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Peter Sallis, Voice Behind 'Wallace And Gromit' Films, Dies At 96

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now let's take a few moments to remember actor Peter Sallis who died last week. He was 96.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

If you don't recognize his name, perhaps you'll recognize his voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WALLACE AND GROMIT: A GRAND DAY OUT")

PETER SALLIS: (As Wallace) Tell you what, Gromit, lad. Let's have a nice, hot cup of tea.

SIEGEL: Sallis was the voice of Wallace from the popular stop-motion animated films "Wallace And Gromit."

CORNISH: He played the cheerful, eccentric character who loved cheese, a habit that sparks a journey in the first "Wallace And Gromit" film, "A Grand Day Out."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WALLACE AND GROMIT: A GRAND DAY OUT")

SALLIS: (As Wallace) No cheese, Gromit, not a bit in the house.

SIEGEL: Naturally, he decides to go to a place where there is cheese. With his loyal dog, Gromit, he builds a rocket, and they set off for the moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WALLACE AND GROMIT: A GRAND DAY OUT")

CORNISH: Where in the most British of ways, they have a picnic to taste the moon's cheese.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WALLACE AND GROMIT: A GRAND DAY OUT")

SALLIS: (As Wallace) I don't know, lad. It's like no cheese I've ever tasted.

CORNISH: Peter Sallis didn't set out to be an actor. During World War II, he joined the Royal Air Force where he served as a wireless mechanic and later as a radio instructor in the Royal Air Force College. That's where one of his students asked him to join a local play. He later wrote in his autobiography, (reading) I determined that after the war, if I survived it, I would become an actor.

SIEGEL: He went on to work with such greats as Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles, and he had guest spots on TV shows like "Doctor Who." And for 37 years, he played the philosophical Norman Clegg, or Cleggy, on the long-running British sitcom "Last Of The Summer Wine."

CORNISH: Still, nothing brought him more acclaim than those beloved "Wallace And Gromit" films. Nick Park, the series' creator, told ITV News he was grateful that Peter Sallis agreed to voice Wallace.

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NICK PARK: There was never another choice for me. The charm and the sort of qualities that he brought onto it have always been so kind of endearing and appealing and very much shaped Wallace's face. You know, the way I modeled Wallace was very much based on how Peter would pronounce words and say cheese and crackers.

SIEGEL: For his part, Peter Sallis confessed in 2009 that he wasn't like his character in one key way. He said this. I have to admit. I'm not really a big cheese fan. I'd much prefer a nice piece of cake.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WALLACE AND GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.