Aardman Classics Review
Bristol's Aardman Animations may have hit the big time with Morph and later, Wallace and Gromit but there's a hell of a lot more to the studio than most people will realise. Aardman Classics is the definitive collection of short films created by Nick Park, Peter Lord and Co.
There's a huge variety of styles on this disc. There are some darkly funny shorts such as Pib and Pog which is reminiscent of Itchy and Scratchy of The Simpsons fame. There's a highly amusing 'interview' called War Story and we also get the full original Creature Comforts animation along with pretty much every advert for the 'Electric' advertising campaign. It doesn't end here however and there's a total of over thirty different shorts for you to enjoy!
This certainly isn't a disc you'll watch from start to finish in one sitting, but it will provide far more entertainment that you'd realise. You could be returning to this disc for months just to rewatch your favourite bits and the fact that there is such a variety of material here you'll never get bored.
There are a number of animation styles in use - of course, the plasticine dominates but there is some use of computer technology in a couple of the animations. These tend to show just how good their plasticine work is though!
This really is an invaluable source and I think it's the first and only time all of this material has been available to buy - and it's all in one place!
The DVD is a bit of a mixed bag - that said, I was expecting it to be. The picture quality varies quite dramatically with some animations being near perfect while others are showing their age just a bit. This isn't at all surprising given the source material in question - a lot of what's on this disc will have been transferred from video tape... The actual encoding is faultless - there's a lot here to challenge the MPEG format and the guys at Momentum have done a stellar job... There's nothing here of demo standard, but for the most part there's nothing I can really complain about.
A variety of aspect ratio's are used - mostly 4:3 but there are a few widescreen formats in use. The transfer is of course non-anamorphic.
The sound is equally as variable. The Creature Comforts animation demonstrates this with some being fairly clear whilst some sections are excessively muffled. The Pib and Pog animation on the other hand sounds fine. Once again, it all depends on the source material being used so there's no reason to complain.
The disc also features a number of commentaries by the people behind the various animations. These give a good grounding in the techniques used and are well worth listening to in depth as there is a lot of interesting information to be picked up.
The 64-page book puts all other DVD booklets to shame. This isn't some 8 or 16 page description of the film, this in fact a detailed, behind-the-scenes look at the Aardman phenomenon. We've got a history of the studio along with a number of stills captured from their various films, interviews with the key players and a look at the animation process. There's also a directory of all of their features and useful pointers for where to go if you want to know more.
Finally there's a behind-the-scenes photo gallery focussing mainly on Wat's Pig which includes photos of the models in the early stages, sketches and various other shots. As with all photo galleries, it's a little superfluous, but thankfully at least this one does have a purpose and is moderately engaging.
All in all, a very impressive start for Momentum. The material they had to work with made their job difficult, but the team that put this disc together really do deserve a pat on the back. Highly recommended - should make the perfect stocking filler this Christmas!
Contents: Creature Comforts, Heat Electric - Frank and Carol and Dog, Pib and Pog, Heat Electric - Parrots and Pandas, Minotaur and Little Nerkin, Heat Electric - Pandas 2 and Penguins, War Story, Heat Electric - Penguins 2 and Frank 2, Wat's Pig, Heat Electric - Pigs and Orangutans, My Baby Just Cares For Me, Heat Electric - Penguins 3 and Peblo, Stage Fright, Humdrum, Pop, Owzat, Adam, Ident, Al Dente, Loves Me, Loves Me Not, Babylon, Next, On Probation, Sales Pitch, Palmy Days, Early Bird, Late Edition, Confessions of a Foyer Girl, Down and Out, Going Equiped and Not Without My Handbag