Wallace & Gromit's World of Invention on Blu-ray
If you like gadgets, gewgaws and "gee whiz science," this six part BBC series may be right up your alley.
Wallace & Gromit are popular stop motion animated cartoon characters who seem to have been around forever. In this production, however, they're the hook, the hosts and the comedy relief for what's basically a rather straightforward magazine show about the wonderful world of invention.
Nothing wrong with that, and these six half hour episodes are all fun, entertaining, and very interesting to boot.
Using these toons is actually a pretty neat idea, because they also owe their very existence to the world of invention, in this case film animation, specially the stop motion pioneered by Willis O'Brien of the original King Kong fame.
That torch as passed on to the great Ray Harryhausen, and along the way other stop motion artists have also made names for themselves, from Henry Selick of Nightmare Before Christmas, to Clokey's Gumby and Pokey, and of course Nick Park of Wallace & Gromit fame.
But we digress…
Wallace is the main host here, with Gromit mostly to support him or create a couple of laughs. The Wallace character is well known to be an inventor in his own right, too, so that doesn't hurt the series' credibility - assuming that an animated host adds credibility in the first place!
The duo shows up at the beginning of each episode and then introduce the various segments and generally hang around to keep things moving and keep them light.
The shows cover everything (well maybe not everything, but lots) from home gadgets to outer space, so it's a pretty broad brush with which they paint. That's good, too, because it broadens our interest and knowledge at the same time.
There's stuff like flying manta ray-like things, invisibility cloaking, and much more, through footage and interviews.
There are some pretty interesting personalities along for the ride, too, including a Russian guy obsessed with developing his own little submarine.
It's a way to make science fun and they've chosen some pretty interesting stuff to showcase, so we recommend this unfortunately short presentation highly.
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080i, as seems to be the BBC's wont, at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which fills the high definition TV screen completely. The source material varies in quality, since it uses quite a bit of archival footage, so that affects the overall picture quality, but this is understandable.
The Wallace & Gromit parts look great, though, and the modern footage is also pretty good. This is hardly a reference quality Blu-ray, but that's okay in an instance such as this.
Likewise, while the audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround, as you might expect from this type of show it's hardly a showcase for the home theater. Voices come through clearly, however, which is the most important thing here.
There's some fun audio stuff in the Wallace & Gromit parts, too, but as with the video this is hardly reference stuff. We're okay with that, here; it's not as if this is epic filmmaking you want to wash all over your visually and aurally.
Wallace & Gromit may never go down in stop motion history as revered as Kong, or Talos or the gryphon, but they're a lovable pair of animated characters kids can watch with their parents, and that can't be said for a lot of shows these days. And in the process you and the ankle biters will learn about some pretty neat stuff, or interesting concepts, or just some cool facts.
And that can't be bad.
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.