Instant Video Spotlight: Nick Park’s Aardman Animation

March 1, 2012
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Nick Park’s Aardman Animation is releasing its next film, Pirates! Band of Misfits, on April 27. Advance buzz on the film is overwhelmingly positive, and that’s not surprising given Park’s four Academy Awards and track record with hilarious, family-friendly films to date.

Park is perhaps best known for his Wallace & Gromit shorts (all available for download at $1.99 each), which feature well-meaning, addlebrained Wallace and his loyal dog Gromit, who’s actually the brains of the operation, as well as a parade of hilarious Rube Goldberg contraptions and inventions.

A Grand Day Out finds the pair designing and building a rocket to fly to the moon for a “cheese holiday” because Wallace has heard the moon is made of green cheese. His cheese obsession won’t allow him to bypass the opportunity to taste some. Once there, the pair encounter a scheming, vending machine -like robot that dreams of flying to Earth to fulfill his fantasy of skiing the Alps. The robot hatches a plan to make his dream a reality by hijacking Wallace and Gromit’s rocket.

In The Wrong Trousers, strained finances force Wallace to take in a boarder, a mysterious penguin. Gromit soon discovers the penguin is an art thief who’s intending to use Wallace’s latest invention, the unpredictable, robotic Techno Trousers he’s built for walking Gromit, to pull off an art gallery caper. From the penguin’s chicken disguise to the kidnap of a sleeping Wallace in the Techno Trousers, this short film will have you laughing from beginning to end. Pay particular attention to the ‘Aardman-ized’ artworks and relics in the gallery scenes.

Wallace and Gromit must put their window washing service on hold in A Close Shave when installation of Wallace’s new Knit-O-Matic machine uncovers a sheep rustling plot. As usual, Wallace is the last to know nefarious characters have designs on his designs. Gromit must foil the plot and rescue the helpless sheep, including one named Shaun who was was so well-loved by audiences that he was eventually spun off into his own series: Shaun the Sheep.

In A Matter of Loaf and Death, a “cereal killer” is targeting all the bakers in town and thanks to his new Top Bun bakery, Wallace may be next on the list. Wallace is blissfully unware however, as he’s fallen in love with former Bake-O-Lite bread spokeswoman Piella Bakewell. Bakewell’s poodle Fluffles is lovely too, but can Gromit trust her?

Park also has some excellent feature films to his credit. The funny and surprisingly sweet Chicken Run stars Mel Gibson as the voice of Rocky, a suave and “cocky” rooster who’s found celebrity as a circus performer. When Rocky lands in the prison-like coop of Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy, the motley group of chickens imprisoned within see their chance to avoid being made into chicken pies by the Tweedy’s new pie making machine. The film is loaded with war and prison film references, and as always, lots of wacky contraptions. The digital download of this film is currently $2.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy.

The Curse of the Were Rabbit, another feature-length film from Aardman, finds Wallace and Gromit trying to rid the estate of the lovely Lady Tottington (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter) of rabbits using their humane trapping invention, the Bun-Vac 6000. The whole village is abuzz about the upcoming Vegetable Festival, and these rabbits are not welcome. When Wallace finds himself falling for the lovely Ms. Tottington and she seems to be returning his interest, the scheming Victor Quartermaine (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) sets about undermining Wallace’s efforts. Meanwhile, Gromit has become aware of a monstrous “were-rabbit” that’s terrorizing the local citizens and devouring their prized crops. Can he convince Wallace that the were-rabbit is real, or is there some connection between Wallace and the were-rabbit that’s keeping Wallace in the dark?

The Curse of the Were Rabbit and Chicken Run are currently available as a double feature DVD set for $12.99.

Here’s a trailer for Curse of the Were Rabbit:


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