Britain Mourns Heritage Of Clay

Wallace and Gromit
Great Britain is in mourning for a bunch of lumps of clay

Well, it's not just any clay, and not just any lumps.

All in all, it was a bittersweet weekend for the Claymation characters Wallace and Gromit. Their family film, "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," topped the box office. But a warehouse fire that took a part of their past is being treated as something of a national cultural disaster in Great Britain, though fans are thankful that the main models for the current hit were in the safekeeping of their creator at the time. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports for The Early Show.

Wallace and Gromit may be relatively new stars in America. But the figures of Wallace and his sidekick dog, Gromit, have a long history in Britain. And now that history has gone up in smoke. A warehouse fire that housed the model figures, sets, and other production paraphernalia from earlier films has been destroyed.

"These things were important and dear to us — wonderful in and of themselves," said Peter Lord of Aardman Animations. "Yes, they can't be replaced. The good news is that, you know, nobody was hurt."

But gone are the first Wallace and Gromit figures used in the British film and TV show in which the stop-action technique was refined into an art form. It's a bit like losing the original drawings of Mickey Mouse. Sad, creators say, but in the grand scheme of things, not a catastrophe.

Said Nick Park, who created Wallace and Gromit, "It's all just some kind of sentimental kind of nostalgic stuff, so in the context of world disasters at the moment, the way people are suffering, it's not any great deal, really."

There's a glimmer of hope: A fire official says that although the warehouse was completely gutted, there is still a chance that some items inside survived.

Still, with their long-sought success in America and their loss back home, Wallace and Gromit are having a memorable week.