Wallace & Gromit's World of Invention [Blu-Ray]
Director : Merlin Crossingham
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 2010
Stars : Peter Sallis (Wallace), Ashley Jensen (Narrator), Jem Stansfield (Science Correspondent), John Sparkes (Goronwy)
If one were to imagine a television show hosted by Wallace and Gromit, the delightfully silly plasticine man-and-dog duo first created by Nick Park in the early 1980s while he was still a student, Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention would be it. Given that all of W&G’s screen adventures have centered around one of Wallace’s whacked-out contraptions—whether it be a pair of self-walking robotic Techno-Trousers in The Wrong Trousers (1993) or a device for sucking pesky rabbits out of the ground in their feature-film debut The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)—it is only fitting that their six-part BBC series focus on the world of science and invention. With his wonderfully daffy voice supplied by Peter Sallis, Wallace plays eager (and sometimes awkward) host to the show, positioning himself behind a desk in his basement laboratory/production studio, introducing each of the segments with some kind of groan-worthy pun (“Puts the jeans in genius”) while Gromit, his always-silent, but imminently expressive canine companion, works behind the scenes to keep everything running.
Wallace and Gromit, however, are not the stars of the show. Rather, the stars are a motley assortment of inventors, designers, and dreamers (crackpot and otherwise) from all around the world who have come up with innovations that are alternately stunning, amusing, world-changing, and mind-boggling. Some of them seem to have no purpose other than their own unique, compelling existence, such as Danish sculptor Theo Jansen’s Animaris Siamesis, an enormous, animal-like entity built entirely of PVC piping that is designed to “live” independent of human interaction by harnessing wind power. Other inventions, however, have had life-changing effects, for example, English inventor Trevor Baylis’s wind-up radio, which was instrumental in helping to spread news about AIDS throughout the parts of Africa that lacked electricity.
Each episode is organized around a particular theme: “Nature Knows Best” (inventions that are inspired by animal behavior and other elements of nature); “Reach for the Sky” (inventions that fulfill humankind’s desire for flight); “Home Sweet Home” (inventions that have changed and possibly might change domestic life); “Come to Your Senses” (inventions that somehow manipulate our five senses); “Better Safe Than Sorry” (inventions that protect us); and “From A to B” (inventions that seek to revolutionize transportation). Each episode follows a set pattern, with segments about the inventions and their inventors framed by Wallace and Gromit’s antics in their lab/television studio (in the “Home Sweet Home” episode, for example, Wallace’s new robot invention, a Labor Assisting Device, or LAD, goes berserk when Gromit pours coffee down its innards in order to protect his position as Wallace’s right-hand man). Most episodes also feature an “Inventor of the Week,” a “Contraption Countdown,” and (my personal favorite) “It Never Got Off the Drawing Board,” a segment that features an invention that never made the leap from design to production (which include a refrigerator designed by Albert Einstein and a form of artificial gills that draw oxygen out of water).
There is much to enjoy in the series, both for fans of Wallace and Gromit’s offbeat adventures and for those who simply want to witness human ingenuity at its finest and strangest. The charm of Wallace and Gromit has always been their tenacity: Despite their odd couple sensibility and tendency to get in over their heads, they always persevere by doing what they do best (and being extremely lucky). The same could often be said of inventors, whose tireless work in making our lives richer, more comfortable, more convenient, and more interesting is oftentimes an impossibly dense cross-weaving of intelligence, resourcefulness, imagination, and sheer luck. Wallace and Gromit are definitely in their element.
|Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention: The Complete 6-Part Series Blu-Ray|
|Audio||English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround|
|Supplements||Six episodes of “Your World of Invention”|
|Release Date||March 13, 2012|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|All six episodes of Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention are presented in high-definition, but unfortunately the image is interlaced, rather than progressive. Otherwise, the image looks quite nice, although the quality varies widely due to the fact that the footage in each episode comes from numerous sources, ranging from high-definition cameras, to low-fi videocameras, to various forms of filmstock. The Wallace and Gromit episodes are sharp and clear, with good texture, detail, and color. The soundtrack is presented in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel surround mix, although it is predominantly front heavy, with any surround action coming primarily in the Wallace and Gromit segments.|
|There are no Wallace and Gromit-related supplements on this disc, but it does have six episodes of the Aardman-produced series “Your World of Invention” (each of which runs about six minutes) in which host Ricky Martin demonstrates how you can use household items to create various gadgets, including a spy camera, a wind-powered sprinkler, and an air rocket.|
Copyright ©2012 James Kendrick
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All images copyright © Aardman and Lionsgate