Nick Park

27th April 2007 at 01:00
An English teacher encouraged the young animator to show his films in school - not just to his family and the budgie.

School got in the way really when I was a teenager. I was doing so much when I was 13 or 14. All my holidays and weekends were taken up making animated films and creating storyboards. I just couldn't tell the teachers what I did. I didn't think they would be interested because it wasn't academic.

I loved The Beano, loved art and making things. Animation was a hobby I did at home from about 12. Mum and dad had a cine camera, which was good for animation because it took single frames and I could move either a plasticine figure or a puppet. I didn't have any equipment so I was finding ways to do things. My dad was always in the shed making things that I'd asked for. And I'd be making scenery.

I went to St Cuthbert Mayne High School in Preston and had lots of friends.

School was a good place to go. I remember my friends telling Mr Kelly, my English teacher, that I made films at home and he said immediately: "You must show them to the school". He got me enthusiastic to show other people.

Before it had just been to my family and the budgie.

Michael Kelly was so encouraging. I loved writing stories, particularly if they had fantastical things or comedy in them, and he encouraged me to do that. I think I was in his class in the second year.

He was probably about 40 then and I loved his classes. He encouraged everyone with ideas. I don't think I was very academic, even in English, but I loved to use my imagination, which is why I didn't do very well in exams. My grammar wasn't that good, I wasn't technically good but Mr Kelly was fine with that. He was not a model for Wallace - I think that was my dad. None of my teachers ended up as models.

I did show my films in the school hall. It was in my last week of school, the week after the exams and everyone did whatever they wanted to. I had just got a phone call from the BBC to say I was a runner-up in its young film-makers' competition. I was 16 and thought, "I've made it". It was like winning Pop Idol. It was nice to leave school and think I was on the springboard. I had no idea of the years of work ahead.

That school audience was my first big audience. The film was very simple, naive and out of focus, but people liked it. That was when I realised I could make people laugh. I remember just one school report. It said:

"Nicholas needs more interests", yet at the time I was making films, entering them for competitions on Screen Test, the BBC children's show, being the home captain for volleyball. My mum was infuriated by that report. It was not from Mr Kelly.

I didn't realise it was possible for a boy from Preston to get into TV or the film industry, until the sixth form when I found there was a course in film-making. I didn't know how you went about it. It was not on the agenda at careers evenings. But I knew what I wanted to do, so I felt very lucky.

I've seen Mr Kelly since over the years. He turned up at a talk I gave and I saw him when I went back to the school about 10 years ago. I heard from a friend he hadn't been very well. I hope he's better now.

Nick Park is an Oscar-winning animator famous for creating Wallace Gromit and Creature Comforts. He is promoting Cracking Ideas, a UK Intellectual Property Office-backed scheme to bring innovation into key stage 2 lessons.

Visit He was talking to Susan Young Get your pupils animated. See page 58.

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