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Case Number 17317

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Wallace And Gromit: The Complete Collection (Blu-Ray)

A Grand Day Out
1989 // 24 Minutes // Not Rated
The Wrong Trousers
1993 // 30 Minutes // Not Rated
A Close Shave
1995 // 30 Minutes // Not Rated
A Matter Of Loaf And Death
2008 // 30 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Lionsgate
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // September 22nd, 2009

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All Rise...

Chief Justice Michael Stailey also prefers Wensleydale.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Wallace And Gromit: A Matter Of Loaf And Death (published September 25th, 2009) and Wallace And Gromit: The Complete Collection (published September 28th, 2009) are also available.

The Charge

"Don't worry, Gromit! Everything's under control!"—Wallace

Opening Statement

Continuing the storied, noble tradition of fictional pets who are infinitely more intelligent than their masters—Snoopy & Charlie Brown, Garfield & Jon, Spencer & Heidi—Wallace and Gromit have cemented themselves in the hearts and minds of fans around the world. Literally. Translated into more than 20 languages, their beloved short films and recent feature-length motion picture—Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (not included here)—have been watched, rewatched, and talked about at length by fans and critics alike. In fact, Verdict has no less than three reviews of the previous Wallace and Gromit collections by Retired Chief Justice Mike Jackson, Appellate Judge Mac McEntire, and Retired Judge Thomas Bigboy, so I won't belabor my critique. Needless to say, their latest adventure brings our heroes into the digital age and they look bloody brilliant!

Facts of the Case

This release collects Wallace and Gromit's first three short films, plus their most recent made-for-TV adventure…

A Grand Day Out (1989, 24 min)
Confounded by where to go for their bank holiday, Wallace's startling discovery of a household cheese shortage sends our dynamic duo into the planning stages for a trip to the moon. After all, the whole thing is made of cheese. Little do they realize there may be someone or something waiting to foil their grand day out. *Nominated for an Oscar. Won a BAFTA.

wallace and gromit

The Wrong Trousers (1993, 30 min)
It's Gromit's birthday and Wallace honors his friend with a pair of Techno Trousers, designed to relieve the master of the house from having to take his best friend for a walk. Unfortunately, the house has been overrun by Wallace's inventions and they've managed to drain his piggy bank. To ease their financial crisis, Wallace takes in a boarder who quickly commandeers Gromit's bedroom and maked his life a living hell. There's something nefarious about this penguin that goes above and beyond petty jealousy, and our canine Sherlock Holmes is bound and determined to expose him for the evil interloper he is. Little do we know how dastardly the penguin's plans truly are. *Won an Oscar. Won a BAFTA.

A Close Shave (1995, 30 min)
The county is suffering though a terrible wool shortage and rampant sheep rustling is on the rise. In fact, late one night, the now legendary rustler loses a sheep on Wallace and Gromit's street. Before he can reclaim the escapee, Shaun the ever hungry sheep ducks into the house, leaving our heroes unwittingly marked. The following morning, the duo's successful new window washing business is called into action. The client? Wendolene Ramsbottom, proprietor of Wendolene's Wools. When Wendolene discovers Wallace is an inventor like her late father, it's instant karma for both. Meanwhile, the rustler—Wendolene's dog, Preston—breaks into the boys' home to steal back Shaun, only to discover the blueprints for Wallace's Knit-O-Matic, the perfect solution to bolster his mistresses failing business. The only problem is Gromit is on to Preston's villainy and needs taking out. Framed as the infamous sheep rustler, our favorite pooch is sent to the big house. Can Gromit beat the rap? Will Shaun eat them out of house and home? Will Wallace and Wendolene find true love? Is there more to Preston's evil scheme than just sheep rustling? *Won an Oscar. Won a BAFTA.

wallace and gromit

A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008, 30 min)
Twelve bakers have been found murdered in the past year and guess whose now running a bakery? Wallace and Gromit! On a morning delivery run, the legendary Bake-O-Lite pinup girl, Piella Bakewell, and her precious poodle Fluffles discover their runaway bicycle has no brakes, so it's Wallace and Gromit to the rescue. But Gromit's suspicions about Piella bear bitter fruit and, before he can warn his master, Wallace announces they are to be married. Thus begins yet another game of dog vs. evil villain. Can Gromit expose Peilla's treachery before Wallace completes her black widow baker's dozen? *Won a BAFTA

The Evidence

I was first exposed to Nick Park's brilliant A Grand Day Out through Spike and Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation in 1990, America's first introduction to the charming duo of Wallace the absentminded inventor and his genius-intellect faithful companion Gromit. From that moment on, I was hooked. My passion for stop motion animation had just found a new hero.

Wallace & Gromit found life in creator Nick Park's sketch books from an early age. Part stereotypical northerner, part Nick's own father, Wallace grew out of his mustached stocky appearance and settled on his present form in fairly short order. Gromit started life as a cat and made several evolutions before arriving at the look he has today. In fact, when Nick began work on this film in 1983, the very first screen test had Gromit looking like a big old wolf hound. A labor of love, he continued his work at National Film and Television School but ran out of money and missed his deadline. It wasn't until he picked up a job at Aardman Animations that he was able to finish the film.

wallace and gromit

Filled with expressive characters, brilliant sight gags, and detailed sets, what I love most about the film is that we don't get bogged down by the absurdity of it all. Wallace & Gromit are like The Little Rascals, limited only by the power of their own imaginations. We don't care that Gromit can read and weld metal but not speak; the logistics of building a rocket in basement with a staggering depth of foundation; the lack of physics needed to allow them to walk and breathe on the surface of the moon without space suits (while a soccer ball cannot) or traverse the vacuum of space with no cabin pressure. We're more interested in Wallace being able to grab crackers from the kitchen and make it back to the ship before it takes off, the sheer volume of set detail inside the rocket, and the potential threat posed by a sentient vending machine (an ancestor of Wall-E?) who polices the moon and harbors dreams of skiing the Alps.

Sure the technicality of the film is superb, but the real genius of Nick Park and his Aardman compatriots is in getting us to love these characters. From the principal heroes to the mice in their basement, we're invested in this adventure from the very beginning, despite the fact that only one character has any dialogue. In 24 minutes we get a complete adventure with a main story and equally enchanting subplot, both leaving us with an uncontrollable grin. What more can you ask for?

wallace and gromit

Apparently quite a bit, as our love for Wallace & Gromit was rewarded with three more short films and a feature-length motion picture, each successive adventure raising the stakes, size, and scope of the film that preceded it. A Grand Day Out was a straight out comedy piece, but in The Wrong Trousers Nick tapped into his love of Hitchcockian thrillers, and everything changed. With fewer sight gags and a more complex story structure, Trousers puts Gromit center stage, courtesy of an exceptionally conceived and executed script with three times the character development and a masterful final act chase. Despite all of the great work Nick and company have done with these characters, this short remains my favorite of the series.

A Close Shave follows the new formula, with the sights gags now used to forward the plot rather than just generate laughs, and story elements planted early on harvested to great reward later in the film. More twists, more turns, and more drama should have topped Trousers, but the growing cast bogs down its effectiveness. Shaun the Sheep provides that childlike innocence which serves as both a noble strength and an achilles heel, but ultimately distracts from what worked best previous film, namely Gromit vs. the villain. Wallace was our singular innocent then. Here we have three in Wallace, Shaun, and a victimized Wendolene. Too much. And it's too bad, because Preston deserved all the screen time he received and more. It's still a great film and ranks #2 on my list.

wallace and gromit

Which brings us to A Matter of Loaf and Death. Damn if this thing doesn't look amazing! The sets are bigger, the contraptions more Rube-Goldberg-esque (just check out that bakery machinery), the sight gags more complex (the romance montage between Wallace and Piella brilliantly juxtaposed with Gromit's actions in the kitchen), in-jokes and pop culture references a plenty (watch for homages to Aliens, Ghost, Psycho, and Batman (1966)), and the fluidity of animation infinitely more impressive. Using digital still cameras for the first time, Nick's team gets much more dramatic with their setups and camera angles. Heck, at times, it plays very much like a live-action thriller. But the story is more straightforward than what we've come to expect, with fewer twists and turns, and ultimate less fulfilling. We know how this is going to play out, the fun is seeing how they get us there.

With Lionsgate taking control of the licensing and releasing these film on Blu-ray, how do they look? Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Granted, A Grand Day Out suffers from a spectrum of decent to poor source material, leaving the 1080p far from respectable. But with the benefit of more vibrant colors and increased clarity of detail, you can now spot every fingerprint in the clay, count fibers on the rug in their living room, and watch the basement walls seep with condensation. You're also likely to notice the most subtle of comedic details overlooked during previous DVD viewings. But this can prove to be a double edged sword, easily spotting the specs of dust and debris that appear and disappear from the characters from frame to frame, or exposing yourself to peeks behind the visual effects curtain (at the 5:27 mark on A Close Shave, you can see the wire work used to launch Gromit from the sidecar of Wallace's motorbike into window washing action.) The audio is a bit more consistent, the Dolby 5.1 Surround takes advantage of filling the sound field with Julian Nott's increasingly terrific scoring and ambient effects on Close Shave and Loaf and Death. There's not a whole to be done to significantly improve Grand Day or Wrong Trousers. I also experienced some weird swallowing of dialogue various points in the two later films. Whether that's an encoding issue or my own receiver, I can't say for sure. Still, flaws and all, I'll take the Blu-ray upgrade without hesitation.

As gravy, we get a wealth of bonus material!

Commentaries
Creator/writer/director Nick Park provides solo commentaries on the first three films, before being joined by editor David McCormick on Loaf and Death. Nick is a humble but engaging guy and fans of Wallace & Gromit owe it to themselves to hear all four tracks.

Featurettes
• How they Donut: The Making of A Matter of Loaf and Death (2009, 21 min)
Nick, "It's sort of a bread-based murder mystery. Sort of a 'Who Donut?'" Interviews with members of the production team about universal love for Wallace & Gromit and energy that goes into every adventure. The quickest turnaround on any film in the series. The team having gelled on Curse of the Were-Rabbit, they're now a well-oiled machine. Over 700 shots in the movie, averaging 32 shots per week. Nick personally acts out the character actions for the animators to draw inspiration from. Using the digital still cameras, the flexibility of camera aesthetics, instantaneous evaluation of each shot, and resulting spontaneity gave the production a whole new feel.

wallace and gromit

• Inside The Wrong Trousers (1993, 25 min)
A fascinating look back at how far these characters and Nick's filmmaking process have come from their humble beginnings. The evolution going forward is gradual and much less noticeable, but going backwards it's staggering. One-on-one interview with Nick on the origins of the characters, his work on Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" music video (creating the dancing chickens and the bumper cars) and Creature Comforts (1990), plus turning down potentially lucrative feature film and television projects to focus his attention on The Wrong Trousers.

• A Close Shave: How They Did It (1996, 5 min)
A detailed, albeit silent look at the jail break and motorbike chase scenes; how the shots were conceived and executed.

• The Amazing World of Wallace and Gromit (1999, 16 min)
Mini-documentary detailing the origins of the characters. Nick, "Because they're characters now, they exist; they've got their own life. So they can sort of write their own stories. I don't look at these films and say, 'Yes, that's it. I'm satisfied.' I just want to go onto the next one." See the original 1983 screen test in which Gromit looks nothing like he does today. Exploring the Wallace & Gromit phenomenon in Japan, France, Germany, China, and Australia. Helping save the Wensleydale Cheese company.

Cracking Contraptions (2002, 26 min)
A collection of minisodes in which Wallace demonstrates his latest inventions, usually to the great dismay of Gromit—a vacuum cleaner gone haywire; an ill-conceived television channel changer; automated dinner service for two; snowman-maker; goalie training; a problematic robot shopping trolley; instant Christmas card creator; Wallace's personal sleep aide; home invasion prevention; robot chef. I hadn't seen these before and they're very well done. It's like Wallace & Gromit Red Bull.

Scrapbook
Image gallery of invention blueprints, production stills, and behind-the-scenes candids from The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave. Meh.

wallace and gromit

Shaun the Sheep in "Off the Baa!" (2007, 7 min)
The first episode of Shaun's very own television series, produced by Aardman. When a lettuce truck loses part of its load, Shaun uses the inedible head to show off his football skills in a friendly game with the rest of the flock. Only problem is the neighboring pigs want the lettuce head for a meal. Very cute. Gag heavy, no dialogue, and introduces us to a gaggle of lovable new characters. Judge Roy Hrab reviewed HIT Entertainment's release of the first eight episodes, aptly entitled Shaun the Sheep: Off the Baa!

PC only Game Demo for Wallace and Gromit's Grand Adventures
Okay, let's think about this for a second. You're including a game demo on Blu-ray, a format whose principal player doubles as a gaming system, and yet the game is not available for the PS3? Stupid. How many PC laptop owners currently have a BD drive? I would venture to guess, not many. Stupid x 2.

Closing Statement

Nick Park stands shoulder to shoulder with Walt Disney's nine old men, Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng, Henry Selick and Ray Harryhausen, The Fleischer Brothers and Don Bluth, John Kricfalusi and the John Lasseter. Creating characters who live on in the hearts and minds of an audience is one of the greatest achievements of any animator. Wallace and Gromit are treasures and this collection will enable us to relive their adventures over and over again. Here's hoping there are more where these came from.

The Verdict

Not guilty. It's like no cheese I've ever tasted…

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Genres

• Animation
• Comedy
• Family
• Foreign
• Short Films
• Television

Scales of Justice, A Grand Day Out

Video: 75
Audio: 80
Extras: 75
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, A Grand Day Out

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• Full Frame (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 24 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, A Grand Day Out

• Commentary
• Featurette

Scales of Justice, The Wrong Trousers

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 85
Acting: 95
Story: 98
Judgment: 95

Perp Profile, The Wrong Trousers

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• Full Frame (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 30 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Wrong Trousers

• Commentary
• Featurette

Scales of Justice, A Close Shave

Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 70
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 92

Perp Profile, A Close Shave

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 30 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, A Close Shave

• Commentary
• Featurette

Scales of Justice, A Matter Of Loaf And Death

Video: 98
Audio: 98
Extras: 85
Acting: 95
Story: 85
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile, A Matter Of Loaf And Death

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 30 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, A Matter Of Loaf And Death

• Commentary
• Featurette
• Minisodes
• Bonus Episode
• Scrapbook
• Video Game Demo








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