Peter Sallis, voice of ‘Wallace and Gromit,’ dead at 96

LONDON - OCTOBER 2: Actor Peter Sallis arrives at the UK Charity premiere of animated film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit at the Odeon West End on October 2, 2005 in London, England.The premiere is in aid of Wallace & Gromit Children's Foundation. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

LONDON (AP) — British actor Peter Sallis, who played irrepressible, cheese-loving inventor Wallace in the “Wallace and Gromit” cartoons, has died, his agent said Monday. He was 96.

Sallis’ talent agency, Jonathan Altaras Associates, said he died Friday at a retirement home for actors in London.

Born in London in 1921, Sallis began his working life in a bank, but caught the acting bug as a Royal Air Force serviceman during World War II. After the war, he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and built up a diverse career onstage and in British film and television.

He became famous in Britain as a star of the long-running sitcom “Last of the Summer Wine.” Sallis was proud to have appeared in every episode during the show’s 37-year run.

Millions around the world know his voice from animator Nick Park’s “Wallace and Gromit,” which charted the adventures of a cheese-loving Yorkshireman with a passion for inventing wild contraptions and his level-headed, silent dog, Gromit.

With their old-fashioned stop-motion animation and lightly anarchic British humor, Park’s short films, feature and BBC series gained fans around the world.

Two of the films, “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Close Shave” won Academy Awards.

The bald, green-vested character Sallis voiced between 1989 and 2010 was instantly recognizable from his down-to-earth Yorkshire accent and frequent exclamation of “Cheese, Gromit!”

Park said Sallis “was always my first and only choice for Wallace.”

“He brought his unique gift and humor to all that he did, and encapsulated the very British art of the droll and understated,” he said.

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