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Western Animation / A Close Shave

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The One With… Shaun the Sheep.

A Close Shave is the third short film featuring Wallace & Gromit.

Wallace's crush Wendolene turns out to have ties to the local wool shortage, leading to Gromit being imprisoned for sheep-rustling, forcing Wallace to stage a daring jailbreak with the help of a woolly jumper-wearing lamb whom Wallace names Shaun. The three must face the real villain in a final showdown for all the yarn.

Released in 1995, it won the 1995 Academy Award for Animated Short Film.

Shaun later got his own Spinoff called Shaun the Sheep.

This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Hand-Hold: Wallace and Wendolene accidentally reach for the same ball of yarn on the floor, and their hands touch. Held Gaze and nervous stammering immediately follows.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Preston, the villain, was once a good robot dog that according to Wendolene suddenly became evil.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Shaun and the other sheep in general.
  • Animation Bump: While not as huge a difference between A Grand Day Out and The Wrong Trousers, the puppets are noticeably better-constructed and the character animation is subtler. This short also ratchets up the scope of things, including animating large flocks of sheep and extensive outdoor scenes. It was also the first installment of the series to have computer effects, used here to digitally remove the rig that helped Gromit's plane fly.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: Preston's hand through the knitting machine. Preston's mechanical hand, specifically.
  • Beard of Sorrow: The normally clean-shaven Wallace gains a metaphorical one after Gromit is taken to prison, Wendolene says she's no good for him and he's forced to take in a flock of sheep for a week as they eat his belongings.
  • Becoming Part of the Image: The villain frames Gromit for the sheep kidnappings by tricking him into sticking his head through a picture of a butcher in front of Shaun the sheep, and then taking a very incriminating photograph.
  • Behind the Black: Gromit somehow doesn't manage to notice that his 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle has a message telling he's going to be rescued that night until putting in the 5000th piece and the camera pans down to it. This could be explained by Gromit having the ability to fit the puzzle pieces together without even looking at them properly, in a possible subtle Call-Back to the lightning speed with which he was able to fit together toy train-tracks in The Wrong Trousers. That said, he was also in too deep a state of depression at the time to even notice until he completed the puzzle.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Gromit, who takes it in his stride.
  • Big Eater: All of the sheep. Shawn, in particular, is introduced by having taken numerous bites of varying sizes out of everything in their house!
  • Big Ol' Unibrow: Gromit never speaks, so this is the only way you know what he's feeling. It's really incredible, the emotion you can wring out of an artfully-squashed bit of plasticine...
    Wallace: We've tested this on Gromit. Haven't we, lad?
    Gromit: [Eyebrows rise mournfully as he nods]
  • Bittersweet Ending: Wallace saves Wendolene, but true love is thwarted as he discovers she is allergic to cheese. Even Wensleydale.
  • Black Screen of Death: Played for comedy and possibly implying brief unconsciousness. When Wallace, at the base of a human (sheep?) ladder, slips on a bar of soap, he looks up to see all the sheep falling on him, and the screen goes black upon impact. The immediate next scene shows him perfectly healthy!
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: As in the image. During the opening, the vibrations of a passing lorry cause a cheese knife to fall and land point down.
  • Blink-and-You-Miss-It: An aural one. It's very easy to miss one of Wendolene's retorts to Preston when he pushes her into the back of the lorry, since it's something you wouldn't normally say to a living creature no matter how much you hate them:
    Wendolene: Daddy didn't create you for this. You're supposed to protect me!
  • Brand X: Played with inasmuch as Wallace and Gromit are working as window-cleaners when they meet Wendolene; "Windolene" is a cleaning product sold for cleaning glass. Wallace is also seen holding a box of "Sud-U-Like" soap flakes, referencing the potato-based Scottish restaurant chain Spudulike.
  • Breakout Character: Shaun the Sheep, to the point that he was eventually given a whole TV series and even his own feature film!
  • Break the Cutie: Gromit isn’t happy about being falsely accused of sheep rustling and the subsequent incarceration he was given, but he tries to make the best of this unfortunate situation...until he gets a package from Wallace in his cell, which consists of a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle with a flock of sheep design. The magnitude of this whole unfair situation finally comes crashing down on him and he weeps while pounding his fist on the box.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Shawn is introduced to the duo after he spends several hours munching on all of their possessions. At the end, as they settle down for some cheese (only to reveal that he's eating that too), you can see most of their furniture has been repaired... by putting band-aids on them.
    • The first sign of Shawn's intrusion is that he chewed through the wires on Wallace's porridge dispenser, resulting in the machine malfunction and pelting him with machine-gun porridge. Later, Gromit uses this as Edible Ammunition against Preston.
  • Bungling Inventor: Wallace, as usual.
  • Call-Back: When Preston grabs Gromit's monoplane by the propeller, Gromit is spun around and thrown out of shot in much the same way as he was when his drill got stuck while building the rocket in A Grand Day Out.
  • Character Tics: Before it is revealed that Preston is a robot, it is very subtly hinted by his slow, slightly robotic movements and stiff body language.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The porridge-shooting machine. Originally the result of a malfunction, it's later repurposed to clean the clocktower and, in the final showdown, as an offensive weapon that fires globs of porridge at Preston.
    • The auto-knitting machine. Preston steals it as part of his wool-extracting operation. It's subverted when Gromit tries to defeat Preston by pushing him into the machine and turning it on, only for Preston to punch through the machine.
  • Civilized Animal: Gromit is usually depicted as walking upright, and is capable of creating and operating complex machinery. Generally he's shown to be significantly more shrewd and sensible than his master. However, despite all of this, everyone treats him as an animal - although when falsely arrested, he is thrown into jail rather than a dog pound. Preston, too - the fact that he walks on two legs and drives Wendolene's truck for her is apparently not noteworthy enough for anyone to realize he's a robot.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When Gromit is put in prison, there's graffiti on the wall reading "Feathers Woz 'Ere".
    • Wallace and Gromit have a series of three models of the rocket from A Grand Day Out on their wall instead of the more traditional ducks.
    • The scene where Wallace walks down the stairs to the cellar is shot very similarly to the one in A Grand Day Out.
  • Conveyor Belt o' Doom: Features in the climax.
  • Cool Sidecar: The sidecar of Wallace and Gromit's motorcycle can double as an aeroplane. It also comes with a retractable rapid-fire cannon that the heroes usually use to shoot soapy water up onto windows they're cleaning from ground level, but during the climax Gromit loads it with porridge to fight the villain.
  • Darker and Edgier: Unrequited love, sheep rustling, blackmail, attempted murder, implied actual murder... and the creators say that it was originally supposed to be even darker! Of course, because this is Wallace & Gromit, it's all played as ridiculously as possible.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Given that burglars are thieves:
    Wallace: Good grief! What's all this? Burglars?! Thieves?!
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Wallace saves Wendolene, but true love is thwarted as he discovers she is allergic to cheese.
  • Digital Destruction: When the film was remastered for the Blu-ray release of "The Complete Collection", the short was cropped into 16:9 widescreen for reasons unknown.
  • The Dog Bites Back: With actual dogs, no less. Gromit is first bullied by Preston while he's hanging from his bungee, then he's framed as the sheep rustler and imprisoned. Gromit gets his own back by firing globs of porridge at Preston, hitting him numerous times and then causing him to be sucked into his own machine and shaved. Due to being a robot, however, Preston is able to break out of the machine.
  • Doppelgänger Dating: Wendolene looks remarkably like Wallace in a dress and a wig, shares many of his mannerisms, and has a faithful canine companion. She's not an inventor herself, but her father, who abiding by accounts and a photo, was even more like Wallace, if more competent.
  • Double Take:
    • Gromit has one in his cell when he finishes putting together the sheep puzzle, then he looks back at the puzzle and sees a message in the pieces that tells him he's going to be rescued.
    • Preston has a few, notably when he spots Gromit chasing his truck on a sidecar-turned-airplane in the rear-view mirror.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Wendolene is nominally in charge of the sheep rustling operation, but Preston is almost literally straining at his leash the entire time, and eventually he decides he can do the job just fine without her.
  • Duck!
    Wallace: Where?...Aah! [Ducks]
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: It may be odd for fans of the Shaun the Sheep series seeing Shaun and the other sheep as fairly normal animals for the large part, with only milder occurances of having similar Funny Animal intellect as Gromit. They're still comically destructive here, but it's mostly down to being Extreme Omnivores rather than bumbling troublemakers.
  • Edible Ammunition: The porridge cannon.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • A great one for the titular duo if this is the first of the shorts you watch. After receiving a call for their window-washing service, Wallace activates a ludicrously complicated To the Batpole! sequence to get him out of his armchair and onto the motorcycle in full gear. Gromit just walks through the garage door from the kitchen.
    • Preston is first seen with a Death Glare on his face as he makes to get out of the van to get Shaun back, setting up how he is menacing and a bit of a bully, and he later gives a similar look to Gromit when the two first see each other a few scenes later. This is not a character we are meant to like.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even after everything, Gromit looks a bit sympathetic about the sorry state Preston has been rebuilt as.
  • Evil Counterpart: In many ways, Preston is an evil version of Gromit.
  • Face–Heel Turn: According to Wendolene, Preston was once a sweet dog, but he recently turned into a murderous schemer.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: When Preston is thrown into the Knit-o-Matic, Wallace gleefully says "that'll teach him". Wendolene, on the other hand, is terrified, because she knows the end result will be a very pissed-off Robot Dog.
  • Flintstone Theming: The running gag of Gromit's canine-themed library continues with a book by Fido Dogstoevsky.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Wendolene points out the portrait of her inventor father holding a spanner, Preston is also predominantly in the picture, foreshadowing the fact that her father actually built him.
    • When Preston turns on Wendolene and takes her prisoner, Wendolene says something that makes it clear that, beyond simply being a mean dog, there is something very wrong with Preston.
    Wendolene: Stop it! Stop it, Preston! I want no more of this rustling! It wasn't so bad when it was just the wool, but this is evil! Daddy didn't create you for this! You're supposed to protect me!
    • Wallace, after seeing a bite missing from his newspaper, asks Gromit whether they should call in the pest controllers. In The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Wallace and Gromit are pest controllers.
    • Near Wendolene's shop is a billboard saying, "Try Bob's Buns", foreshadowing the latest Wallace and Gromit short, A Matter of Loaf and Death.
  • Frameup: Gromit is framed as a sheep-rustler.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • Just before Gromit crashes off the cliff in the detached side-car, Feathers McGraw briefly appears at the side of the path, and right after he activates the plane wings, can be seen about halfway up the cliff.
    • The sight of the old-fashioned camera taking a photograph of Gromit.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • As Wallace and Gromit are searching their house to figure out what caused all of the random bite marks in all their stuff, Wallace puts his feet up on the culprit, who's pushed his hassock aside to munch on the hay inside.
    • During Wallace and Wendolene's first meeting, Gromit is cleaning the windows on a bungee cord in the background, which then gets more hilarious when Preston disrupts his operation, leaving him bouncing up and down helplessly, before finally just hanging there upside down with his arms folded.
  • Genius Book Club: In prison, Gromit passes the time by reading Crime and Punishment (by, according to the cover, Fido Dogstoevsky).
  • Girl of the Week: Wendolene. There is some romance built up between her and Wallace over the short. It ends when she reveals she's allergic to cheese.
  • Ground by Gears: Preston is defeated when Shaun knocks him into his own Mutton-O-Matic's grinders.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: Wendolene is clearly wracked with remorse from having to assist Preston in rustling sheep and then framing Gromit for it. When she eventually draws the line, Preston throws her into the van with their kidnapped sheep to get minced.
  • Heel–Face Turn: After Preston's malfunctioning hide is disassembled in the Mutton-O-Matic, Wallace rebuilds him to be a good dog again for Wendolene. The result however is a much more basic, pitiful looking robot running on wheels and powered by remote control. According to Wendolene however, his behaviour is just like his old self.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the climax of the film, we get to see the Mutton-O-Matic, the meat mincer that Preston had intended to use to create his dog meat. The machine ends up being his own undoing when Shaun knocks him into it with an anvil, effectively turning Preston into his own dog food.
  • Human Ladder: Well, sort of. It's a Sheep Ladder.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Gromit, as per usual.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Honestly, Wallace. After all the grief Gromit's gone through, did you have to send your secret message on a jigsaw puzzle of a flock of SHEEP?!
  • Intellectual Animal / Speech-Impaired Animal: Gromit, Shaun and Preston are all rather intelligent, but are treated as animals in-universe.
  • Jumpscare: The shot revealing the completed jigsaw has a Scare Chord where it has a message written in blood-red writing.
  • Kick the Dog: Subverted with the jigsaw puzzle of a flock of sheep that Gromit gets while in prison. As first, he thinks someone is playing a cruel prank on him, but it turns out the puzzle contains a message from Wallace about coming to break him out.
  • Kilroy Was Here: Behind Gromit's head in his prison cell are the words, "Feathers Was 'Ere", also a reference to The Wrong Trousers.
  • Last-Second Joke Problem: Despite Wallace being upset that Wendolene is allergic to cheese, he feels better when he realizes it means more for him. But when he decides to have some cheese, he finds Shaun eating it, and he's unable to make him stop. Iris Out and roll credits.
  • The Last Straw: Already guilt ridden from helping Preston rustle sheep, framing Gromit for it, and now transforming their business from wool to dog food, Wendolene finally turns on Preston when he menaces a scared Shaun. She gets thrown into the lorry with the sheep for it.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Having been falsely convicted of the sheep rustling by the real culprit Preston and sentenced to life in prison, Gromit receives a gift of a jigsaw puzzle in his cell. Upon seeing it's a puzzle of a flock of sheep, he cracks at the unfairness of it all and sobs, banging his fist against the box. In the next scene, his eyes are still wet with tears as he puts the puzzle together.
    • Wallace, Shaun, and all of the sheep are noticeably teary-eyed after reading the final verdict in the papers.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Wallace and Gromit give Shaun his name after he is accidentally shorn.
    • Preston gets pressed on!
  • Melodrama: The romance between Wallace and Wendolene plays out like a soap opera, especially when she comes to his house and tells him to stay away from her "silly, silly windows" while the music swells and a flock of sheep munch on everything in the background.
  • Minimalist Cast: Though expanded from the previous shorts with the addition of Wendolene and Preston (plus a whole flock of sheep Wallace has to contend with). This was notably the first short to feature a second speaking character for Wallace to interact with.
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Wendolene seems perfect for Wallace, until he discovers she is allergic to cheese.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Preston's obsessive need to maximize wool and dog food production by utilizing every sheep available, even little Shaun, led to him directly involving Wallace & Gromit in the sheep-snatching conspiracy, and therefore the entire operation eventually being dismantled. Of course, it is justified in that Preston, being a robot, probably couldn't handle the idea of Shaun not being used for his purposes.
  • No Mouth: Gromit.
  • Not Even Human: Preston is a robot!
  • Not So Stoic:
    • As Wallace keeps track of Gromit's trial in the papers, the sheep merely flock in his house, chewing mindlessly. When the final verdict is given however, they are all huddled silently behind Wallace reading with sorrowful, teary eyed looks. Later, Gromit breaks down in tears when he receives the sheep jigsaw puzzle from Wallace.
    • On several occasions Gromit pursues him during the chase, Preston shows subdued moments of urgency, and even bewilderment to the antics of Wallace and the sheep.
  • Not What I Signed on For: Wendolene tries to back out of being Preston's rustling partner when she discovers that he plans to grind the sheep into dog food and sell it.
    Wendolene: It wasn't so bad when it was just the wool, but... this is evil!
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Wallace has one when his Wash-o-Matic/Knit-o-Matic starts malfunctioning in the middle of washing Shaun.
    • Gromit has this reaction when the back door of Preston's truck start's closing with him still inside.
    • Both Wallace and Gromit get several of these during the final chase. Wallace has one when he sees Preston driving behind them after thinking they lost him, and Gromit gets two in quick succession when he sees his sidecar is about to go over a cliff, and see's how far the drop is.
    • Preston gets a few of these. When Gromit starts firing porridge at him with the porridge gun. When he and Gromit land on the Conveyor Belt o' Doom that leads to the meat processor. And a third when Shaun knocks him off the conveyor with the anvil and into the processor.
  • One-Winged Angel: Preston, after being given a "close shave" and his true robotic form is revealed.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Wallace's first scene with Wendolene is the first time he's ever shown actually contemplating the outcome of his actions, as opposed to his usual devil-may-care attitude with Gromit or one of his inventions. It's the first sign that he has feelings for her.
  • Orchestral Bombing: When Gromit attacks in his sidecar-aeroplane, it plays out like a scene from a war movie, with the soundtrack to match.
  • Packed Hero: The villain intends to do this to the heroes, complete with Conveyor Belt o' Doom into a machine which produces canned dog food. In the end it is the villain who gets crushed up and delivered into the cans. Not as gruesome as it sounds, since the villain is really a robot.
  • Parody: Of wrongfully-accused/prison-break movies.
  • Parrot Expo-WHAT?: How we discover Preston's true form.
    Wendolene: He's malfunctioning.
    Wallace: Mal-what?
    Wendolene: (scared) Malfunctioning. Preston is a cyber-dog.
    Wallace: Cyber-wha-?
    Wendolene: A robot!
  • Perpetual Frowner: Much like how Feathers McGraw in The Wrong Trousers has a default expressionless face, making him The Stoic, Preston is almost always seen wearing a surly, unnerving frown.
  • Punny Name: Shaun rhymes with "shorn" (as in "sheared") in non-rhotic varieties of English. The DVD commentary has Nick Park trying helplessly to say it with an American accent.
  • Robot Dog: Preston.
  • Robotic Reveal: When Preston is put into the sheep-shearing device, sparks fly, and the Robot Dog emerges stripped to the metal.
  • Rule of Three: "Oh, Gromit" is repeated three times by Wallace, upon seeing the increasing headlines about Gromit's incarceration.
  • Scare Chord:
    • When Gromit sticks his head through the wall and into the portrait of a butcher next to Shaun the Sheep, a sudden scare chord immediately follows the camera flash of someone Behind the Black taking a very incriminating photograph.
    • During the prison scene, when Gromit completes the puzzle, he does a Double Take at the finished result, and the scare chord accompanies the reveal of the blood-red message "FRIDAY NIGHT, 8PM, BE READY. A FRIEND."
  • Shaped Like Itself: Wallace to Gromit after busting him out of prison: "You'll be hunted down like... well, a dog."
  • Shout-Out:
    • Lots of clever thematic ones to the Tim Burton Batman films and The Terminator films in the climactic scenes.
    • The sequence of Wallace going through the automated process of getting dressed into his window-washing overalls is a big Homage to Thunderbirds (the music for the scene is even called "Wallace and Gromit Are GO!").
    • When Gromit is reading the newspaper, one of the headlines says "Killer Dog On Loose. Lord Baskerville Not Connected."
    • The computer unit in the robot's torso is just like Robby the Robot's in Forbidden Planet.
  • Silent Partner: Gromit, who is also...
  • Silent Snarker: ...and it's remarkable how expressive he is considering he is always portrayed without a mouth, leaving the rest of his face to convey all of his emotions.
  • Skewed Priorities: Played for laughs with Wallace, who is more outraged that Preston stole the blueprints for his knitting machine and built a replica of it and then impressed by Preston also having built a giant meat grinding machine than the fact that he and the others are about to be fed into said machines.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The "creaky metal door" sound effect is used whenever the doors on Preston's truck are opened.
  • Super-Strength: Preston is exceptionally strong, able to snap a wooden staff in two almost effortlessly and break out of the Knit-o-Matic when he is stripped down to his robotic shell.
  • Swapped Roles: Of sorts. While the duo's dynamic together is largely the same, most antagonists in the series targetted Wallace for their scheme, with Gromit as the Spanner in the Works they try to get out of the way. Preston by contrast, targets Gromit as a frame-up for his own agenda while trying to distract Wallace, with Wallace breaking Gromit out of jail leading to him getting exposed.
  • Tempting Fate: Played for laughs. At the end, Wallace and Gromit sit down to have some cheese, with Wallace remarking "and not a sheep to worry us" as he goes to lift the food cover. Guess who he finds munching on their snack.
  • Terminator Impersonator: Preston, with his aloof frown, implacability, and exposure by the Knit-o-Matic of his robotic endoskeleton. He even meets a similar end to the original T-800, crushed into smithereens by a mechanical mincer.
  • Thing-O-Matic:
    • The Knit-o-Matic machine.
    • And later we see Preston's Mutton-o-Matic.
  • Title Drop: When Gromit programs the Knit-o-Matic machine to give Preston a "Close Shave". Complete with a shameless wink at the audience.
  • Totem Pole Trench: Wallace, Shaun and Preston’s sheep do this to rescue Gromit.
  • To the Batpole!: Wallace has a ludicrously complicated set of slides and machines to transport himself from his armchair to his motorbike and get dressed for work. (Gromit then simply walks into the garage through a door from the kitchen, rolling his eyes.) Wallace's method of getting to the motorbike is a huge nod towards Thunderbirds. As is the flipping pond when they leave the garage. He doesn't even press the gas on his motorcycle himself - instead, he has a different boot extend from the wall on a mechanical arm and start the engine when there was no obvious reason why he couldn't have just pressed it himself.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Cheese, particularly Wensleydale, is Wallace's favorite.
  • Tuckerization:
    • When Wallace goes to the pantry to make his own porridge, on the shelf behind the two cans of beans is a box that says "Steve Box", key character animator.
    • There is a large billboard with a painting of a baker and the slogan "Try Bob's Buns." The co-writer of the film is Bob Baker.
  • The Unfettered: Preston, already The Stoic to a creepy level, is completely cold-blooded about rustling and mincing sheep, framing an innocent dog for it, and even throwing his guilt ridden owner into the mincer to keep her quiet, all for the sake of his own dog food franchise. Justified as Preston is a malfunctioning cyber dog following the goal of paying off his creator's debts to a psychotic tee.
  • Visual Pun: The wrappings on Preston's head after being rebuilt and reprogrammed deliberately invoke the bandages worn by people subjected to a lobotomy.
  • We Don't Need Roads: The sidecar of Wallace and Gromit's motorcycle can double as an aeroplane.
  • Wham Line:
    • "He's malfunctioning!"
    • Wendoline telling Wallace that she's allergic to cheese.


Video Example(s):


"He's Malfunctioning"

After Gromit and Shaun trap Preston in the Knit-O-Matic and give him 'a close shave', something begins to happen inside the machine, prompting Wendeline to reveal that Preston is actually a cyber-dog built by her father that ended up turning evil.

How well does it match the trope?

4.85 (34 votes)

Example of:

Main / RoboticReveal

Media sources: