Utilizing traditional stop-motion animation and chock full of humor, A Matter of Loaf and Death continues the enduring legacy of Wallace and Gromit but with a slightly darker tone.
A Matter of Loaf and Death is the first Wallace and Gromit release since the awesome 2005 Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit feature film and the first short since 1995′s A Close Shave. Wallace and Gromit run a bakery, using their ever-present truck to deliver “dough to door”. While out on delivery, they come across a woman who runs a bakery herself. She and Wallace hit it off, and zaniness ensues. Unfortunately, that’s all I can say without ruining the story.
Thematically, this entry is more mature than previous Wallace and Gromit stories. A Matter of Loaf and Death is presented in the manner of a classic murder-mystery, and there is actual death in this short (although it is entirely offscreen and/or implied). In addition, there is an implied sex scene (portrayed by a hilarious parody of a very famous movie), and even a shot of Wallace’s bare bum. It was refreshing to see a slightly more grown up tone this time around, as the Wallace and Gromit characters seem like they could get into some pretty gnarly situations from time to time. I personally would LOVE to see a Wallace and Gromit short that was aimed squarely at adults…but I won’t be holding my breath on that one.
Animation in Wallace and Gromit has long stood a head above its claymation brethren, and A Matter of Loaf and Death maintains this tradition. Even though the models themselves are fairly basic, the characters have an almost creepy level of realism about them. Wrinkles in clothing, the way the characters interact with their surroundings, facial expressions, complicated environments such as a functioning windmill…Loaf and Death contains an insane amount of detail, while maintaining its traditional style. It is also worth noting that this is the first Wallace and Gromit project completed entirely using digital photography; prior to Loaf and Death, every Wallace and Gromit project was made using regular film.
While I wouldn’t put it above Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Loaf and Death is still one of the more enjoyable entries in the world of Wallace and Gromit. The various sets and visual gags are creative as usual, with numerous little easter eggs and hidden jokes sprinkled everywhere. Oddly, the number of different characters that appear in this entry is fairly small. With the exception of a few generic characters making single-scene appearances, the story focuses on the same four characters for the entire duration. Whether this was done for narrative or budgetary concerns is irrelevant; given the short 30 minute length when this could have easily been a full-length film, keeping the focus on so few characters helped streamline things. It’s a shame that this was a short and not a film…there were definitely some missed narrative and creative opportunities that were impossible due to the 30 minute limit.
I was very pleased to see that after all these years, Wallace and Gromit still maintain a humorous and an endearing friendship that is entirely unique. Be sure to watch the 20 minute behind-the-scenes special feature on the DVD, which includes interviews with the claymation animators and other technical members who worked on the short. The included commentary track is also quite informative. A Matter of Loaf and Death is a slightly more mature Wallace and Gromit than you may be used to, which is a grand thing indeed. Cheerio!