A Close Shave
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|A Close Shave|
Wallace and Gromit on their way to wash windows.
|Directed by||Nick Park|
|Produced by||Peter Lord
|Written by||Nick Park
|Music by||Julian Nott|
|Cinematography||Dave Alex Riddett|
|Editing by||Helen Garrard|
|Distributed by||BBC (UK, TV)|
|Running time||30 min.|
A Close Shave is a 1995 stop motion animated short film directed by Nick Park at Aardman Animations in Bristol, featuring his characters Wallace and Gromit. It was his third half-hour short featuring the eccentric inventor Wallace and his quiet but intelligent dog Gromit, following 1989's A Grand Day Out, and 1993's The Wrong Trousers.
To celebrate the film's premiere on 24 December 1995, BBC Two's Christmas presentation that year (broadcast from 17 to 22 December) featured Wallace and Gromit. The main ident featured the two (Wallace wears a red crown and Gromit wears a green crown) eating Christmas dinner, with a large blue 2 (the channel's logo) situated in the middle of the table, covered with flashing Christmas lights. Several Christmas themed stings also involving Wallace, Gromit, and the 2 were shown between programmes. The animation of these idents appeared slightly different from other Wallace and Gromit shorts.
In the middle of the night, a small sheep escapes from a mysterious lorry and enters the house of Wallace and Gromit, who are currently running a window-cleaning business. The next morning, Wallace and Gromit fail to notice the sheep chewing at their food and furniture, as well as their new Porridge Gun, before they leave for work. While they clean the windows of a wool shop, Wallace meets and falls in love with Wendolene Ramsbottom, the shopkeeper. She is the daughter of a late inventor and owns a sinister dog called Preston, who runs a sheep-rustling scheme to supply the shop. After returning from work, they finally discover the sheep, who has wrecked their furniture and is covered in mess.
To clean him up, Wallace puts the sheep into one of his inventions; the Knit-o-Matic. Gromit programs it to give a "Wash". However, the device unexpectedly becomes faulty and resets to "Light Shave", and proceeds to suck the sheep into the rest of the machine, give him a shear and knit his wool into a small sweater. The sheep emerges from the machine shivering, despite being unharmed; Wallace names him "Shaun" (a pun on the word "shorn") and dresses him in the sweater. Preston spies on the scene while hidden in a drain and after they leave, he sneaks in and steals the design blueprints for the Knit-o-Matic.
The next day, Wallace and Gromit are cleaning the clock tower outside Wendolene's shop, and Wallace pays Wendolene another visit. Gromit attempts to investigate what Preston is doing, but accidentally ends up getting framed for the sheep rustling and is captured by Preston. Gromit is handed into the authorities and sentenced to life in prison while Wallace finds his house overrun with sheep, with Wendolene telling him to not visit her anymore out of her concern that Gromit is innocent.
Wallace, Shaun and the other sheep rescue Gromit from prison and they hide out in the fields, where Wallace attempts to talk Gromit into leaving the country. Wendolene and Preston arrive and round up the sheep, whereupon the former finally rebels against the latter after seeing him threatening Shaun, telling Preston to put an end to his sheep-rustling scheme. However, Preston turns against Wendolene and locks her in the lorry with the captured sheep (including Shaun) and drives away. Wallace and Gromit overhear Wendolene pleading "Let me out! You're not going to turn me into dog meat!", thus it is revealed that Preston is using the sheep thefts as an attempt to secure his own brand of dog food for profit, even if it meant murdering his owner in the same manner.
Wallace and Gromit give chase on their motorbike, hoping to save Wendolene and the sheep and clear Gromit's name. During the chase, the sidecar Gromit rides in separates and heads down another road and flies off the edge of a cliff. Gromit saves himself in time by activating the sidecar's ability to transform itself into an airplane, and flies after Wallace's motorbike and the lorry. Both of their attempts to stop Preston are unsuccessful including Gromit using the porridge gun and Preston himself traps Wallace in his lorry. The captives are taken into Preston's factory, where Preston has used the stolen blueprints to build a giant replica of the Knit-o-Matic machine, much to Wallace's objections. The captives are loaded into the wash basin, with Shaun escaping, and Preston pulls out the nozzle to suck them into the Knit-o-Matic.
As Wallace and Wendolene fight against the suction force, Shaun activates neon advertisements, revealing the factory's location to Gromit, who then flies in and attacks Preston with the Porridge Gun. Shaun is then able to pull the nozzle away to suck Preston into the Knit-o-Matic, which Gromit programs to give a "Close Shave". During the shearing, Preston -revealed by Wendolene to be a malfunctioning "robotic dog" built by her father to serve the family, but for some reason has "turned out evil"- breaks out of the machine with his fake fur torn off, revealing his robotic form. Unable to see after being dressed in a sweater knitted out of his fake fur, Preston blunders around and accidentally loads all of them onto the conveyor belt of his "Mutton-o-Matic" mincing machine. As they all fight against the conveyor belt, Shaun swings over on an anvil and knocks the robot Preston into the machine, where he is destroyed and turned into his own dog food.
At the end of the film, Gromit is exonerated from all charges of the thefts, Wallace has rebuilt Preston back to a harmless pet he used to be with a remote control, and Wendolene stops by to thank him. However, when Wallace invites her in to have cheese, he learns she is allergic to cheese, much to his dismay ("Not even Wensleydale?"). What's more, Shaun has been hiding in the cheese tray and despite being ordered by Wallace to go for him, Gromit ignores both.
As before, the 30 minutes are packed with sight gags and exaggerated physical comedy, as well as a few subtle film parodies. Voice acting was before the sole duty of Peter Sallis (the voice of Wallace), as Gromit is always silent. In 'A Close Shave', Wendolene was introduced as the second speaking character for the series, voiced by Anne Reid.
After A Close Shave, Wallace and Gromit's next major outing was in a set of 10 2½-minute shorts called Cracking Contraptions, each showing one of Wallace's inventions, usually with disastrous results. These appeared on the Internet and were also released as a limited edition Region 2 DVD, later on the Curse of the Were-Rabbit DVD. The sequel to A Close Shave is the feature film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The next major short was A Matter of Loaf and Death, first broadcast in Britain on Christmas Day 2008.
Shaun, the youngest of the flock of sheep in this feature, proved to be a very popular character and was given his own highly successful TV series on the BBC entitled, Shaun the Sheep which has also been broadcast worldwide. The first two seasons (80 episodes, each approx 7 minutes long) are available on DVD. Though it is never explicitly stated as part of the canon, it can be surmised that Wallace sold off the entire flock to "The Farmer" who owns the farm where Shaun and his friends now reside. Each episode contains slapstick and situational humor with Shaun as the leader of the flock dealing with everyday farm issues while exhibiting a high level of intelligence and human-like behavior to a level much like Gromit.
- "Production History - A Close Shave". Telepathy. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- "The 68th Academy Awards (1996) Nominees and Winners". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 25 March 1996. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
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