Wallace and Gromit are CLASS. There's no other way to describe this iconic pair of plasticine heroes. Their charm and brilliance has bagged creator Nick Park several BAFTAs and Oscars, proved overwhelmingly popular and successful for Aardman Animations, and - quite frankly - represents the best of British.
The career of this eccentric inventor and his faithful companion has spread across four classic short films (A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave and A Matter of Loaf & Death), a wonderful series of shorts (Cracking Contraptions), and a classic feature-length film (The Curse of the Were-Rabbit).
So, after all that...what else could Nick Park do with his wonderful duo? The next step is yet another charming and remarkable idea, but is also absolutely fascinating, incorporating a real-life look at inventors and their amazing creations all over the world.
This time, Wallace's latest business enterprise is his own television show "World of Invention", with the cellar of 62 West Wallaby Street being his studio, and Gromit subsequently being a one-dog crew. With Wallace as host, World of Invention consists of six half-hour episodes, each looking at a different aspect of the scientific world. There are brand-new animated sequences, complete with the usual antics that we've come to expect from Wallace and Gromit, but what makes World of Invention so special is that the animation is interwoven with real-life factual interviews and mini-documentaries on inventors/scientists past and present, their creations and the impact they've made on the world.
World of Invention is a perfect blend of animation and factual programming. The balance between the two fields is beautifully handled, and neither takes anything away from the other. The animated segments featuring Wallace and Gromit are full of the charm and sophistication that makes them so special, and centre around the theme of the episodes superbly, making them purposeful to the show's successful presentation.
Needless to say, Gromit's mannerisms and facial expressions are on form, with him still the ever-suffering, yet loyal, hardworking companion. He clearly does a fine job doing all the rigours of running the studio, and Wallace deserves praise as the host. The idea of him being the host of his own TV show is another concept that is both ingenious in premise and execution. Although the inventor is naïve and bumbling as always, Wallace's charm and banter succeeds in carrying the show's content as the host. The seemingly immortal Peter Sallis is back again for Wallace's voice, and remains as perfect as ever, delivering the trademark voice that you can't help but warm to.
But the real-life snippets deserve just as much praise, really. They examine all kinds of scientific wonders, ranging from the most radical failures, the most incredible success stories, history of revolutionary inventions that shaped the world, and utterly inspiring stories of how technology and inventors have saved and helped human lives. There are narrations from Ashley Jensen and a welsh archivist called Goronwy (voiced by John Sparkles) which help explain and elaborate the scientific value of these inserts, and there's also correspondence from likeable inventor/presenter Jem Stansfield. It's all absolutely fascinating, and will certainly inspire viewers to learn more about/appreciate science and maybe try their own hand at inventing.
Speaking of which, the special features are a set of DIY vids on how to build your own `cracking contraptions', such as the Upside-down-o-scope, the Wind-powered Sprinkler, an Atmospheric Railway, a Fin Ray Grabber, a Spy Camera and an Air Rocket. This is a really fun extra, and kids will certainly be keen to build their own inventions after watching these clips. Needless to say, adult supervision is recommended, as is the relevant safety gear and necessary space, but the instructions are easy-to-follow, thanks to a basic step-by-step guide and the presenting of inventor Ricky Martin. The end results are fun to behold, and the experience this offers is one I would recommend indulging in.
Even though I would've liked to have seen some additional extras (i.e. behind-the-scenes documentary, chat with Nick Park etc), this is a DVD that I would heartily recommend. Wallace & Gromit's World of Invention is a true must-have, not just for fans, but for science lovers, teachers and engineers of all kinds. It successfully appeals to so many audiences and - like all other works of Aardman and Nick Park - is just simply delightful. Let's hope we get a second series!