Usually I frown on repeated trips to the well for so-called "Special Edition" re-released DVDs. Wallace and Gromit have had several releases of their three short subjects ("A Grand Day Out," "The Wrong Trousers," and "A Close Shave," all included on this newest version), at least one of which was the result of music licensing issues (the urban myth is evidently true--the copyright owners of "Happy Birthday" will indeed sue you for using their song). While this newest release simply ports over the previous transfers and audio commentaries (as well as some special features) from the most recent BBC Video release, it redeems itself with a host of new special features, several of which are charming recent short short subjects starring the daffy duo of Wallace and Gromit themselves, as well as two new Shaun the Sheep comedies.
You'd have to have been living under a rock not to have been exposed to Wallace and Gromit by this time: Wallace, the dunderheaded, cheese-loving inventor, and his ever-faithful and long suffering dog, Gromit, make one of the most appealing comic pairs to ever grace film, let alone animation. Their three "big" features all find Wallace undergoing various tribulations as the result of his various contraptions. In "A Grand Day Out," it's his rocket ship to the moon; in "The Wrong Trousers" (my personal favorite and the most consistently hilarious of the lot), Wallace is afflicted by his robotic "Techno-Trousers" while poor Gromit is afflicted by a new boarder at the Wallace household, a nefarious penguin with some nasty secrets; "A Close Shave" finds Wallace discovering love while battling a smuggling ring which has also purloined his "Knit-o-matic" shearing device.
The features are all filled with brilliant stop-motion animation ("A Grand Day Out" took a staggering six years to complete), and are filled with enough sight gags and throw away jokes and references to make repeated viewings a must, and an enjoyable must. These are some of the most "alive" animated characters to ever light up the screen, and creator Nick Park's genius shines through literally every frame.
There's also an undeniable sweetness to these proceedings that only helps underpin their frequently side splitting humor. As any comedy writer will tell you, real humor is the result of character, not mere joke writing, and the Wallace and Gromit features have character in spades.
As with the previous releases, the full frame features are exceedingly sharp, with excellent color and detail. Several of the newer features are in enhanced 1.78:1 ratios and look similarly excellent.
The standard stereo soundtrack features the boisterous music of Julian Nott and the limited dialogue reproduced with excellent fidelity. There's some limited separation, though nothing spectacular--but there doesn't need to be.
This is where this particular release shines, and makes it worth the relatively cheap MSRP. Along with previously available background featurettes and commentaries by Nick Park (all of which are excellent), this DVD release features a host of wonderful recent "Wallace and Gromit Crackling Contraption" shorts, all built around Wallace's (usually failed) inventions. Sight gags abound in these wonderful little gems, all of which are in enhanced 1.78:1 ratios. There are also two new to DVD Shaun the Sheep episodes (in full frame ratios), each clocking in at around 7 minutes, finding the lovable furball from "A Close Shave" having various adventures on the farm, including with a somewhat more malevolent dog than Gromit.
This latest DVD incarnation of Wallace and Gromit is highly recommended for those who have not purchased one of the previous releases, and is still recommended for those with the previous releases on the basis of its new extras.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet