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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/7/99
updated: 10/9/01

Wallace & Gromit on DVD

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The Incredible Adventures of Wallace & Gromit

The Incredible Adventures of Wallace & Gromit
1989-1995 (2001) Ardman/BBC (Warner)

Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/A-

Specs and Features:

84 mins (approx), NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging, video introduction by Nick Park, audio commentary for each short (by Nick Park, Bob Baker, David Sproxton, Julian Nott, Steve Box and Peter Lord), The Amazing World of Wallace and Gromit featurette (15 mins), A Close Shave behind-the-scenes featurette (8 mins), featurette with excerpts from Inside the Wrong Trousers (8 mins), 3 early Nick Park shorts (The Voyage of Bogus Pod, Rat & the Beanstalk and Walter Goes Fishing), 3 animation tests (actually only 2 - Gromit Test aka Dog Test and Wallace Test 1 & 2 aka Grand Day Out Test), storyboards for A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers, 7 BBC Christmas interstitials, photo gallery, blueprints of inventions, trailer for Robbie the Reindeer, production biographies, text history of Ardman, animated program-themed menu screens with music and sound effects, scene access (22 chapters over 3 programs), languages: English, French & Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

Wallace & Gromit
Wallace & Gromit: Their First Three Adventures
1989-1995 (1999) Ardman/BBC (Fox)

Program Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/B+

Specs and Features

84 mins (approx), NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging, 2 early Nick Park shorts (Rat & the Beanstalk and Walter Goes Fishing), 2 animation tests (Dog Test and Grand Day Out Test), featurette with excerpts from Inside the Wrong Trousers (8 mins), 9 BBC Christmas interstitials, program-themed menu screens, scene access (32 chapters over 3 programs), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English & Spanish

What a treat! I've long enjoyed Nick Park's "claymation"-style shorts, starring a bumbling English inventor named Wallace and his dry-witted dog Gromit, and all three of the duo's adventures are available on DVD. These were originally released on disc by 20th Century Fox in 1999, with some nifty extras included. But Warner obtained the BBC license shortly thereafter, and now the trio of shorts has been re-released on DVD, with even more cool extras than before. Let's start by taking a look at the shorts themselves, and then we'll get to the discs...

A Grand Day Out (1989 - 24 mins)

This first entry in the Wallace & Gromit saga, finds the duo mulling over their holiday plans, when (GASP) they run out of cheese for snackies! What's a person to do? Well, everyone knows that the Moon is made of cheese, and since Wallace is quite the inventor... well, you get the idea. They decide upon an "out of this world" vacation. The pair builds a spiffy rocketship in their basement, and soon they're on their merry way. But no sooner do they land on the Moon, and start sampling the local landscape, they encounter a local who is none too happy about the mess they're making. How many films have you seen where the alien looks like a washing machine on wheels?

The Wrong Trousers (1993 - 30 mins)

The second short in the series (and in my opinion the best), has Wallace & Gromit renting out a room to a lodger who isn't quite what they bargain for. Their new tenant is a beady-eyed penguin with a penchant for robbery. And when the little guy spies a pair of Techno-Trousers (ex-NASA) that Wallace has made for Gromit's birthday, he formulates a devious plan to steal a priceless diamond. Featuring a hilarious chase sequence that takes place on the roof of a speeding train (okay - a toy train that runs around their living room), The Wrong Trousers is an absolute blast, with just a dash of Rube Goldberg thrown in for good measure.

A Close Shave (1995 - 30 mins)

The most recent entry in the Wallace & Gromit series, has the boys hard at work in the family business - window washing. And when they're hired to spiff up the glass at a local wool shop, Wallace falls for the shop's good-hearted owner. But she's hiding a secret - her late father's dog, Preston, is definitely up to no good. And when the boys get a surprise (and very hungry) woolly visitor, Gromit takes the heat for a string of sheepnappings. Can our favorite duo catch the real culprit and save the day? You can bet your Knit-O-Matic they'll have the case solved in time for walkies. Who knew Gromit was as good a flying ace as Snoopy?

I can't tell you how happy I am to have these three fine shorts on DVD. Nick Park's unique animation style works perfectly on this format, and it's nice to have such a complete body of his work on one disc (I'm glad to be able to ditch my VHS tapes). Note that Park's first film, Creature Comforts, is also available on DVD on The World's Greatest Animation from Image Entertainment. And his feature-length Chicken Run is available as well from DreamWorks. Now if only we could get his Chevron gas station shorts (with those funky talking cars) on disc!

Anyway, I digress. As I mentioned earlier, there have been two versions of these shorts on DVD. The first disc (which has now been discontinued) was released by 20th Century Fox. The new DVD is distributed by Warner. Both discs present the shorts in excellent video and audio quality. Near as I can tell, the video on the Fox and Warner discs is virtually identical. A Grand Day Out is the oldest of the three shorts, and you can tell that the budget was a bit lower - the film quality isn't quite as high as the other two (showing light grain and print dust), and there is a hint of edge-enhancement as well (notice the aliasing on the letters of short's title card). But the video is still fine looking. The color is very vibrant and natural, with excellent contrast and shadow delineation. The Wrong Trousers improves upon the quality even more, with slightly less edge-enhancement used, and better print quality. And A Close Shave is absolutely pristine in appearance.

Like the video, the audio starts out good as well, and gets even better through the three shorts. The sound on the Fox disc was available in English Dolby Digital 2.0, and the same track is available on the new disc. It's extremely pleasing. There's great bass in the mix, excellent clarity and some nifty left/right panning effects (particularly in A Close Shave, as Wallace's sweater-putter-oner machine rolls in from the left, deposits a sheep, and then rolls offscreen to the right - my head actually turned at the sound). This is a surprisingly wide soundstage for a stereo mix. Note that the Warner disc adds French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks as well. And while the Warner disc omits the English and Spanish subtitles the Fox disc included, it does feature something the Fox disc didn't - Closed Captioning.

The Warner disc includes nearly everything the Fox disc did. The only extras that didn't carry over from the Fox disc are a couple of the BBC Christmas interstitials. The Fox disc claimed 9, while the Warner disc has 7. But don't be mislead by this. Two of the interstitials on the Fox disc were virtually identical (so Warner omitted one). And two more were almost identical, but featured slightly different music and sound effects (so Warner again omitted one). You won't miss either - it's really minor. The rest of the Fox materials are all here - you get 2 early Nick Park shorts (Rat & the Beanstalk and Walter Goes Fishing), 2 animation tests (Dog Test and Grand Day Out Test) and a featurette with excerpts from the "making-of" documentary Inside the Wrong Trousers.

To this, the new Warner disc adds a video introduction to the disc by Nick Park, audio commentary for each short by Nick Park and his production team (Bob Baker, David Sproxton, Julian Nott, Steve Box and Peter Lord), a 15-minute "behind-the-scenes" featurette called The Amazing World of Wallace and Gromit, an 8-minute "behind-the-scenes" featurette on the making of A Close Shave, an additional early Nick Park short called The Voyage of Bogus Pod, storyboards for A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers, a photo gallery, blueprints of a few of Wallace's wacky inventions, a promo trailer for Robbie the Reindeer, biographies of Park the rest of the Ardman production staff and a text history of Ardman. The Warner disc also claims to have an additional animation test, but it's really just the same two that were included on the Fox disc, only renamed (and one of them has been broken into two separate clips). Finally, the Warner disc adds some truly excellent animated menu screens, replete with music and sound effects, to get you in the mood (the Fox disc's menus were static and silent). All said, for Wallace & Gromit fans, this new Warner disc is a treasure.

If you like animation, and you haven't yet had the pleasure of discovering Wallace & Gromit, then here's your chance. These stories are deceptively simple, but are filled with lots of clever little touches that will make you smile. There's great attention paid to detail here - keep your eyes on the headlines of the newspapers the characters read. Gromit also seems to have quite an impressive library (Electronics for Dogs and "Pluto's" Republic are not uncommon reading for the clay K9). And when the penguin tries to drive poor Gromit crazy with loud music in The Wrong Trousers, one of the songs he plays is How Much is that Doggie in the Window - funny! Given the high quality and extras, and the great content, The Incredible Adventures of Wallace & Gromit is a must-own DVD for any animation fan. Give it a spin and you'll be glad you did!

Bill Hunt
[email protected]

The Incredible Adventures of Wallace & Gromit

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