Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

The first Aardman/Nick Parks production I ever saw were excerpts from “Creature Comforts”; I will never ever forget the young polar bear Andrew or the jaguar from brazil (or Peru?) whining about needing his space and meeeaaat. Such whimsical yet amazingly expressive and beautifully funny creations. And inspired further commercials for a utilities company, too!

Next was the video clip for Nina Simone’s “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, which just happens to be my favourite song of all time. When I saw the slinky, sexy Nina-cat on the stage, with jazz trio behind, and the rather geeky boy-cat attempting to get into the club … and piano keys and music somehow being animated, in the instrumental interlude, well I was sold. (That clip is still my favourite piece of animation EVER – such style, grace and sexy – whoa, who’d think clay could be sexy – simply superb.) Aardman and Nick Parks also did a fantastically surreal video clip for Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”

Of course I was glued to the TV when Wallace and Gromit (directed by Nick Parks) made their first, and subsequent, appearances. “A Grand Day Out”, “The Wrong Trousers”, “A Close Shave” … each more perfect, streamlined, innovative and amazing than the last.

The next outing for Aardman, Chicken Run (2000) was absolutely delightful, the first full-length claymation production. The tale of battery-hen chickens, led by Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha), intent on escape with the assistance of Rocky (Mel Gibson), and referencing WW2 escape movies eg, Stalag 17 and The Great Escape, as well as Braveheart and Star Trek canon, and complete with classic, clichéd training montage.

The question on everyone’s lips of course, was; what about a Wallace and Gromit MOVIE!!! And lo, prayers were answered. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was released in 2005 and recently picked up the 2006 Oscar for Best Animated Film. Hurrah! Apart from Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (up for minor production awards) this was the only Oscar nominee I saw prior to the ceremony. And oh, I love-love-LOVED it. The most perfect movie ever – and acknowledged as such by Harry Knowles himself.

The film was so beautifully timed, concise – not a single unnecessary frame (okay so considering the time and technique involved in producing 3 seconds of film, the team would want to be concise; but still); the characters and voicings were spot-on – Wallace (Peter Sallis) himself, so broad and generous, Totty (Helena Bonham-Carter – inspired choice), and Victor (Ralph Fiennes), all amazing actors who brought the plasticine characters to rich, vibrant life. And of course, Gromit, who expresses so much in body language and with eyebrows without a single vocalisation – particularly when controlling the raunchy decoy bunny!

The inspired Heath Robinson-esque inventions we have come to know and love from Wallace and Gromit were better than ever, especially the alarm response procedure, and the Bun Vac 6000 (set to suck or blow, heehee).

The most outstanding feature of the movie, indeed of all the Aardman/Parks productions, is they are made with such LOVE. Sure, other film-makers are creative, obsessive, passionate, driven, dollar-oriented, but love? Only the Lord of the Rings trilogy came close to the palpable love and devotion invested in this film (which is saying a HELLUVA lot, coming from me, a rabid fan of Peter Jackson & Co’s creation). Seeing the visible thumbprints on Gromit – is that a true labour of love or what? So “labour of love” is as clichéd as it gets, but frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn …

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