Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Wallace & Gromit

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 19, 1999

Cracking toast, Gromit!

Special features

Early Animation3
Making Of4

Possibly the best children’s/adult’s animation to come out since the sixties. Consists of three half-hour shows, “A Grand Day Out”, “The Wrong Trousers”, and “A Close Shave”. Wallace and Gromit work on both a child’s and an adult’s level, making it truly a work “for all ages”.

DirectorNick Parks
Movie Rating8
Transfer Quality7
Overall Rating6
  • Television Format

Nick Park is one of the mainstays of the various Festivals of Animation traveling around. He is most famous for his “Wallace and Gromit” series (although others certainly have a big hand in it, judging from the meagre documentary included on the DVD). Wallace and Gromit is a clay animation series involving an inventor and his dog. Wallace, the inventor, loves nothing more than inventing: except perhaps for cheese. So, when they run out of cheese during holidays the most obvious solution is to invent something to bring them more cheese. In “A Grand Day Out”, Wallace and Gromit build a space ship in their basement, to take them to the moon, which everyone knows is made of cheese (although Gromit, the dog, may have his doubts).

“A Grand Day Out” is arguably the funniest of the three (although some will probably claim that “A Close Shave” wins that honor), and is definitely the most touching. Wallace and Gromit head off to the moon, find their cheese (or not, it doesn’t taste like any cheese Wallace has ever known), and meet the strange guardian of the moon.

The next movie has to be the saddest of the three. Wallace is running out of funds, and must rent out the extra room in their house. The new lodger ends up replacing Gromit for Wallace’s affection. On the other hand, Wallace’s idea of “affection” is a bit twisted anyway: for Gromit’s birthday, Wallace gets him an automatic dog walker, so that Gromit may go for Walkies without Wallace’s assistance. These are the “techno-trousers” that fit into the title “The Wrong Trousers”.

Finally, Wallace and Gromit are back together again but there is a wool shortage, leaving little market for their new automatic all-in-one sheap-shearer and knitting machine (perhaps fortunately, for their are still a few kinks in the system). Wallace falls in love with a wool merchant, and neither Gromit nor the wool merchant’s dog (left to her by her father) are pleased with that. “A Close Shave” can beat out “A Grand Day Out” for best of the three shorts depending on time of day and phases of the moon. They’re both quite funny.

A lot of care goes into making these shorts. The background detail, for example in the basement workshop, is amazing. The tiny little movements in the clay characters, must be painstaking. The DVD includes some excerpts from a “making of” feature titled “Inside the Wrong Trousers”. It looks like it was quite interesting, but usually when it really gets interesting it cuts to another scene. Along with this feature are a couple of screen test, one for a possibly pre-Gromit dog, and another for various scenes in “A Grand Day Out”.

The DVD also includes two very early pieces by Nick Park, based around a character called “Walter Rat”. (The box says “Four of Nick Parks Early Animations”, but I think they’re including the two screen tests.) These early cartoons are interesting (and the second actually approaches being good), but mostly they’re interesting for the insight into the learning process of animators.

Besides those extras, there are some BBC Christmas Interstitials. I don’t know exactly what that word means, but it appears to be tiny short bits that appear between commercials as sort of a video greeting card from the broadcaster. You see similar things on MTV (or you used to, I’m an old fogey who hasn’t seen MTV in nearly a decade).

Overall, if you actually take a dislike to animation there’s no hope for you. But otherwise you’ll really enjoy Wallace & Gromit.

Recommendation: Purchase

DirectorNick Parks
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish
Special FeaturesEarly Animation, Making Of
More links

If you enjoyed Wallace & Gromit…

For more about animation, you might also be interested in Heavy Metal, The Hobbit, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Scooby Doo’s Original Mysteries, The Complete Superman Collection, Underdog, and Yellow Submarine.

For more about English, you might also be interested in The Life of Brian and The Ruling Class.