it’s been a part of our cultural landscape forever, due in part to the unchanging stop-motion animation and the classic slapstick situations the duo put themselves in. There’s something so reliable about Wallace & Gromit — the duo always look the same, in their doughy claymation style and early 20th century sweater vests; they always get into outsized scrapes involving Wallace’s latest Rube Goldberg invention; and they always come out of their latest misadventure all right.
But Aardman is changing things up in a big way for Wallace & Gromit. The studio is introducing the first Wallace & Gromit augmented reality adventure with Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix-Up. That’s right, Wallace’s Rube Goldberg devices are about to get interactive.
Wallace and Gromit The Big Fix-Up Clip
Aardman Animations has dropped the first clip from Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix-Up, the duo’s first new adventure in a decade and the very first story told exclusively in augmented reality. Here is the synopsis for The Big Fix-Up, per The Hollywood Reporter:
In the new story, inventor Wallace and his faithful dog Gromit’s new business venture, Spick & Spanners, takes on a contract to “Fix-Up” Bristol, the city where Aardman is based. In the first clip, which debuted on Tuesday, work is piling up, so the duo embark on a recruitment drive in their “Spick & Span mobile.”
An AR Wallace & Gromit adventure almost feels like it’s against the very nature of the beloved British claymation icons. Even in the duo’s biggest blockbuster adventures, they’ve always been a bit quaint, with their slapstick antics a callback to silent film stars like Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. That’s what makes them so timeless, and allows Aardman to bring Wallace and Gromit back for more short films or features every few years and be greeted with just as much acclaim every time.
But we’ve all watched a Wallace & Gromit short and yearned to play with Wallace’s stupidly intricate Rube Goldberg machines, which have seen a surge in popularity since lockdown began. And an AR adventure would allow just that — we can tinker and make as many badly-made pancakes as we want in the interactive adventure, which will be available for fans to experience as a free download on supported Apple or Android smartphones.
The original plan for The Big Fix-Up was to even include a live-venue story component in Bristol, according to THR, but with the pandemic shutting down public spaces, that’s not a possibility. Instead, fans can explore the city center virtually through 3D mapping technology Fantasmo, which will render the city center in the app in a hybrid of stop-motion and CG technology. The team behind The Big Fix-Up, which includes British creative consortium Ficioneers, also partnered with Unity, which provided its MARS (Mixed and Augmented Reality Studio) toolkit, designed to help users create experiences that intelligently interact with a real-world environment.
“Wallace & Gromit’s heart and soul is in stop motion, but they often dabbled in the cutting-edge of tech, and this is one of those occasions,” Merlin Crossingham, Aardman’s creative director of Wallace & Gromit, and helmer of The Big Fix-Up, said. Crossingham added that Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park has also been involved in the project from the start and was “fundamental in getting Wallace & Gromit to feel comfortable in their new adventure.”
It’ll be bizarre to interact with stop-motion clay animation characters in a 3D rendered space, but for Wallace & Gromit, and the chance to play with Wallace’s inventions, it’ll be worth it. Amid this pandemic, it will also be the chance to safely explore (a digital version of) the London outdoors from the comfort of your home.
The free-to-download Wallace & Gromit AR app will be available for recent-model Apple iPhone and Google Android smartphones this fall.