It might have been an existential question for the creators of the beloved stop-motion animation characters Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep: What would happen if they ran out of clay?
Fans spent the weekend worrying about the fate of Aardman Animations when the British newspaper The Telegraph reported that the studio, based in Bristol, England, would be facing its “hour of knead” after the only manufacturer of the special clay used in its creations had closed its doors earlier this year. Having bought what it could, The Telegraph reported, the studio had enough clay left to make only one more film, a new “Wallace and Gromit” feature coming next year.
But no, the studio’s foundations are not crumbling. Aardman Animations said on Monday it had plenty of clay to keep molding.
Fans had “absolutely no need to worry,” the studio said in a statement. The studio has “high levels of existing stocks of modeling clay to service current and future productions,” it said.
The manufacturer of the clay, Newclay Products, announced last month that it had stopped selling its products in March. The company had become known for Lewis Newplast, a Plasticine beloved by animators that is malleable enough to mold but strong enough to keep its shape during filming. Newclay Products did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But its directors, Paul and Valerie Dearing, told The Telegraph that they were retiring and had decided to close the company’s doors after they couldn’t find anyone to take it over. They said Aardman had bought about 400 kilograms, or almost 900 pounds, of the remaining Newplast stock.
More than a ton of modeling clay is ordered for each of the studio’s feature films, and about half that is used to shape the characters, according to modelers for Aardman.
Aardman on Monday sought to reassure fans, telling them that once its supplies of Newplast were gone, it had plans to transition to new stock.
“Much like Wallace in his workshop, we have been tinkering away behind the scenes for quite some time,” it said, referring to the eccentric inventor who is one of Aardman’s most beloved characters.
The studio is famed for its signature Claymation style, producing hits such as the “Wallace & Gromit” franchise, the spinoff series “Shaun the Sheep,” and the 2000 film “Chicken Run.”
A sequel, “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget,” is set to be released on Netflix on Dec. 15, and the studio will also release a new “Wallace & Gromit” film in 2024, premiering on Netflix and the BBC.