Happy Birthday to Nick Park, the 4-time Oscar award-winning animator who turns 60 today. The English writer and director is best known for his claymation creations of Wallace and Gromit, and Shaun the Sheep—and his 2000 film Chicken Run became the highest-grossing stop motion animated film ever. Nick began filmmaking at age 13 with his mother’s home movie camera—and, like his father, he became an amateur inventor.The amazing characters of Wallace and his dog Gromit, often use their wild inventions to take them on equally wild adventures.

Three of those films won Academy Awards and belong on anyone’s ‘must see’ list: The Wrong Trousers (1993), A Close Shave (1995) and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005). The tantalizing short film Creature Comforts won Nick his first Oscar, after he lip-synced the voices of English people over interviews with claymation zoo animals complaining about not having enough open spaces and sunshine in the UK. WATCH that 5-minute masterpiece now… (1958)

Nick in 2005, by Sam Felder, CC license

Park’s recent work includes an American version of Creature Comforts, and a weekly CBS television series in which Americans were interviewed about a range of subjects, then lip-synced to his iconic animal characters. For 2018, he directed a similar stop-motion film, titled Early Man, which tells a story of a caveman who unites his tribe against the Bronze Age while unintentionally inventing football.

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • American abolitionist Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery (1849)
  • The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was signed, which formally abolished slavery in the nation (1865)
  • The Washington Post newspaper was first published (1877)
  • The aluminum capstone, the largest single piece of aluminum cast at that time, was set atop the Washington Monument, the world’s tallest stone structure, to officially complete the memorial obelisk in Washington D.C. (1884)
  • 100 years ago today, Finland declared its independence from Russia (1917)
  • The American jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, whose quartet produced the first million-selling jazz single, Take Five, was born—and their album Time Out was one of the best-selling jazz LPs of all time, with Paul Desmond, the sax player who wrote the hit donating all his profits to the Red Cross (1920)
  • A US judge ruled James Joyce‘s novel, Ulysses, was not obscene (1933)
  • A group of 10th-graders from Israel arrived in New York to help in the ongoing clean-up efforts after Hurricane Sandy (2012)

And, on this day in 1964, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the animated stop-motion Christmas special, was first broadcast on television. The beloved Rankin/Bass production chronicles the bullying endured by Rudolph (at reindeer school) and a misfit elf Hermey, who wants to be a dentist.

Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer-RankinBass
Fair use

They run away from home–but towards trouble. The show introduced endearing Christmas characters and iconic songs to the holiday lexicon, like Silver and Gold, and Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. Filmed entirely in Japan, the show’s original characters include Rudolph’s love interest, Clarice; the antagonistic Abominable Snowman, a loud, boisterous prospector named Yukon Cornelius; and, as narrator, the anthropomorphic Sam the Snowman, voiced by Burl Ives.

Also, on this day in 1947, the Everglades National Park in Florida was dedicated—the first U.S. national park created to protect a fragile ecosystem. Visited by one million people each year, it is the third-largest US national park outside Alaska. The “River of Grass” wetlands cover 2,357 square miles (6,100 sq km) and contain the largest mangrove habitat in the western hemisphere.

By Marjory Stoneman Douglas, NPS, CC license

In 2000, the US Congress voted overwhelmingly to approve a $7.8 billion project to restore the Florida Everglades and undo a half-century of human impact. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Florida, called the plan “the biggest environmental restoration project in the history of the world.” ENJOY a 3-min video tour on the anniversary…

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