Newest Review: ... on one dvd. It doesnt matter how many times they are watched you never get bored. When watching all three together you can see how the anim... more
A CRACKING DVD
Wallace & Gromit: 3 Cracking Adventures (DVD)
Member Name: Mauri
Wallace & Gromit: 3 Cracking Adventures (DVD)
Date: 03/03/06, updated on 03/03/06 (193 review reads)
Advantages: Good stories, great animation, can be watched over and over again
Disadvantages: Only three short films made
My first recollections of stop motion animation were from the children’s TV programmes like ‘Magic Roundabout’, ‘The Wombles’, although these were very basic examples the later Aardman the Plasticine man from ‘Vision On’ gave us a glimpse of what was possible with this type of animation. Further examples like Morph were to appear on Tony Hart’s ‘Take Hart’ a spin off from ‘Vision On’. Behind these later examples were Peter lord and David Sproxton who formed Aardman studios in the mid 70’s, the name inspired by their first TV creation.
The genre really came of age and developed into a major form of animation when the brilliant Nick Parks joined the studio in 1982 this led to his excellent ‘Wallace and Gromit’ short films made in the late 80’s and 90’s. By this stage the films were creating interest in Hollywood and even got Oscar nominations.
This collection incorporates the three half hour films that made Nick Park one of the most influential animators in the industry and combines enough extra features to make this a worthwhile purchase.
A Grand Day Out (1989):
This is the first outing for the now famous double act of the eccentric bumbling inventor Wallace and his loyal and clever dog Gromit who without effort or dialogue consistently steals the show. Disaster strikes when our cheese loving pair run out of cheese on a Bank Holiday when all the shops are shut. What are they to do without their beloved supply of Wenslydale or Gorgonzola? Simple, were is there an almost unlimited supply of cheese? The Moon of course… after all it is made of the stuff so using the handy home made rocket they have built our two heroes go off on the ultimate day trip.
The Wrong Trousers (1993):
In this second offering from Nick Park and the Aardman studio our dynamic duo find themselves once again in a pickle brought about by another of Wallace’s misconceived inventions, a pair of radio controlled automated trousers designed for the ultimate in lazy walking. Unfortunately our loveable pair had not counted on the devious machinations of their new lodger a mysterious penguin and Wallace unwittingly finds himself at the centre of a fiendishly planned jewel heist. It seems it’s up to Gromit to save the day.
A Close Shave (1995):
This was the third and up to then the most ambitious of the films made by Park and Aardman Animation studios, both in technical achievement and storytelling. This was really was a precursor for the longer feature length projects of ‘Chicken Run’ and the recent ‘Curse of the Were-Rabbit’
This time we see our heroes applying their weird and wonderful inventions to business when they set up the Wallace and Gromit's Wash'n'Go window cleaning service. On a window cleaning assignment Wallace falls in love with Wendolene Ramsbottom owner of the local wool shop. It’s not long before Wallace’s enthusiasm for his newfound love leads him to inventing the Knit-O-Matic machine. However things are not all they seem in this cosy world, sheep rustlers are at large, there’s a wool shortage looming and Gromit doesn’t like the look of Wendolene’s shifty looking dog Preston.
You could simply admire the evermore stunning technical achievement that each of these films represent but these films represent more than simple animation virtuosity they are also great entertainment for both children and adults.
In a film industry increasingly dominated by high tech CGI animation the labour of love of these films represent is not to be underestimated. Painstakingly filming a still then moving the clay model by a minute amount and again filming a still produce each sequence of movie. Repeating the process over and over again produced a seamless animation that is distinctive in its look and level of detail. The process is not quick and a few seconds of final film product can take months of setting up. The use of minutely detailed sets and bright vibrant colours adds a wonderful depth and perspective to the films and simple details like moving eyebrows and facial expressions lend real character to the models even when they don’t speak.
All this would be worthy enough of making Park noticed as an animator but Park and his colleagues at Aardman studios have proved that they are more than simple animators they are very good story tellers. The plots of all three films are cleverly staged and provide plenty of genuinely funny moments. In the best tradition of the best animated films the jokes are there at different levels, younger children are kept happy with the slapstick humour like the breakfast making machine that goes wrong resulting in porridge flying through the air or the expertly designed and train chase in ‘The Wrong Trousers’ but for adults references to other films and clever in jokes provide more subtle entertainment. The Wallace and Gromit films are certainly films you can revisit over and over again each time picking a new ‘blink and you missed it’ visual joke. The icing on the cake is the wonderful voice of Wallace provided by the brilliant veteran actor Peter Sallis (Last of the Summer Wine) that really give the character a life of his own.
A collection of three good short films doesn’t necessarily make a great DVD package although the quality of the material is such that even the films on their own would be worth the money. Luckily for Wallace and Gromit enthusiasts this DVD collection has enough special material to keep even the most demanding fan happy.
To set the scene we have a short introduction by Nick Park himself. The DVD contains a photo gallery showing a selection of stills from all thee films also including the blueprints for some of the wacky inventions featured. Technically the video transfer is excellent with bright clear picture quality and Dolby Stereo (2.0) sound. English subtitles are available.
The rating for the DVD is (U) suitable for all.
An informative audio commentary from Nick Park and crew is also available on all three films and is an interesting addition to real animation fans best watched on repeated viewing of the films.
The bonus features come into their own with the inclusion of three fairly comprehensive mini documentaries on the world of Aardman animation ‘Inside the Wrong Trousers’, ‘the making Of Close Shave and ‘The Amazing World Of Wallace And Gromit’. Packed with interviews and examples of the technical difficulties that the animators face these featurettes provide real insight in to the filmmaking process and you can see has the films were made how the ambitions and the confidence of Park and co have gradually increased each time pushing the animation process to new heights.
The last of the three ‘The Amazing World Of Wallace And Gromit’ also gives us a more general background to Nick Park as it follows the development of his ideas from a simple student project to Oscar nominated animated feature films.
What comes across from all the interviews and commentaries included in the bonus features is Nick Park’s passion for his work and his commitment to expand and increase its appeal. Despite his tremendous worldwide success you also feel that he his still very firmly grounded and even his more elaborate projects commanding bigger and bigger budget still have a cosy hand-made feel about them and this makes them very endearing to the audiences. The essential Englishness of the films and characters is always there and it would be a little surprising that it has had such a global appeal where it not for the quality of the films.
Overall this is a brilliant DVD worth having and will resist repeated showings. I would say it is essential viewing for any kids between the ages of 2-99. Let’s hope Nick Park and friends continue to make such outstanding pieces of work.
‘Wallace And Gromit - 3 Cracking Adventures’ can be bought from Amazon.co.uk for £8.99 + p&p (at the time of writing this review) and it is a bargain.
© Mauri 2006
Summary: The first three 'Wallace and Gromit' short films