This review is sponsored by
|Category||Claymation||Featurette-The Amazing World
of Wallace & Gromit (15:09)
Photo Gallery-22 stills
|Year Released||1989 - 1995|
|Running Time||81:42 minutes|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The story of the DVD version of Wallace &
Gromit is almost as quirky as the animation is, so perhaps a little
background is in order. Until fairly recently, the only way mega-fans of
& Gromit have been able to get their beloved characters on PAL
DVD has been to import the German version of the DVD, and put up with the
titles and menus in German, even though an English language track is on
the DVD. Sub-optimal, expensive, and yet many fans did exactly that, a
testament to the compelling nature of Wallace & Gromit. Now,
our beloved duo have been brought to us in the way they were meant to be
seen - in PAL, in Region 4, with English titles and English audio. The
wait has been worth it.
For those of you who truly don't know who Wallace & Gromit are, they are the trusty creations of director Nick Park (Chicken Run), dating back to his film student days. They have progressively developed a life of their own as time has gone on. Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) is an eccentric inventor. Gromit is his humanly-intelligent dog. Their quirky misadventures are brought to life through the stunning but very time-consuming process of claymation - clay models, animated frame-by-frame, mostly at 12 frames per second.
The three adventures presented on this DVD are the very original A Grand Day Out, where Wallace discovers that they are out of cheese, and so determines to go to the moon to get cheese - after all, we all know that the moon is made of cheese; The Wrong Trousers, where Gromit's Techno-Trousers, a gift from Wallace, are usurped from their intended purpose by a cunning villain, and; A Close Shave, where strange goings-on are afoot with sheep.
There really is little that I can tell you about these animations - they are all true classics, both for their technical quality and for their artistic merits. Two of them have won Academy Awards for animation. They belong in every film and animation buff's libraries, particularly given the gorgeous way in which the transfers have been presented.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.
One of the biggest things that immediately struck me about this transfer is the sharpness on offer. The clarity of the image is remarkable to behold, with many many more details on offer than I have ever seen before. Subtle little details, like background texturing, look better on this DVD than I have ever seen before for this material. Pondering on this for a bit, I realized why - the source material consists of multiple still shots, so not even motion blur will be an issue here in the source material. MPEG encoding loves this sort of clean and crisp motion.
Shadow detail is clearly exactly what the filmmakers intended us to see, to the extent of being able to discern where the light sources are by the shadows cast, particularly in A Grand Day Out, which has substantially more dark scenes than the other two episodes.
Low level noise is the second area where this transfer shines in comparison to any other medium. Clean as a whistle, blacks are exactly that - black - and not a noisy dark grey. Chalk up another advantage to our beloved digital format.
Colours were beautifully rendered. Whilst I would hesitate to refer to any of the colours as vibrant, they exhibit a fine clarity and depth to them that nicely reflects the English heritage of the characters. The colours in A Grand Day Out varied up and down slightly in intensity periodically, but this appeared to be inherent in the source material.
As suggested previously, this source material would appear to be very MPEG-friendly, as there are minimal to no MPEG artefacts present, a factor helped by the relatively short length of the programming on the DVD. If one were to be really picky, you could say that there was some trivial background pixelization in some of the most finely textured scenes in A Close Shave, but you really need a magnifying glass to see it.
Aliasing is not an issue with this transfer, but image wobble is a minor issue, an inherent problem with claymation. A Grand Day Out is mildly affected by image wobble, however never to a distracting extent. The other two features suffer occasionally from wobble, but it is at an even lower level than that exhibited by A Grand Day Out.
Film artefacts are generally well-controlled. Once again, A Grand Day Out is the most affected, with the other two being much cleaner in this regard.
The dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, even taking into account the fairly broad British (?Yorkshire) accents. Audio sync was as good as it is ever going to get for claymation.
The musical score is by Julian Nott, and shows a clear evolution as we proceed through the three features. A Grand Day Out features merely the title music along with smatterings of other musical cues, and we progress to an almost omni-present melodramatic score by the time we get to A Close Shave. The score is suitably quirky and over-the-top, enhancing the farcical nature of much of the on-screen goings on.
The surround channels are not used for the monophonic A Grand Day Out, but are progressively used more and more with the other two features. In general, we find music aggressively mixed into the rears, creating a nicely enveloping sound that complements the dialogue and action. Sound effects tended to be front soundstage only, but this improved to being occasionally spread throughout the soundfield by A Close Shave.
The subwoofer was used to support the music, and
received a surprising amount of redirected bass energy from A Grand
Day Out, particularly during the space-ship sequences.
|Surround Channel Use|
Wallace & Gromit is also available in R2 (UK), however their DVD is identical to ours save for some trivial additional DVD-ROM content.
This is a tough one. The Audio Commentaries promised for the R1 re-release sound compelling (and indeed are glancingly referred to in the featurette on the R4 DVD as being in preparation for the US release), but I have serious reservations about what this material would look like in NTSC replete with 3:2 pulldown. Perhaps true aficionados will need to own both - the R1 for the commentaries and the R4 for the glorious transfer.
© Michael Demtschyna
(read my bio)
1st June 2001
|DVD||Denon DVD-3300, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 4:3 mode, via the RGB input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Denon AVD-1000 DTS AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials and the NTSC DVD version of The Ultimate DVD Demo Disc.|
|Amplification||EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifier for Left & Right Front; Marantz MA6100 125W per channel monoblock amplifiers for Left & Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer|
|Speakers||Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO Subwoofer|