Wallace and Gromit animators respond after ‘clay shortage’ sparks fears over fate of characters

Wallace and Gromit fans have spent the weekend worrying about the fate of production studios Aardman Animations after it was reported that the stop-motion animation studios were “running out of clay”.

The Bristol-based animation company behind British classics such as Shaun the Sheep and Chicken Run were said to be in their “time of knead” last week when The Telegraph reported that Aardman Animations had just enough clay to allow Aardman’s animators to create one more film, a forthcoming Wallace and Gromit animation due to hit the screens next year. It was suggested that the company would have to find a new type of clay if it were to continue.

Clay manufacturer Newclay Products ceased operations in March when its owners, Paul and Valerie Dearing, decided to retire and close their company. It was reported that there were fears over the future of the Aardman characters, since the Lewis Newplast clay, which is the material used by Aardman to create characters like the eccentric cheese-loving inventor Wallace and his loyal beagle Gromit, would no longer be available.

However, in a statement issued on Monday, Aardman reassured fans that there is enough clay to ensure that Shaun the Sheep, Wallace and friends can live on.

In a statement, Aardman said fans “absolutely no need to worry,” adding that it has “high levels of existing stocks of modelling clay to service current and future productions”.

Last week, the clay manufacturer director, Mrs Dearing, 67, told The Telegraph: “Aardman bought a lot of our remaining stock of Newplast to keep them going. They got what they said was two years’ worth. It came to about 40 boxes, which must have been around 400 kg.”

Her husband Paul said: “We ran the business for 16 years and it was thriving, but we couldn’t find anyone who wanted to take over the firm after we retired so we sold off everything.

“It’s always given us both tremendous satisfaction that Aardman used our product. They thought it was the best material of its type in the world.”

Clay models of Wallice and Gromit by Aardman Animations, photographed in 1996 (PA)
Clay models of Wallice and Gromit by Aardman Animations, photographed in 1996 (PA)

Bristol-based production company Aardman was set up in 1972 by Peter Lord and David Sproxton. One of their earlier characters, Morph, a small male figure made out of plasticine who speaks an unintelligible language and lives in a small wooden box, became a favourite children’s TV classic.

Aardman said in its statement that it has plans to transition to a new stock once its supplies of Newplast were finally used up.

“Much like Wallace in his workshop, we have been tinkering away behind the scenes for quite some time,” it said.”

The animation studios have had a busy few years and, presumably, have been using a lot of clay since a Chicken Run sequel, titled Dawn of the Nugget, will be released on Netflix on 15 December and it will release a new Wallace and Gromit film in 2024, premiering on Netflix and the BBC.