Stop-motion animation, extremely popular when I was a child, has to a great extent been replaced by CGI. Note that I wrote ‘replaced’ and not made ‘obsolete’: Aardman Animations‘ work can compete with the best CGI, and does so successfully. Witness this, their first full-length film.
It’s ‘vege-mania’ in Wallace and Gromit’s neighborhood, and our two enterprising chums are cashing in with their humane pest-control outfit, “Anti-Pesto.” With only days to go before the annual Giant Vegetable Competition, business is booming, but Wallace & Gromit are finding out that running a “humane” pest control outfit has its drawbacks as their West Wallaby Street home fills to the brim with captive rabbits…
The least you can say is that the scenario is suitably silly. Like the animated shorts (not to mention the remote-controlled Wrong Trousers) this goofy tale is played completely straight for maximum fun. While it’s a loving parody of old Hammer Horror films, with a seasoning of Last of the Summer Wine and liberally sprinkled with visual puns and references (there’s International Rescue lurking in there too, among other things), you don’t have to get all the subtle jokes to enjoy it. Children love it, everyone else can enjoy themselves without being bored or feeling like they’re being force-fed Noddy for nearly an hour and a half.
It’s hard to believe how much expression can be coaxed out of a tiny plasticine figurine, but coaxed it is: the film is technically superb. Add to that at least one, if not several, over-fertile imaginations producing all the strange inventions, designing the special effects (it isn’t easy to combine something continuous like real sparks with frame-by-frame animation), and even when you know all the jokes by heart you can still marvel at the technical genius behind it.
This is also one DVD where the extras come heartily recommended: there are games for kids, instructions on how to made your own plasticine bunnies, and a “Making of” which may surprise some Harry Potter fans, since it’s Helena Bonham Carter who voices the lovely Lady Tottington and Ralph Fiennes – his eyes shining with schoolboy joy as he describes the whole thing as “brilliant” – who lends his dulcet tones to unscrupulous fortune-hunter Victor Quartermain.
Pure Plasticine joy.
There is a well-stocked store on the official Wallace and Gromit site, with the proceeds from certain items going to children’s charities. The characters are also often used to encourage children top take an interest in real science and use their ingenuity.