Wallace & Gromit's World of Invention Blu-ray Review
If you are a fan of clay-mation you will likely recognize the trademark Aardman eyes – the two eyes set up top of the face with only a brow above… a caricature trait but something that provides incredible realism to their characters expressions. If you are still not sure, how about these two names: Wallace & Gromit. A duo who are never apart save when one of Wallace’s inventions runs amok. The most recent release from Aardman Animation is the complete 6 part series of WALLACE & GROMIT’S WORLD OF INVENTION – a show that ran on the BBC in 2010 that I am happy to have the opportunity to review.
The carefree (and careless) inventor Wallace who lives with his unassuming and all-too-human dog companion Gromit burst onto the scene in the 1989 animated short A GRAND DAY OUT WITH WALLACE AND GROMIT. This was the first adventure of our completely non-traditional family unit, and also the only Wallace and Gromit animated short that didn’t bring Aardman an Academy Award. The duo brought to life by Peter Lord and Nick Park, perhaps better known as Aardman Animation, captured our imaginations in addition to bringing home Academy Awards for Best Animated Short (THE WRONG TROUSERS in 1993 and A CLOSE SHAVE in 1995) and Best Animated Feature in 2005 for WALLACE & GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT.
The biggest surprise to me in popping this series into the Blu-ray player was that the series is primarily live action. Wallace and Gromit introduce each episode and provide commentary and a few jokes in between each segment. The documentary angle is pretty great, featuring prepared segments on various inventions, specific inventors, and interview pieces featuring “science correspondent” Jem Stansfield.
Stansfield, an aeronautical engineer and BBC mainstay, provides the show with the right amount of scientific prowess while being both entertaining and engaging with some truly unique individuals and testing out their inventions. Providing the voiceover for the entire program is our Narrator, the talented Ashley Jensen. You might recognize her from her recurring character on UGLY BETTY or the Gervais HBO show EXTRAS, but she truly has some great vocal chops and grounds the show.
The real stars of the show, however, are the Inventors and the inventions themselves. Each episode is given a theme (e.g. inventions inspired by nature in Nature Knows Best) and the show then takes us on a wild adventure, sometimes around the globe, other times staying inside England, but never ceasing to provide some great and original moments. My favorite sequence is, in fact, in the very first episode. Focusing on robotics that act like animals or nature, one scientist designed a light-weight robotic manta ray that flies around an open building. In the tranquil beauty of this incredible invention we are reminded just what is possible when innovation meets genius.
But another theme throughout the series is that so many inventors, like our own friend Wallace, have become so engrossed in their work that they lack social prowess. This is handled with a very British grace, however, and never do you feel that the show is poking fun at anyone. If you’re a Wallace and Gromit fan, I suggest this Blu-ray simply out of the great little snippets in each episode… but if you’re a fan of science and want to see something original and different, you will also find a LOT to enjoy here.
Video: (1080i, 1.78:1 Widescreen) The animated intros and segues look absolutely fantastic in HD, but the vast majority of the footage used in the live action portions of WALLACE & GROMIT’S WORLD OF INVENTION looks like it came from several years before HD was invented. It’s frustrating to have the picture switch back and forth.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio on WALLACE & GROMIT’S WORLD OF INVENTION is generally well presented but there simply aren’t many instances where you’ll feel like it’s really anything special. This is a standard presentation of a generally dialogue heavy picture.
Your World of Invention – Build Six of Your Own Cracking Contraptions (38:02) Six short featuretts give some inventions that you can actually make at home. Hosted by a charismatic young Brit named Ricky Martin, these are kind of fun. Sadly this is the ONLY special feature on the WALLACE & GROMIT’S WORLD OF INVENTION Blu-ray, which honestly makes it a bit disappointing. Includes Atmospheric Railway, Wind-Powered Sprinker, Fin Ray Grabber, Air Rocket, Spy Camera, Upside-Down-O-Scope