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I have a genuine, heartfelt affection for Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit. But then, who doesn't?
When you stop and think about it, there are very few televisual productions that are quite so utterly perfect, or leave you feeling overwhelmingly bursting with pride that you are British, and that this is the best of British production.
This set comprises of the 3 original Ardman Wallace and Gromit adventures, beginning with A Grand Day Out.
If you're an inventor with limitless imagination and an insatiable desire for cheese but can't get to the shop to buy any (I forget the explanation as to why this is, but I'm sure it's a sensible one!)then where do you go? What do you do? Where is there more cheese than anywhere else? Wallace knows the answer. Build a rocket ship and fly to the moon, there's cheese everywhere, of course!
This is the most simplistic of the Wallace and Gromit stories, but it is wonderfully charming and you won't fail to be enthralled by it.
The Wrong Trousers is the next episode. The production values have gone up, and the story is much more in-depth. We are introduced to Feathers McGraw - easily the most iconic villain in the W&G franchise. This mute penguin somehow combines a brilliantly faceless expression, devoid of any emotion, with an inexplicable cuteness. You can't help but almost want to take the little beggar's side. Suffice to say, Mr. McGraw is a low rent super villain with an above average IQ (for a penguin with opposable thumbs, anyway). And inevitably, he tries way too hard in his endeavours and again, inevitably, the hapless but lovable Wallace and Gromit almost inadvertently save the day. The model train track chase sequence in particular is a genuine treat and you'll be totally in love with Wallace and Gromit by the end of the episode.
A Close Shave is the third and final episode on this release, and the production value is on a par with that of The Wrong Trousers. The story again is relatively simple, this time involving a mysterious sheep rustling plot.
I've tried to keep this short so as not to give much away. I urge you though, buy this. Watch them back to back in one sitting for maximum effect.
Anyone who doesn't get a buzz out of that simple pleasure of knowing what Gromit is thinking just by reading his expression just doesn't know what they're missing!
Credit to Park and all at Ardman, theirs is a truly delightful creation.
Wallace and Gromit is an age-old plasticine cartoon developed and directed by Nick Park. Every scene in all three of these short films has been contructed by hand and photographed by hand millions of times. The detail never seizes to amaze your vision, esspecailly after loosing interest in the series from a childs point of view.
Wallace and Gromit live in an average city terrace in the centre of a busy town. They own a small window cleaning business and attend regular jobs around the town, with essential wensleydale cheese breaks to fuel their large obsession with eating the stuff. Each episode centres around a comical theme, be it a penguin and his meeting with 'the wrong trousers', or a mad robotic dog gone wrong with 'a close shave'. Wallace and Gromit are never too far from trouble. In the first episode, 'a grand day out', they even travel to the moon in search of yet more cheese, meeting a deranged vending machine sat marooned on the moon who attempts to hitch a ride home.
Despite these films short run-times, so much time and effort has been put into their existance, it seems rediculous to even begin to contemplate the frustration those animators must have faced. Production quality is at an extreme standard beyond any cartoon that had ever been made up until W & G's introduction to the screen. The first film is of a lower quality, but once they're in they're stride for the final two, the quality of production is truely outstanding. An incredible achievement and a series which will live on in time as one of those great moments in television history.
A great series which can be admired by both the young and older generation for what ever reason. The dialect and animation is nothing less than iconic. The characters are inventive and entertaining, and the quality is of an undeniably high standard!
Wallace and Gromit first hit TV screens back in 1989. First created were three short films, those entitled above, and later came a feature length film, and a further short film. Each short film last for 20 - 30 minutes, and captured stop and start clay animation at its best. Creator Nick Park continues to use stop and start animation; planning not to use computer aided design in the future, instead keeping the series originality.
A GRAND DAY OUT
As Wallace and Gromit sit around the house bored one morning, wishing of a holiday in the sun. Soon it's Wallace's idea to make some tea and get out the crackers and cheese. Upon realising there's no cheese in the house, panic sets in and the two create a rocket to save the day. The plan is to go to the moon because everyone knows the moon is made of cheese. Once they find some cheese and tuck in, they are unaware that a robot on the moon is watching them, and has plans of having a holiday too.
THE WRONG TROUSERS
Wallace and Gromit are having trouble paying the bills, and so advertise their spare room for a tenant. It isn't long before a mysterious penguin comes along and moves in. Everything is fine to begin with, that is until Gromit realises the penguin is a thief. When the penguin hears of Wallace's new invention; a pair of self-walking robot trousers, he conjures a plan to steal the trousers and steal a lucrative diamond in the local museum. But when Wallace puts on the pre-programmed trousers instead of the penguin, he must stop them quickly, or be caught in the act.
A CLOSE SHAVE
Wallace and Gromit start up a window-washer service, but during the work, Gromit washes the windows while Wallace thinks up another invention. This time it's a machine that can clean and shear sheep. This cunning plan comes to light after a lamb left stranded enters their home. Soon they realise where this lamb has come from, and hear of evil antics that are happening to the sheep. Wallace and Gromit however fall victim of a terrible plan of the owners; to frame Wallace and Gromit for the harm of the sheep and steal the Knit-O-Metre (clean and shear machine). They must save the sheep before it's too late!
These short films make for excellent viewing. The story lines are always inventive and original and it's these films that remain the classics in animation of the early 1990's.
The characters of Wallace and Gromit are so cleverly depicted and even by the first short you are in tune with the characters and know everything you possibly need to. It's the later shorts that bring it all back, keeping up that connection and character development.
The humor of these films is subtle and works wonders. There's always the few laugh out loud moments and those that you chuckle away to by yourself and it's these that make the films as entertaining as they are. Not to mention the adverse gripping horror as Wallace and Gromit try to save the day from a evil villain. It's got it all, from the happy and cheerful moments, to the thrilling and shocking.
If you liked these why not try WALLACE AND GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT, and WALLACE AND GROMIT: A MATTER OF LOAF AND DEATH.
Collected for the first time on one disc are the first three adventures of Wallace and his loyal friend/pet, Gromit. As something of a British institution these days, it is a real joy to see how far they have come since these early days. This sort of stop-motion capturing is a dying art these days and it does make me sad that the likes of Clash of the Titans will not be seen again due to newer techniques providing far smoother results.
This disc contains the adventures; A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave. The jump in styles and results between A Grand Day Out and its two sequels is plain to see, the latter two being far smoother and aesthetically pleasing than the former.
As the saying goes though, appearances can be deceiving and personally, I find the first adventure the best. Wallace and Gromit decide to fly to the moon to sample some new cheeses and build a rocket to get there. The plot is simple to follow for kids and adults alike and does not have as much depth as the sequels, but I feel that this initial adventure has a lot of charm. I am not sure why, but I find the skiing parts hilarious.
The Wrong Trousers sees a sinister lodger moves in with our loveable heroes and oust Gromit whilst setting his sights on owning a hi-tech pair of trousers to use for his nefarious deeds. I felt this was the weakest of the three adventures as the jokes were not as prevalent as the other episodes.
In A Close Shave, we are introduced to a new character, Shaun the Sheep (who went on to gain his own spin off series) as our heroes try to track down the source of a spate of sheep-nappings, only to find Gromit framed! This adventure has a great mix of humour and action and the climax is superb!
This disc can be picked up pretty cheap these days (I saw it in Tescos for £4) and provides great family action, with plenty to amuse children and adults alike. The humour is family orientated so you do not have to worry about exposing little ones to anything they should not be seeing or hearing.
Although I felt The Wrong Trousers was the weakest of the three, all the episodes are well worth watching. This compilation was the first I had seen of Nick Park's works, although I had seen a few of the Creature Comfort episodes years ago, and since seeing these, I have made the effort to track down his other works. My little ones absolutely love it, demanding to watch it with a cry of 'CHEEEEEEEESE!'
"EE Gromit, there's nothing like a nice bit of speed..." Nick Park missed his true vocation in life. He should never have been an Oscar winning animator messing about with bits of plasticine and seeking to make people smile wryly. He should have been a po-faced writer, convinced of his ability with ethnic poetry, making people cry sadly to themselves, at his scripts for Last of the Summer Wine. Quaintly Northern is something Mr Park does exceedingly well, like the kid in a flat cap who pedals up a steep cobbled hill in that old time Hovis advert, like Les Dawson's ex working man's club act, like Rita Fairclough on Coronation Street, like Mark E Smith and his bunch of ne'er do wells in cult indie rock band, The Fall. In fact, that's not a bad image - mix together Compo and Foggy with The Fall providing the soundtrack in a coffee shop, while the bumbling inventor and his canine compadre sample a nice bit of cheese - the perfect scene setting for a legendary lost fourth episode of Wallace and Gromit - you know the one, where Wendolene watches them on the way to a Top of the Pops appearance, Smith drops them a tab of speed and claps as they jive to his latest epic, before donning his hoped jersey and Budglar Bill mask and making off with his ill gotten gains... Of course, it's never going to happen, because Johnny Rotten isn't a reference point in the stylised and anachronistic world of Nick Park. The soundtrack for this world is far more likely to be Tommy Steele belting out Little White Bull than the Pistols performing Pretty Vacant (think of Wallace with a mohican and safety pins, I dare you - with Wallace it would be more likely some gift paper clips and a nice smart short back and sides). This eccentric little Lancastrian has created a world where these last forty years have never happened, where London and the Yuppies are further away than the green (or yellow rather) cheese moon of A Grand Day Out. Ni
ck Park's horizons do not extend beyond the Yorkshire/Lancashire (I can never quite work out which) of the 1950's, where the pie making machine of his Chicken Run movie was as gimmicky and new fangled as you're likely to find. Even Wallace's inventions are absurdly dated and odd. It's perfect, perfect stuff, however, totally unique and bizarre, unlikely ever to be mimicked or even hinted at. The Nick Park universe is a wonderful place, naïve, decent and domesticated where tea and toast is the thing, not mobile phones and Evian. Imagine trying to convince Wallace that one day someone would pay for bottled water. The Wallace and Gromit DVD is the perfect encapsulation of the Park magic, containing all three W&G movies (A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave) as well as a featurette giving you the background and analysis of the Nick Park adventure, telling the tale of how he first joined up with Aardman Adventures after trying for years to complete his first W&G feature, moving on to create the Creature Comfort ads which made his name, winning him the first of his Oscars. It won't create any new converts, but certainly for Park fans, this DVD is a truly desirable object, hamfistedly taking us through their adventures, charting the development of the man and his pooch from blobby, amateurishly modelled creatures, into well defined and refined modern day heroes and bona fide movie stars. It's a wonderful journey, defined by the animated and telling eyebrows of Gromit as much as by the eternal longing for cheese of his master. It's eccentric and bizarrely funny, the perfect inheritor to the tradition of Ealing comedy. You're intrigued and captivated first by the odd stop-go animation style of Park and his allies, but then secured forever by that inane and wilfully unknowing humour as Gromit steers Wallace away from the dangers he faces at the hands of a parking meter, a thieving penguin a
nd a mechanical guard dog. Wallace and Gromit is like nothing else you will e ver experience. A Grand Day Out features W&G running short of cheese, building a rocket, flying off to the Moon (cue mice in the cellar all donning sunglasses because of the flash) and eventually returning with a basket of their favourite food. The Wrong Trousers sees Wallace's latest invention being abused by his new lodger, who puts Gromit's snout firmly out of joint by sucking up to his mate. A Close Shave concerns sheep rustling, romance and a wool shortage as West Wallaby Street is taken over by sheep. The plots penned by Nick Park are as bizarre as those featuring Compo and Clegg, but the difference is that Park's work is very funny, rather than contrived and endlessly pitiable. Peter Sallis as the voice of Wallace is the common thread running through these two peculiarly English forms of entertainment, and is probably the most blameless thing about Summer Wine. Rarely has any actor ever been able to claim to be the secret behind two such bizarre sex symbols. I struggle to raise a smile at the adventures of the lonely old men in the Yorkshire Dales, but you will find yourself having to laugh at a man and his dog making their way through life, encountering some of the weirdest adventures you will ever experience. In its way each of the three individual movies are wonderful, although the transformation between the Wallace of the debut to the character of the third film is truly remarkable. He looks originally like the sort of ill-conceived blob which you or I might have fashioned after one drunken night on the lagers, but amazingly looks quite debonair by the end of things, at least as presentable as a man in a green sleeveless jumper can get. Gromit is much more stable (in more ways than one) and always it his knowing looks and endless patience for his misshapen master which are the key things about the W&G uni
verse. In many ways, Gromit is the on screen persona of Park, concerned and caring for his moulded human buddy, protecting him and making him feel good, taking the blame along with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune while the other guy continually comes up smelling of roses, or at least Wensleydale. I struggle to decide which of Trousers or Shave I prefer, but next to the majority of other comedy and animation around even A Grand Day Out repays your faith. This DVD is eminently watchable and will be a vital part of any self respecting collection. In fact, the only thing I can think of which I?d prefer right now is a video of Wallace singing The Fall's Fiery Jack: "My kidneys burn in the small of my back, my face is slack ..."