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Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection(TV) (1989-2008)
Millions of fans agree - no one makes animated mayhem like crackpot inventor Wallace and his faithful dog, Gromit. Join the Oscar - winning sensations for four madcap adventures in their cheesiest, breeziest and funniest collection yet! Hang on for an out-of-this-world ride as Wallace's mad craving for cheese leads to a space rocket adventure in "A Grand Day Out." In "The Wrong Trousers," Gromit smells something fishy after a penguin moves in and plots to make off with Wallace's Techno-Trousers. Then it's time for "A Close Shave" as Wallace & Gromit get wrapped up in a sheep-rustling scheme. Finally, trouble rises after Wallace & Gromit start a bread- baking business and are ensnared in a murder mystery that becomes... "A Matter Of Loaf And Death!"
For more about Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection and the Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection Blu-ray release, see Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on September 25, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Peter Sallis
Director: Nick Park
» See full cast & crew
Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review
Just my cup of tea.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, September 25, 2009
Appropriately enough, the first time I ever saw a Wallace & Gromit short, I was staying with a family in Stoke-on-Trent, England. We sat in front of the telly watching The Wrong Trousers, eating bangers and mash and washing it down with a nice "cuppa" tea with milk. It's hard to imagine a more patently English scene. And that's Wallace & Gromit in a nutshell— quaint, homey, handmade, and absolutely British. Since A Grand Day Out debuted in 1989, director Nick Park's stop-motion creations have gone on to universal acclaim, winning multiple Academy Awards and making anglophiles out of animation lovers worldwide. For the first time, all four Wallace & Gromit short films are gathered together in this cracking collection—along with a delicious spread of short-shorts, "making of" featurettes, and insightful audio commentaries.
First up is A Grand Day Out (23:58), started in 1983 when Nick Park was a student at the National Film and Television School. It would take Park six years to complete the film, piecing it together between jobs—like Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" music video—with Aardman Animations. The story is a simple, absurdist, almost stream-of-consciousness narrative about an absent-minded inventor and his anthropomorphic dog building a rocket on a banker's holiday and traveling to the moon. Why? For the cheese, of course. When the two arrive, they have a picnic —slicing stalagmites to spread on crackers—but they find themselves harassed by a robotic, coin- operated stove that has dreams of traveling to Earth to go snow skiing. No, it doesn't really make sense on paper, but it's charming and surreal, echoing Jules Verne and Tin Tin but reveling in its own English peculiarisms. The film is an excellent precursor of things to come, establishing its main characters but allowing them plenty of room to grow. Wallace, voiced by veteran British actor Peter Sallis, is good-hearted but invariably short-sighted, a tinkerer whose solution to every problem is an overly complex Rube Goldberg-like device. His long-suffering dog Gromit plays the strait man to Wallace's buffoon—he's loyal to a fault, easily wounded, clever, and speaks volumes with every motion of his eyes and arch of his brow. He's almost a prototype for the dog on Family Guy—infinitely more intelligent than the humans around him.
The second short, The Wrong Trousers (30:20), is the best of the lot, and it's what you might call the archetypal Wallace & Gromit film, starting with the mundane details of daily life before spiraling into a whirlwind caper. Having spent too much money on Gromit's birthday present—a pair of mechanical, dog-walking trousers—Wallace takes in a lodger, a small penguin, to pay the bills. Of course, the penguin is actually Feathers McGraw, a thief who conspires to steal a diamond from the local museum by putting Wallace in the titular wrong trousers—the mechanical ones—and controlling him via remote. Once again, it sounds ridiculous, but it's played completely strait, taking on some sly noir-ish undertones. The pacing here is perfect—every shot is essential and builds upon the last with ante-upping sight gags and genuine emotion on the part of Gromit.
A Close Shave (31:26) then builds on the template established in the prior short, finding our animated duo gainfully self-employed as window washers who unravel the mystery of why so many sheep are disappearing from the surrounding countryside. (Needless to say, it's quite a yarn.) This episode is the first to feature a love interest for Wallace—the homely and huge- handed Wendolene Ramsbottom—and the film really ramps up the series' inclination towards puns and pop-culture references. See Gromit in jail reading a copy of "Crime and Punishment" by Fido Dogstoyevsky, and catch references to The Great Escape, James Bond, and The Terminator.
Finally, A Matter of Loaf and Death (30:13)—originally broadcast on Christmas Day, 2008—wraps up the package with an all-new adventure that has polarized some fans. Following the lead of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit—the duo's first feature film—A Matter of Loaf and Death is bigger, glossier, and more jam-packed than the prior installments. While some feel the series has lost a bit of its homemade charm here, I really enjoyed this episode's distinct Hitchcock-ian vibe. When Wallace—now a baker—falls for Piella Bakewell, the former pin- up girl for Bake-O-Lite brand breads, he gets a different kind of passion in return. Piella, once slim and trim, has since porked up on confections and become a "cereal" killer, out to murder a literal baker's dozen, with Wallace as her thirteenth and final target. The darker tone is balanced out by mile a minute—sorry, kilometer a minute—puns, gags, and allusions, including a hilarious recreation of the infamous potter's wheel scene from Ghost, and both subtle and not-so- subtle nods to Batman, Aliens, and Psycho.
Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection Blu-ray, Video Quality
Fans of the impetuous inventor and his canine companion will be thrilled by the excellent video treatment given to the four Wallace & Gromit shorts. Each is presented in its original aspect ration—A Grand Day Out and The Wrong Trousers in 1.33:1, A Close Shave in 1.66:1, and A Matter of Loaf and Death in 1.78:1—and each is given a brilliantly detailed 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer. Of course, there are some definite differences in the video quality between films, but all of the transfers are splendidly true to source. A Grand Day Out shows its age and budget with a slightly softer, grainier look, while A Matter of Loaf and Death has a glossier appearance from being the first Wallace & Gromit short shot digitally, using professional still cameras. The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave look the most similar, with a clean, crisp but undeniably filmic quality.
Apart from the age and technology-related differences, the transfers have a lot in common. All of the films are sharp and well-defined, looking better than ever in high definition. You can make out every thumbprint impressed on the plasticine characters and every detail in the brilliant model work. The colors of the warm, nostalgic palette are strong and stable, and the perfectly balanced black levels give the image keen contrast and an almost tangible presence. There were times when I felt like I could reach out and squeeze Wallace's head. That said, there are a few slight issues that need to be addressed. While standing close to my screen and examining the image, I noticed some occasional horizontal motion lines on the edges of moving characters— mostly during the first three films. Sitting a reasonable distance away, though, I didn't notice this at all. However, in A Matter of Loaf and Death—otherwise the sharpest and most vivid of the films—you'll definitely notice a shimmering moiré effect on certain fine textures, like the cloth of a baker's apron and the thin weft of canvas flour bags. I also caught some occasional aliasing on road surfaces, rooftops, and in the crack between the bottom of a door and the floor. Aside from these small quibbles, I was entirely enamored with the image. Cracking job on this release, Lionsgate.
Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There was some speculation about the audio mixes in this collection, but rest assured, each film has been christened with an uncompressed LPCM 5.1 surround track, as well as a 2.0 LPCM mixdown and the expected Dolby Digital 5.1 offering. I compared tracks on all of the films, and my findings were universal. Obviously, stick with the PCM 5.1 tracks if you can. The Dolby Digital mixes are acceptable, but you can hear the compression in more muffled voices and a thinner range. The PCM 5.1 tracks, on the other hand, are startlingly clear and more bombastic than you might expect. The audio definitely becomes more involved and active with each subsequent film, but even A Grand Day Out sounds great, with a surprising amount of LFE engagement and a wonderfully full score. Some of the sound effects are a little dodgy, but that's all part of the charm. The later films feature lots of activity in the rear channels—thunder ripples and rolls, out-of-frame voices call out, and there are plenty of subtle cross-speaker movements. There's even a nice spread between the front channels, and you'll notice loads of pans and directional sounds. Dialogue throughout is detailed and clear. Finally, if you don't have a surround set-up, the LPCM 2.0 mix for each film is quite good, managing a fine sense of clarity despite the clutter.
Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Nick Park, along with help from a few co-writers and animators, provides fantastic audio commentaries for all four short films. If you're a big Wallace & Gromit fan, these tracks are absolute essential listening, as Park discusses every little nuance of production, from the painstaking animation and pacing, to music selection, lighting, and characterization. We're frequently given insight into Park's creative consciousness, and his passion for both the characters and the process is truly infectious. Co-writer Bob Baker, editor David McCormick, and fellow animator Steve Box all chime in on various tracks, and their hands-on familiarity with the material translates into meaningful conversations about all the facets of a Wallace & Gromit film.
How they Donut: The Making of "A Matter of Loaf and Death" (SD, 20:20)
"A bread-based murder mystery, a kind of who-donut," is how director Nick Park describes this latest Wallace & Gromit adventure. As we're taken behind the scenes, this "making of" special gives up a few tricks of the trade, showing us how the animators achieve certain effects, like rain (it's resin, by the way). A Matter of Loaf and Death was also the first Wallace & Gromit short to be shot digitally, using still cameras with macro lenses, allowing the character animators the unprecedented ability to see frame-by-frame previews of their carefully composed sequences.
"A Close Shave" How It Was Done (SD, 5:04)
This brief featurette explains how a few of the effects from A Close Shave were achieved, but it kind of ruins the magic, you know?
Inside the Wrong Trousers (SD, 24:19)
The first half of this segment isn't really about The Wrong Trousers at all. Rather, Nick Park introduces us to the characters of Wallace & Gromit, explaining their origins and showing us some of his old sketchbooks and films. In the latter half, we see Nick at work on the "cracking toast" scene of The Wrong Trousers, explaining his every little movement. It's pretty fascinating, really, as it's hard to imagine the kind of patience required to work so tediously frame by frame.
The Amazing Adventures of Wallace and Gromit (SD, 15:23)
Chronicling the history of Wallace & Gromit, Amazing Adventures takes us from Nick Park's first sketches through the series' phenomenal success across the globe. Highlights include a segment about merchandising and some on-the-street interviews with Wallace & Gromit fans in Japan, France, and Australia.
This standard definition, user-controlled gallery contains eighteen production stills and blueprints for six wacky inventions.
Cracking Contraptions (SD, 25:21 total)
Originally aired on the BBC and the Wallace & Gromit website, each of these short shorts highlights one of Wallace's crazy Rube Goldberg-like contraptions—The 525 Crackervac, The Tellyscope, The Turbo Diner, The Snowmanotron, The Soccamatic, Shopper 13, A Christmas Cardomatic, The Snoozatron, The Bully Proof Vest, and The Autochef. Expect super-concentrated doses of W&G zaniness.
Shaun the Sheep (SD, 7:05)
A Close Shave co-star Shaun the Sheep has his own spin-off series, and here we're treated to the Off the Baa! episode, about a herd of sheep playing soccer—sorry, football—down on the farm.
The disc includes a demo for the Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures video game, but you'll need a Blu-ray enabled PC to access it.
Trailers (SD, 1:33)
Includes trailers for Shaun the Sheep and two Thomas the Tank Engine DVD releases.
Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Wallace and his pal Gromit are more than just an animated duo—they're bonafide ambassadors of Britain and British culture, now celebrating their 20th year together as man and dog, master and mind. Together they get the royal treatment on Blu-ray, with winning transfers of all four films, excellent lossless audio tracks, and enough extras to satiate the hungriest of fans. Highly Recommended.
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• Today on Blu-ray - September 22nd - September 22, 2009
Over the past decade, spoof films have become somewhat of a Hollywood sure-thing. If you're all out of unique idea, call up a Wayans brother and ask them to star in a spoof of the latest hot property (look for 'Vampire Movie' next summer – just kidding – I hope). ...
• Wallace and Gromit Shorts Coming to Blu-ray - July 6, 2009
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