Reviews: A Grand Day Out

An underrated Start Off.

A Grand Day Out is the first instalment of the Wallace & Gromit series. It was the most time consuming to make, a lot of footage made solely by Nick Park before he joined Aardman Animation, and it shows.

Out of the series of shorts (or at least the first three), A Grand Day Out tends to be considered the lesser of the lot, largely due to it's cruder animation, Early Installment Weirdness and more surreal setup. I find this a shame, since I actually find it perhaps the most tight of the films and one that embodies the series' strong points the best. I don't mind the crudeness, there's arguably more fun seeing all the thumbprints and roughness of the models since it shows off all the direct handmade work that went into every frame. There's also some fun watching the designs slowly evolve with each scene (watch Wallace's mouth and the pair's eyebrows get larger and the models smooth out a bit).

While I am left in wonder what Park's original more elaborate story would have turned out like, he compensated well, since in place of all the excess plot and characters, we get tons and tons of character display and acting. The scenes with the robot cooker impress in particular, it's just acting emotion and personality with a pair of arms, and it works in making perhaps the series' most heart wrenchingly sympathetic character after Gromit. The more laid back story makes the whole thing feel extremely cozy and British anyway (there's a reason it makes perfect Christmas viewing). As the series got more high budget and could tackle bigger flashier plots, I feel these strengths got downgraded (even if there's yet to be a 'bad' Wallace and Gromit film).

Otherwise the changes I actually enjoy. I love the jazz riff soundtrack, I love Wallace's smaller but elasticated mouth, I love the more surreal story, and the ending is perhaps the most effectively heartwarming moment of the franchise. Sure The Wrong Trousers is a masterpiece, but for me, this one wins, if by a margin.