Wallace and Gromit (ENG)

Wallace and Gromit are two characters created by Nick Park. They debuted in the clay-animated short film A Grand Day Out by Aardman Animations in 1989, and since then they have been the protagonists of three other short movies, one feature-lenght film and a ten-episodes TV series.

Wallace, as the inventor he is, spends his days conceiving machines and gadgets that are meant to ease his life, while Gromit, his clever and cool-headed dog, helps him in his work. The two of them live an ordinary british life, made of cheese, tea and all sorts of inventions, from a robot that goes shopping by itself to an elaborate system of contraptions that helps Wallace get out of bed directly to his chair in the dining room, all dressed and prepared, while the breakfast is preparing. The machines are often absurd and although their goal is to make the daily duties and chores easier, they are always unnecessary complex : this is, for example, very visible in the episode The Tellyscope (2002) (which I recommend that you watch before continuing your reading, it’s very short). Moreover, as it could be anticipated, the inventions regularly go crazy and trigger funny and grotesque situations.

There is always this ambivalence in Wallace and Gromit’s technology : the robots and gadgets are built to serve their creators, yet they end up malfunctioning and putting the characters in danger ; but eventually, our protagonists save the day by using either the same technology in another way or a different contraption. Of course, this isn’t a strict formula Aardman slaps on every Wallace and Gromit movie, but the themes of ‘machines gone wrong’ and ‘machines helping people’ are recurrent in the series, often seen together, and none seems to be prevalent on the other. In A Close Shave (1995), the same machine - the Wallace’s Knit-O-Matic - is presented at the beginning of the movie as a marvellous invention, but is seized by the bad guy (I won’t spoil him here, but he is himself related to the technology theme in a way) to become a death threat to the protagonists ; after a series of events, the heroes finally manage to get the situation over control and use the Knit-O-Matic to defeat him at his own game. Wallace and Gromit, through their adventures, tell a nuanced message : technology can be good, but it has to be used wisely.

However, before being a series with a moral stance on progress, Wallace and Gromit is about the joy of building stuff and making up things. It tells the story of a man and his dog who spend their lives doing various jobs (from bakers to rabbit-control services to window washers), but who always come up with strange contraptions to make their duties not really easier, but definitely more fun. They even make their first appearance by going on a trip to the Moon, just because they wanted a place to go on vacation where they could find cheese ! I’ve briefly mentioned Roald Dahl when I wrote about Shaun the Sheep. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Willy Wonka has a waterfall he uses to mix his chocolate, and even if it is a very constraining method (you don’t always have your chocolate waterfall in your pocket, do you ?), he says it adds a lot to the texture and flavour of his products ; well, Wallace belongs to the same kind of person, with his rocketship to go find cheese on the Moon and his Christmas Cardomatic.

I only discovered Wallace and Gromit a few days ago ; yet I feel I know them as if they were old friends. There is a familiarity to them that makes them pleasant to meet, and really fun to spend time with again and again.

Till next time, lads !