The Wallace and Grommet Short Film “A Grand Day Out” Inadvertently, With A Single Joke, Saved Which Of These British Things?
Answer: Wensleydale Cheese
If you’re a fan of curious tales and coincidences, then we’ve got a treat for you today: a story of how a stop motion animator, a single word, and a cheese factory all came into alignment in such a way as to save the little cheese factory.
First, the animator: Nick Park. Mr. Park is the clever mind behind the much loved British stop-motion animation duo Wallace and Gromit—focused on the adventures of a man and his dog. In 1989, he released the short film, A Grand Day Out, in which the duo headed to the moon in search of fun (but mostly cheese). When they arrived and Wallace cut off a chunk of the moon to sample, he took a bite and—because he is ever the cheese connoisseur—announced with surprise, “Wensleydale?”
Why Wensleydale of all the cheeses in the world? You might assume that Mr. Park selected the cheese type because it was made in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, England, which happens to be in Northern England and in the general area where Wallace lives, but no, it wasn’t. He chose the cheese name simply because he loved the way Wallace looked when animated saying it.
Totally unbeknownst to Mr. Park, the sales of the cheese had been falling for years and the last dairy in Wensleydale itself was on the brink of closing. The appearance of the cheese in A Grand Day Out (and the two sequels, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave) prompted them to contact Park’s animation company, Aardman Animations, and ask for permission to license a special line of Wallace and Gromit cheese. The short films coupled with their popularity in Britain put Wensleydale Cheese back on the British cultural map and sales skyrocketed. Today, the dairies of Wensleydale employ nearly two hundred people and produce a wide variety of Wensleydale cheeses.
Image courtesy of Aardman Animations.