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Animated Pair’s Close Shave: Wild Ride in a NYC Taxi

October 21, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ It was the closest shave yet for film star Wallace and his canine pal Gromit: The clay puppets spent a full day locked in the trunk of a New York City taxi.

The two clay figures _ stop-action animated film stars adored in England _ were in New York City with their creator, Nick Park, to publicize the video release of their Oscar-winning film ``A Close Shave.″

The caper began Saturday when Park and his publicist Arthur Sheriff arrived at their hotel from the airport. A porter who carried in the luggage from their cab missed a battered, black 12-by-18-inch box containing the clay models of Wallace, Gromit and a motorcycle, Sheriff said.

The cab sped away with the models in the trunk as Park chased it for a block, unable to get a license number. They contacted police, taxi dispatchers and radio stations.

``I was resigned to not seeing them again,″ Park said. ``I thought, it’ll be a miracle if they do turn up.″

Then, on Monday morning, the taxi driver came to the hotel with the missing box, saying he’d heard the news report. He refused a reward, Park said.

``It’s given me a few ideas for a future film,″ said Park, an Englishman who has won three Academy Awards for his films featuring animated clay figures.

Wallace, an amiable if dim English inventor, and Gromit, his sensitive, underappreciated guardian, are beloved in Britain, their pictures on everything from T-shirts to magnets. Their disappearance made front-page news in the London tabloids.

The story could have come straight from one of Park’s films.

In ``The Wrong Trousers,″ which won the 1993 Oscar for best animated short film, Wallace and Gromit bring a sinister penguin to justice in a dizzy chase through their house aboard a toy train. In one breathtaking sequence, Gromit throws down segments of track one by one, just in time to accommodate the speeding car he is riding in.

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