Sunday, 8 April 2012

Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day Out / A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit

I remember that my thoughts on A Grand Day Out were pretty negative when I first saw it. This was when The Wrong Trousers was all the rage, and this 1989 short was shown retrospectively. With Creature Comforts by then widely-known and being used for the Heat Electric adverts and Nick Park becoming ever more famous, The Wrong Trousers and then A Close Shave were big successes for Aardman. The likes of Chicken Run and the currently-running The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists owe their greenlighting to the popularity of 90s Aardman, and they built upon the success of this.

And it was a success. It was Oscar-nominated, and the short that it lost out to was actually Creature Comforts. It has that distinctive Wallace and Gromit charm and silliness with a feel-good factor, and some pretty ambitious shots for low-budget clay animation. So why was I less than enthused? Well, really because the two sequels set my expectations too high.

That’s the problem, really, with going back to the first film when you’ve seen the excellent sequels made with more funding and buoyed by the confidence success brings. This first effort just doesn’t look as good, nor does it tell as interesting and amusing a story. The models are notably less visually pleasing than their more developed versions from the other films – Wallace’s head is rather an unappealing shape, and Gromit looks…a bit dirty. The cooker is a funny little idea and brings along a good way to have a satisfying ending, but beside the antagonists of other Wallace and Gromit shorts rather pales in comparison. And I just didn’t feel like the moon actually being made of cheese fit into the later Wallace and Gromit world.

Rewatching it on this fine grey Easter Sunday, though, I found it much more charming than my cynical younger self had led me to remember. By the time I was watching, Wallace and Gromit were known to all, and I never appreciated the stroke of genius that is introducing your principle characters having them sat in a little living room wondering where to go on holiday and talking about having some cheese on crackers. That Yorkshire accent is instantly both likeable and a bit daft, and it’s interesting that one of the first things that happens is that Gromit makes some noise. The story, despite the enormous distance it covers, is charmingly small-scale and simple.

Undeniably both the technical side and the writing would improve very rapidly for The Wrong Trousers, but there’s still much to be said for A Grand Day Out, and it led to some excellent things. The world would certainly be a poorer place without Aardman’s work, and I hope that they will at some point soon make their feature film masterpiece.

And this film always makes me want to listen to Penguins on the Moon and hope one day it gets set to animation. 

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