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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD Review: Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death



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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted September 23 2009 - 08:10 AM


 

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death



Studio: Lionsgate/HIT Entertainment

Theatrical Release Year: 2008

US DVD Release Date: September 22, 2009

Rated: Not Rated

Running Time: 30 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English (Dolby Digital Surround 2.0)

Subtitles: English (SDH)




Movie: 3.5 out of 5

Nominated for four Academy Awards, and winning three, Wallace and Gromit have become the Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse of Aardman Animation Studios, and their popularity led to what would later become an ill-fated partnership (but more of a distribution deal) with Dreamworks Animation. Wallace and Gromit would also set a signature animation style for Aardman, as seen in Creature Comforts, the Chevron Car commercials, and their first feature-length film, Chicken Run.


My first encounter with Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit was in 1989 when the annual Spike & Mke Festival of Animation would roll into town at the (now demolished) Mesa Theatre in Costa Mesa, California. There were only two shorts I can remember to this day shown at that year’s festival, they were both directed by Aardman’s Nick Park, and both were nominated for Best Animated Short Subject, Wallace & Gromit in A Grand Day Out and Creature Comforts (which went on to win that year).


A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008) is the latest adventure, following their feature-length feature Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Wallace and Gromit now have their own bakery, Top Bun. In town, there has been a rash of baker murders, which the short cleverly refers to as a cereal killer. Wallace’s love infatuation this time out is Piella Bakewell (voiced by Sally Lindsay), a former spokesmodel for Bake-O-Lite bread. But Gromit senses something is not quite right with this romance. Movie references are in abundance, including Ghost, Spider-Man 2, Fatal Attraction, Aliens, Psycho, Vertigo, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and even Batman (1966).


Video: 2 out of 5

For some unknown reason, Lionsgate and HIT Entertainment have released A Matter of Loaf and Death, in a full-screen 1.33:1 transfer, despite being filmed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, as evidenced on the Blu-ray release. Thus, some information on the left and right edges are lost in this cropped transfer. Colors are vibrant and well-saturated, inky blacks, and fine detail. Compression artifacts are minimal.


Audio: 2.5 out of 5

As with the video, the DVD gets short-changed on audio as well, with only a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track being provided. Dialogue is intelligible, with good fidelity and good use of surrounds for a matrixed soundtrack.


Special Features: 3 out of 5

Audio Commentary with Nick Park and David McCormick on A Matter of Loaf and Death: The two discuss the effects and animation techniques used in the film, compressing the storyline into 30 minutes after making feature-length, giving the film a cinematic feel, some of the continuity errors that can be found, and the many references to other Hollywood films.


How They Donut: The Making of A Matter of Loaf and Death: A 20 minute behind the scenes look at the making of the most recent Wallace and Gromit adventure. One of the challenges in making the film was working within a television budget but trying to keep the production values of a feature film. This is also the first Wallace and Gromit short that utilized digital cinematography with a customized digital still camera (the same technology used on Corpse Bride).


Shaun The Sheep in Off The Baa!:The adorable sheep from A Close Shave is featured in this seven minute cartoon from the television series. When a head of cabbage falls off the farmer’s truck, Shaun and his fellow sheep play a game of soccer with the leafy ball.


Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures Video Game Demo: A PC game demo is provided on the DVD-Rom portion of the disc, but is not supported on 64-bit Windows operating systems.


Overall: 2.5 out of 5

I was quite disappointed that only a full-screen 1.33:1 video transfer and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround tracks were provided, especially since the Blu-ray retains the film’s original aspect ratio. For that reason, I cannot really recommend this disc.






#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Waylander

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Posted September 23 2009 - 09:37 AM

Thanks for the review.

Wow, that's very disappointing about the framing. Makes me feel like the old days when I couldn't afford the letterbox releases on laserdisc and had to make do with pan-and-scan VHS. Now I can't afford Blu-ray and makes regular DVD owners seem like second class citizens. They could have easily included encodes both 4X3 and 16X9 versions.
With all the various releases of Wallace and Gromit over the years I would have hoped for 'ultimate' stlye re-releases for a 20th Anniversay Collection, but this has killed my enthusiasm. 

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   JoeDoakes

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Posted September 25 2009 - 02:38 AM

Was it really filmed at 1.78:1 or was it released at 1.78:1?  A lot of films are shot full frame and then cropped for theatrical release.  Have you compared the dvd to the blue ray?

#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted September 25 2009 - 06:05 AM

I reveiwed both the DVD and Blu-ray, and the Blu-ray had more information on the left and right sides of the frame.


Quote from my review above:
For some unknown reason, Lionsgate and HIT Entertainment have released A Matter of Loaf and Death, in a full-screen 1.33:1 transfer, despite being filmed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, as evidenced on the Blu-ray release. Thus, some information on the left and right edges are lost in this cropped transfer. 
Quote from my review above:
This is also the first Wallace and Gromit short that utilized digital cinematography with a customized digital still camera (the same technology used on Corpse Bride).
 



#5 of 6 OFFLINE   Patrick H.

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Posted September 30 2009 - 02:16 AM

This is an appalling disc.  Considering that the making-of piece IS in anamorphic widescreen, and is full of clips from the film, the severity of the cropping becomes quickly apparent.  Cute details, and even important gags like some of Gromit's reactions are gone.  The animators made full use of the new ratio in a very fast-paced and complicated short, and all of that work is trashed via this presentation.  The fact that both the making-of and, elsewhere, the 'Cracking Contraptions' bits have been presented properly just adds insult to injury.  I love Wallace & Gromit, but if this is the best Lionsgate can do with these popular characters on standard DVD, I'll gladly put my $10 toward something worthwhile.


#6 of 6 OFFLINE   Thomas Newton

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Posted October 07 2009 - 05:55 PM

I bought this assuming that it was in OAR.  If the cellophane is still on it, looks like it's time to consider taking it back.