We first heard that a new Wallace and Gromit short was in production at Bradford Animation Festival last year, by none other than Nick Park himself. As we consider ourselves amongst Aardman’s biggest and most obsessively fanatical fans (we genuinely considered tripping Nick Park down the stairs just so we could talk to him), we knew that it’d be a long wait til Christmas when ‘Trouble at ‘Mill’ would be screened.
A year passed, and a few insignificant things changed (we started an animation studio, Tottenham Hotspurs got good, America elected a black President etc), and a few slightly more important pieces of information reached our ears: the short was now called “A Matter of Loaf and Death,” and Christmas was no longer the earliest opportunity to see it.
We no longer foresaw ourselves shunning our families and friends for half an hour on Christmas day to glue ourselves in front of the TV, or waiting with the rest of the animation community (suckers!). We got tickets to the Premier in Bristol, to support the Prince’s Trust, and the best thing of all? We’d get another opportunity meet Nick Park and to chat with him/push him down the stairs.
Long story short: The film was brilliant, the whole night was perfect and Nick Park was just lovely. We even got goodie bags complete with Wensleydale cheeeese! (and, slightly randomly, multi-vitamins. They obviously know that animators don’t spend enough time preparing nutritionally balanced meals.)
The film was faster paced than the other shorts, with habits picked up from the feature perhaps that didn’t suit the short format quite as well. There were a few places where the plot was confusing and lacked exposition, which could have been the result of Aardman’s shortest ever production period.
It lacked the charm of Grand Day Out, the plot of Wrong Trousers and the potential spin off characters of Close Shave, yet it made up for these with an abundance of wit, fast paced action and puns and movie references galore. The new characters fit in to the world of Wallace and Gromit well, and Gromit was even given his own love interest (is it just me, or is Wallace turning in to a bit of a floozy?), although the scale of the aforementioned love interest made animation difficult and at times this could break the illusion.
The story is funny and clever, and with the attention to detail and characterisation that have made Aardman world famous. No opportunity for a pun was missed, yet they were able to keep dialogue natural. Peter Salis once again brought Wallace to life with charming ineptitude, and Gromit’s eyebrows were as long suffering as ever. The film will perhaps not take its place amongst the very best of the studio’s output, but it’ll outstrip anything else showing on Christmas Day, and will be the contender to beat at next year’s Oscars.