Sometimes when you watch something you know from the very first moment that what you're witnessing is brilliant and complex and simple and funny and marvelous and completely unbelievable and totally relatable at the same time. What you're watching is, undeniably, pure genius. From story to dialogue to look and feel, that which is unfolding on the screen before you is wondrous and you never quite want it to end. Released this past week – and to Blu-ray no less – is Wallace & Gromit – The Complete Collection.
Yes, the title may be something of a misnomer; it's not actually the complete collection of every Wallace & Gromit story – it lacks the feature film – but it is the complete collection of film shorts, including the new A Matter of Loaf and Death. It is also, if the above paragraph didn't make it clear, utterly brilliant.
Wallace and Gromit, for those not in the know, are a man and a dog, respectively. The two reside in merry old England and have an affinity for cheese, particularly Wensleydale. Their first short, A Grand Day Out, released in 1989, features the two realizing that they are wholly out of cheese. As they were planning a mini-holiday anyway, rather than going to the supermarket to pick up more cheese, they opt instead to build a rocket and fly to the moon – which, as we all know, is made out of cheese.
For any other man and dog, the process of building a rocket would be a hugely intricate one, requiring time, money, and resources quite possibly beyond one's ability to obtain. For Wallace and Gromit it is all in a day's work, and they are even able to outfit their rocket to feel like their sitting room (if one is going to go to the moon to get some cheese, one might as well do so comfortably). Yes, the moon robot is not entirely enthralled with someone showing up and slicing off bits and pieces of his home, but once he is able to fashion a set of skis in order to slide down the cheesy slopes, he doesn't seem to mind having had some visitors.
Clearly, Wallace and Gromit are not your average characters, and their adventures are not your average adventures. The two, from first stop-motion clay animation frame to last stop-motion clay animation frame, exude more personality than your average animated (or real) character. Wallace, while he is nowhere near as intelligent as Gromit, does have a number of ingenious inventions (though Gromit tends to be the brains behind making them work), and always seems to be looking out for his fellow man (and dog). For his part, Gromit, tends to be both amused and bemused by his companion, and often frustrated that Wallace's lack of intelligence puts the two into precarious situations.
From adventures with diamond-stealing penguins to evil dogs to angry ex-bread promoting women, Wallace and Gromit manage to both wind up in, and get out of, hot water in fantastic style. The number of details Nick Park (their creator) and Aardman Animation include in the shots is fantastic, and comes across quite well on Blu-ray. There is a steady progression in the quality and clarity of the picture from the original 1989 A Grand Day Out to 1993's The Wrong Trousers and on to 1995's A Close Shave and 2008's A Matter of Loaf and Death. The first two are presented in the traditional 1.33:1 aspect ratio on the disc, while A Close Shave is 1.66:1 and A Matter of Loaf and Death is in 1.78:1. There seems to be some dirt and imperfections to the film itself for A Grand Day Out, but not in the later pieces. The sound is free of any issues and the Foley work not only sounds wonderful but really helps sell the at times ludicrous visuals.
The new Blu-ray set comes with 10 "Cracking Contraptions," which are short pieces featuring various inventions Wallace has come up with, audio commentary tracks from Nick Park (and in the case of A Matter of Loaf and Death, Park and editor David McCormick), as well as behind the scenes featurettes for all of the films, an episode of Shaun the Sheep, a scrapbook with photos and blueprints of the guys' inventions, and a video game demo. It should be noted however that the 242 minute runtime listed on the box, a time which usually denotes the main feature or features' length, in this case seems to denote the runtime of not only the main feature, but all the bonuses as well.
Enjoyable for children and adults alike, Wallace & Gromit – The Complete Collection represents not only an incredible amount of hard work and attention to detail (stop-motion animation being both time consuming and difficult), but brilliant storytelling, and a lot of fun. The four shorts can be watched repeatedly, always yielding some new detail or joke.
Wallace & Gromit – The Complete Collection is currently available on Blu-ray and well worth owning.