In an era of animated sitcoms aplenty, a hapless British inventor and his mute canine companion seem unlikely candidates to star in a groundbreaking animated series. But 2019 marks thirty years since Wallace & Gromit first delighted audiences with their unique claymation capers.
In the form of a ranking system, please let me tell you how much I love them. Presumably, if you’re a human being with access to a TV, you do too.
#4 A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008)
Wallace and Gromit have become bakers in this tale of a chef killer – and the adult humour is buttered on thick. With its darker storyline and inclusion of extra human characters, there’s more than a dash of Were-Rabbit in this one.
There’s also a sense, however, that we’ve seen this story before: Gromit is once again rejected to make way for a new friend, and the reliance on the love plot isn’t always compelling. Come on guys, get to the cool gadgets and crime-fighting.
There is still a lot to like though – the production value is the most striking of the four short films and given the franchise’s love for elaborate inventions, every penny is well spent. But the best thing you can say about A Matter of Loaf and Death is that it proved the pair were still primed for adventures post-feature film, undoubtedly bringing them to a new audience in the process.
#3 A Close Shave (1995)
Easily the most ambitious of the shorts in terms of storyline, A Close Shave throws cyborgs in with sidecars and prison sentences in with porridge guns; the latter of these is probably the greatest G-rated weapon of the ‘90s.
The third in the series picks up where The Wrong Trousers left off, featuring many of the same contraptions and set designs as its predecessor. Given Wallace and Gromit have different jobs, adventures and companions in every short, there’s a real buoyancy about this kind of continuity.
Pleasingly, most of the new additions don’t feel forced, with the motorbike and sidecar giving a sense of baddassery hitherto unknown for Wallace & Gromit.
A Close Shave will probably go down in the history books as being the first appearance of Shaun The Sheep, but there’s a slight sense that Aardman bit off a bit more than they could chew with the plot.
Nevertheless, its twists and turns are thrilling, if sometimes a little tenuous.
Watch the chase scene in A Close Shave:
#2 A Grand Day Out (1989)
I really struggled to split A Grand Day Out and A Close Shave, but in the end, it came down to the sheer ingenuity of this short.
It catapulted Britain’s duo into the minds and hearts of so many, and established much of what we know and love about them: the bumbling Wallace’s cheese obsession and his trademark juddering hand gesture (you know the one), the duo’s distinct Britishness and love of invention.
It’s a lot to cram into 22 minutes, yet A Grand Day Out manages to remain refreshingly simple in its premise, wisely letting the groundbreaking visuals grab us. It sets the tone for this series but allows plenty of room to expand the adventures that the duo could embark upon. And bloody hell doesn’t that rocket ship look cool.
#1 The Wrong Trousers (1993)
Everything that makes Wallace & Gromit great is on show in The Wrong Trousers. The short films are arguably at their funniest when the visual gags do the legwork, and they’re in great form here.
It’s also this lack of dialogue that helps to fuel suspense in this, the pair’s first crime-centric outing. Moreso than the other short films, this one really is Gromit’s story. Feathers McGraw, Gromit’s flightless foe, is a perfect foil for the doggo, and is probably the most conniving villain of the series.
The labyrinthian cityscapes and Film Noir-style soundtrack feel appropriate alongside this plotting penguin. If we’re going to get super swanky, it’s also just a nice story about the perils of technology that still feels fresh today.