First-rate claymation like Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit is a rare treat when it surfaces. The bumbling inventor and his canine companion have enjoyed an illustrious career over the past 20+ years, starring in a number of popular shorts, a feature-length film, spin-off projects like Shaun the Sheep and, of course, a mountain of character-themed merchandise. Those expecting another full round of animated adventure may be slightly disappointed with Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention...but once you understand the format, there's very little to complain about. Essentially, this six-episode series takes an appropriately off-center look at the wacky world of do-it-yourself inventors and their curious pet projects.
This first (and only) season includes the following episodes: "Nature Knows Best", "Reach for the Sky", "Home Sweet Home", "Come to Your Senses", "Better Safe Than Sorry" and "From A to Z". Running at just under 30 minutes in length, these episodes are assembled from a variety of segments including "Curiosity Corner" (usually a blend of nature-inspired inventions), "Inventor of the Week", "Contraption Countdown" (a list of weekly-themed gadgets, most of which aren't entirely successful) and "It Never Got Off the Drawing Board" (perhaps the best of the lot, which usually sheds light on failed attempts by more well-known inventors). Bookended by all-new claymation segments featuring Wallace, Gromit and a curious cast of supporting characters, these live-action segments are often narrated by Wallace and a rotating cast of correspondents, delivered with the franchise's trademark brand of bumbling, tongue-in-cheek humor. Highlighted inventions include a homemade jet-pack, an insect-powered clock, bumblebee bomb detection, invisibility cloaks, a miniature submarine, ejector seats and much, much more.
But it's all in good fun: these episodes are relatively light and breezy, and it's obvious that the creative team respects even the most...er...peculiar inventors of the bunch. Lionsgate's Blu-Ray release is also a nice effort: it's available for the same price as the DVD and pairs a top-notch technical presentation with a few well-meaning bonus features. Any way you slice it, this is great family entertainment that would only be better with...well, more Wallace & Gromit. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratios, these 1080p transfers look about as good as expected. World of Invention features a mixed bag of source material: from low-grade videotape masters to crisp 35mm film for the W&G segments, everything is preserved nicely and no digital manipulation could be spotted along the way. The film's natural color palette holds up well, black levels are generally solid and textures on the higher-quality source material are crisp and well-defined. Overall, this is a fine visual presentation and almost makes up for the botched Region 1 release of Loaf and Death.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix tells the same story: it's only as good as its source material will allow, from the faded-but-still-recognizable dialogue of older stock footage to crisp channel separation of newer clips. The duo's familiar theme song sounds strong and dynamic, while ambient rear channel activity occasionally pops up along the way. LFE is understandably minimal from start to finish. Optional English SDH captions are provided during the main feature and bonus material, thankfully enough.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, the crafty menu designs are smooth and easy to navigate. Each 30-minute episode has been divided into several chapters, though no selection sub-menus are present. This one-disc release is housed in a standard Blu-Ray keepcase and no slipcover or promotional inserts are included.
Six bonus clips, entitled "Your World of Invention"
, are also included (38 minutes total). These kitchen-table experiments are aimed at older kids, but curious parents may want to give them a shot as well. Highlights include "Wind-Powered Sprinkler", "Air Rocket", "Spy Camera" and "Upside-Down-O-Scope". Optional SDH captions are included during all six. The lack of more traditional behind-the-scenes bonus material is understandable, as the curtain has already been lifted on W&G
's production before.
Charming, funny and occasionally informative, Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention offers a mixture of quirky documentaries, trivial tidbits and top-tier claymation. The show's formula can get a little repetitive at times, though, so it's best digested in smaller doses. Lionsgate's Blu-Ray package collects all six 30-minute episodes in one handy package, pairing a rock-solid technical presentation with a few appropriate bonus features. Dyed-in-the-wool W&G fans will be left wanting more of the dynamic duo...but this is still a no-brainer for kids of all ages, especially at such a low price point. Highly Recommended.
NOTE: The above images were obtained from promotional outlets and do not represent Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off and writing stuff in third person.