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UK's 'Wallace

Written by: Staff

LOS ANGELES, Mar 6 (Reuters) Britain's best-known animator, Nick Park, won the best animated feature Academy Award for ''Wallace&Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit'' -- the fourth time the plasticine duo have been honored.

''Wallace,'' distributed by DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc, is based on a well-loved British cartoon featuring a cheese-loving inventor and his silent dog.

Park and his co-director Steve Box festooned their golden statuettes with oversised striped bow-ties to match their own shortly after taking the stage. ''We just happened to have these,'' Park joked.

''Crackers and cheese, Gromit!'' Box said, in a reference to Wallace's favorite snack.

Backstage Park said: ''The great thing about animation is timing. You can really control timing. Gromit is silent, but he got the best lines.'' In October, a fire in an Aardman Animation warehouse in Bristol, southwest England, destroyed hundreds of Wallace and Gromit models from previous films -- a day after the film debuted at No 1 in North America.

In their first full-length film, the pair take on a mutant rabbit bent on destroying the town's annual Giant Vegetable Contest hosted by Wallace's secret love, Lady Tottington.

Peter Sallis reprised his role voicing Wallace, Ralph Fiennes played the evil Victor Quartermaine, and Helena Bonham Carter provided the voice of Lady Tottington.

Park previously won three Oscars in the short film category with works featuring the famous duo -- ''Creature Comfort'' in 1990, ''The Wrong Trousers'' in 1993 and ''A Close Shave'' in 1995. He was also nominated in 1990 for ''A Grand Day Out.'' ''Wallace&Gromit'' performed strongly overseas but failed to catch fire with American audiences for a boxoffice total of 184 million dollar worldwide.

Park once said that he mastered his unique brand of stop-motion animation using plasticine figures because he ''wanted to be like Disney, trying to film with plastic cels, but it was all too expensive.'' REUTERS VJ RAI0759

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