Aardman Animations' HQ up in flames

Fire gutted Aardman Animations’ warehouse in Bristol, England, on Monday, destroying props and sets from several of its claymation films, including “Wallace & Gromit” and “Chicken Run,” Aardman’s first feature-length release.

Three floors collapsed after fire broke out at 5:30 a.m.; a cause has not been determined.

With a $16 million opening weekend, DreamWorks/Aardman’s “Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit” landed on top of the domestic box office over the weekend.

Sets and props for “Were-Rabbit” were unaffected, as was the company’s film archive. But sets from Wallace & Gromit shorts “A Grand Day Out,” “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Close Shave” were destroyed.

Aardman spokesman Arthur Sheriff said the fire “had nothing to do with the studio. It was a storage warehouse on the other side of Bristol.”

Location is, however, where public tours are conducted.

Sheriff said, “Everything from ‘Morph’ to ‘Chicken Run’ has gone. All the sets, all the props, a lot of the models and particularly the storyboards. When any director works on one of our projects, the storyboards have a lot of comments on them, and we save them for exhibition purposes. It is devastating.”

W&G creator Nick Park said, “Even though it is precious and nostalgic stuff — and valuable to the company — in light of other current tragedies in the news, it’s not a big deal.”

“Were-Rabbit” took $5 million in previews on Oct. 8 and 9 on home turf. It opens wide Friday in the U.K.

Aardman was founded by Dave Sproxton and Peter Lord in 1976. Studio has a five-picture deal with DreamWorks, though “Were-Rabbit” is not part of that deal, because Aardman exclusively owns the rights to the film’s characters, which debuted in a series of acclaimed shorts.

DreamWorks had no comment.

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