New Wallace and Gromit AR app offers ‘new form of storytelling'

Aardman says the technology, increasingly available in smartphones, is allowing them to create new types of stories and experiences.

A new Wallace and Gromit adventure uses augmented reality to create a “new form of storytelling”, its creators have said as the story launches as a free app.

Wallace & Gromit: Big Fix Up is available on iOS and Android and tells the story of the famous pair’s latest venture to clean up the city of Bristol using their contraptions.

Combining mini-games, computer-generated animation and interactive storytelling, the app sees players become part of the team at the duo’s firm Spick & Spanners, helping them fix and clean up the city in a real-time adventure that takes place over several weeks.

Wallace and Gromit creator Aardman Animations worked with AR specialist Fictioneers on the app, which also features the voice of Miriam Margolyes as in-game virtual assistant Beryl.

Miriam Margolyes
Miriam Margolyes (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Augmented reality, where virtual images are combined with a view of the real world to make it appear as if the two are interacting, has become increasingly common in recent years, particularly in mobile devices. Apple added a special sensor to its iPhone 12 last year which improves augmented reality experiences.

Finbar Hawkins, creative director at Aardman, said the studio was always interested in “telling stories differently” and had wanted to explore how that could be done with a smartphone.

“Aardman is all about looking for innovative ways of storytelling,” he told the PA news agency.

“We were very excited about bringing Wallace and Gromit into this set-up because they’re engineers – they make things and they’re always tinkering – so it really fitted in with the fact that we’ve got all these wonderful new toys to play with, especially in terms of something like the augmented reality aspect.”

Wallace & Gromit: Big Fix Up app
The app includes traditional Wallace and Gromit animation as well as augmented reality (Aardman Animations/PA)

Mr Hawkins said the main thrust of the experience is about fun, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, with the app and augmented experiences designed to work well at home.

“Ultimately it’s about enjoying yourself,” he said.

He added the rapid advance of new technology meant Aardman would continue to experiment, but storytelling would remain at the centre of what it does.

“That’s what it comes down to – Big Fix Up has got all this wonderful shiny tech in it but it is a traditional story structure that happens over three acts, and that’s really important to us,” he said.

“There’s innovation, but there’s also the principles of storytelling.

“It’s just very interesting times at the moment, because of the evolution of devices, and what’s being built into those that just affords us a different means to tell a story each and every time.

“We’re up to all sort of tricks and the Big Fix Up is certainly a big piece of that and we’ll be exploring other ways that we can be telling stories with augmented reality over the next couple of years, I think.”

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