Aardman and Fictioneers launch an augmented reality Wallace & Gromit story

Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up debuts at AWE 2020. Fans are invited to enter Aardman’s augmented world via a mobile app. 

Wallace & Gromit, the famous comedy duo in claymation world, celebrated their 30th anniversary last year. The comedy series is created by Aardman Animations, based in Bristol, UK. In partnership with award-winning animation studio Aardman, Fictioneers has announced a new Wallace & Gromit story The Big Fix Up—an all-new outing for the duo, with the usual drama, adventure, and laughs, but in augmented reality this time. Scripted by team at Aardman, The Big Fix Up introduces a brand new way of experiencing a Wallace & Gromit story, and a chance for fans to become a part of the rich narrative. Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up is currently expected to launch in the UK for mobile devices this Autumn, with a global release set to follow.

Fictioneers is a consortium of British companies including Potato, Sugar Creative, and Tiny Rebel Games, with research support from the University of South Wales. It was chosen by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of the Audience of the Future program, which is a key part of the Government’s Creative Industries Sector Deal announced in March 2018. The consortium has been awarded a multimillion-pound R&D grant to explore and pioneer cutting-edge immersive experiences.

Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up is a collaborative experimental project using innovative and accessible ways of telling an augmented story. The goal is to combine technology with traditional storytelling to deliver new and exciting augmented stories in realtime through the Unity engine.

Wallace and Gromit are some of the most beloved animated characters in the world. The Big Fix Up is their first incursion into augmented reality. The story revolves around Wallace and his faithful dog Gromit’s new business venture, Spick & Spanners. They have taken up a contract to “Fix-Up” Bristol. As the work is piling up, the duo embarks on a recruitment drive in their “Spick & Span mobile.” Their fans are welcome to register their interest at www.thebigfixup.co.uk.

Fans will be invited to download a free app and play along at home, as an employee, and for the first time ever, be able to step directly into the world of Wallace & Gromit.

As his employees, Wallace will ask fans to undertake many types of jobs, such as landing and launching his rocket, playing with the techno trousers, etc. (Source: AWE keynote)

The Big Fix Up is set in the city of Bristol, but people from all across the UK will be able to take part in the full end-to-end adventure, which will see Wallace, Gromit, and an exciting cast of new characters appear in their very own homes! Initially, it was supposed to include a live-venue story component in Bristol, but due to COVID-19, the production team scanned only the city center. 3D mapping platform Fantasmo helped bring together a city-scale augmented reality experience, which will see Bristol city center come to life at home.

The story will play out in a variety of different types of media, to tell the beats of a story: multi-user AR gameplay, new CG animations, in app phone calls and audio guidance, digital comic strips, extended reality (XR) portals, gamification like job, contraptions, rewards, etc. All brought together in a mobile app, used as a ‘window’ into their world. The story is an entirely home-based experience, accessible to all with a recent compatible smartphone.

Jamie Innes, Creative Product Lead at Fictioneers, shared the latest details on the project as part of Unity Technologies’ keynote at Augmented World Expo 2020. He says, “our goal is to immerse users in Wallace and Gromit world, taking them on realtime, interactive, and narrative journeys.”

MARS simulation view helps in iterating the content while testing it in a variety of unique environments. (Source: AWE keynote)

This project is having a very important focus on research, therefore Fictioneers has sought out the most cutting-edge AR technologies and partners to realize its ambitions. In order to create the hybrid of claymation and CG production, the team partnered with Unity, to work with MARS (Mixed and Augmented Reality Studio) product and AR Foundation toolkit, designed to help users create experiences that intelligently interact with a real-world environment. MARS helped give intelligent and dynamic behavior to the characters. The placement of AR content could be changed easily. Using MARS simulation view, the team was quickly able to iterate the content while testing it in a variety of unique environments, without making a single build.

Aardman’s Merlin Crossingham, Creative Director of Wallace & Gromit, said, “Aardman is a multi-faceted creative studio and is just as happy with classic filmmaking as it is with new and emerging technologies. Wallace and Gromit’s heart and soul is in stop motion, but they have often dabbled in the cutting-edge of tech, and this is one of those occasions. We are delighted to join forces with the amazing folk at Fictioneers to take Wallace and Gromit on a new adventure in such a groundbreaking way.”