One of the highlights of growing up was the vast range of animated films and programmes at my disposal. Disney were the biggest name in my youth but things are very different today with animation taking a new turn with computer generated features bringing us the likes of Toy Story and Shrek. I still love animation and having dug deep into my memory I have found my ten personal favourites. Those that read my blog regularly will know I enjoy features by Studio Ghibli and although they inevitably appear more than once here, I can assure you this list has much variety. As always it would be wonderful to hear your top ten favourites as well.
Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave (1995)
Since Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit boarded a rocket to the moon to replenish their wilting supply of cheese in A Grand Day Out (1989), the wacky inventor and his faithful canine of many expressions have enjoyed numerous outings including a trip to the big screen with The Curse of the Were Rabbit (2005), but it is their third short feature A Close Shave (1995) that remains my personal favourite and not just because it was the first time I had ever watched Wallace and Gromit.
This faultless short film sees Wallace and Gromit earning some extra cash through a window cleaning service using a bungee jump mechanism (it has to be seen to be believed.) The town is in the grip of a wool shortage with a notorious sheep rustler remaining at large. We catch sight of these culprits at the start of the film when a small sheep escapes from their truck and wanders into Wallace and Gromit’s house. Our famous duo finds the sheep has eaten nearly everything in sight, including some of the furniture but they decide to adopt him and call him Shaun. Meanwhile Wallace and Gromit’s latest window cleaning job is at a wool shop owned by Wendolene who Wallace quickly falls in love with. With romance blossoming, Wallace and Gromit soon find themselves caught up in the sheep rustling scandal when Gromit is framed for the crimes and sent to prison leaving Wallace and Shaun to plot their friend’s escape and bring the real culprit to justice.
I had heard a lot about Wallace and Gromit prior to watching A Close Shave but I could never have envisaged what a pleasure half an hour in their company would be. The animation is superb, the storyline excellent and many of the gags and action scenes hilarious. Wallace isn’t your typical Hollywood hero but he has a sense of justice and does his best to make things right. Gromit is his intelligent and useful ally, reacting quickly in perilous situations and in this film he is the main hero given Wallace’s haphazard ways of dealing with a string of crises. A Close Shave has more characters than the previous films and has the welcome addition of the very cute Shaun the Sheep. Poor Shaun becomes an unfortunate victim of Wallace’s inventions when he is taken for a wash in the wash-o-matic but gets sucked into the knit-o-matic as well where his wool is removed and turned into a rather fetching small jumper. Though Shaun emerges bereft of wool and trembling, Wallace recovers the situation by giving him the jumper to wear!
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There are no real secrets about who the sheep rustlers are. Even from the opening scene we can see the culprits in their truck, despite the night setting, but this doesn’t diminish the impact of the film as a whole. After Gromit’s arrest we are soon treated to some brilliant set pieces including a daring rescue led by Wallace and Shaun with the latter sawing through the barred windows of Gromit’s prison cell. Wallace supports a cluster of sheep balanced on top of each other, with Shaun at the top, before slipping on some soap and sending Gromit, Shaun and the flock of sheep plummeting to the ground! In a fabulous scene through the countryside Wallace and Gromit, in their motorbike and sidecar, are chased by the sheep rustlers in their truck. When Wallace and Gromit get separated the nifty canine turns his runaway sidecar into a fabulous red plane and continues the pursuit. The best comes from Wallace, however, who ends up behind the truck and manages to open the trailer releasing all the captive sheep. Shaun takes charge of driving the motorbike while Wallace and the sheep pile onto the small vehicle. When Wallace calls for organisation the result is simply hilarious!
Beginning in style and never letting up on the gags and great set pieces A Close Shave is unbelievable entertainment with so much happening in the 30 minutes you’ll reach the end credits more than satisfied with the experience. I haven’t seen a bad outing from Wallace and Gromit and with Nick Park’s record thus far I don’t think he’ll falter. All of Wallace and Gromit’s films should be embraced but if you only ever see one then please make it this one.
Top Ten so far:-
6) Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave