Veteran British actor, Peter Sallis, best known to all of us animation fans as the voice of the lovable inventor Wallace, of Wallace and Gromit fame, has passed away on June 2nd, at the age of 96.
Sallis has been a beloved character actor in the UK for years, having gotten his start in theater the 40’s, including a role opposite Judi Dench, as well as playing Watson in a Broadway musical adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, called Baker Street. He also had roles in many British adaptations of classic monster movies, including Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Werewolf; and of course, as with most British actors, Sallis had a role in an early Doctor Who serial, as the scientist, Penley, in The Ice Warriors, the serial that introduced the titular classic villain to the series.
His role in Doctor Who was far from his only role in British television though, as he had his biggest, and longest running, live action role, as Norman Clegg, in almost 300 episodes of Last of the Summer Wine, from 1973 to 2010. This was the role that I knew him best for, as my family watched Britcoms every Saturday night on Iowa Public Television, and Last of the Summer Wine was one of my favorites.
Sallis’ first big role in animation was in a stop motion adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, as the character of Rat. This series ran from 1984 to 1988, and was eventually used as the basis for a spin-off series called Oh, Mr. Toad, which ran for a single season in 1990, in which Sallis reprised his role.
Sallis’ best known voice acting role came in 1983, when a student named Nick Park wrote to him and asked if he could record some lines for a character in a short film he was working on about an eccentric inventor named Wallace. Sallis agreed, as long as Park would make a £50 donation to his favorite charity. Six years later, Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day Out was released, which won a BAFTA award, and prompted several sequels and a full-length movie, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
We here at the Rotoscopers offer our condolences to the family of Peter Sallis. He will be missed, but never forgotten, as his beloved characters will live on.