A Matter of Loaf and Death
|A Matter of Loaf and Death|
Title card of A Matter of Loaf and Death.
|Distributed by||Aardman Animations|
|Directed by||Nick Park|
|Produced by||Steve Pegram
Peter Lord (Executive Producer)
David Sproxton (Executive Producer)
Nick Park (Executive Producer)
|Written by||Nick Park
|Music by||Julian Nott|
|Running time||29 minutes|
A Matter of Loaf and Death is a comedy clay animation murder mystery film created by Nick Park, and the fourth of his shorts to star his characters Wallace and Gromit. Released in 2008, it is the first Wallace and Gromit project since the feature film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit in 2005, and the first short since A Close Shave in 1995.
A Matter of Loaf and Death is a mock murder mystery, with Wallace and Gromit starting a new bakery business. Gromit and Wallace both learn that bakers have been mysteriously murdered, and Gromit tries to solve the case before Wallace ends up as a victim himself. The short follows the same basic outline as A Close Shave, and in the film Wallace falls in love, with disastrous consequences. He falls for bread enthusiast Piella Bakewell, who used to advertise for a local bread firm, but she turns out to be his worst nightmare. Also this short sees Gromit falling in love for the first time, as he becomes attached to Piella's downtrodden poodle, Fluffles, who reciprocates his affection.
Baker Bob is bludgeoned to death with his own rolling pin by an unseen assailant while baking a cake; he is the latest of twelve bakers to be killed. Meanwhile, Wallace (Peter Sallis) and Gromit are running a "Dough to Door" delivery service from their bakery "Top Bun". On one such delivery, the duo save Piella Bakewell (Sally Lindsay), a former pin-up girl mascot for the Bake-O-Lite bread company, and her dog Fluffles, when the brakes on her bike appear to fail. They drive alongside so Wallace can attempt to use pastries to stop, but they career into a zoo and barely escape being eaten by a crocodile. Gromit tests the bicycle brakes and becomes suspicious on learning that they work, but Wallace becomes smitten with Piella.
A whirlwind romance ensues, during which it is also shown that the nervous Fluffles is treated rather shabbily by Piella. Fluffles and Gromit also share a sensitive moment after she timidly returns Gromit's possessions, which have been discarded by Piella, after she gives Wallace's house (including Gromit's room) a "woman's touch". However, when she leaves her purse at the house, Wallace decides to return it, but it is raining outside. Not wanting to get wet, he insists that Gromit return it instead. Upon arriving at Piella's affluent mansion, Gromit discovers several dressmaker's dummies in her bedroom, each wearing a baker's hat and apron. In a book, Gromit discovers photographs of Piella with the murdered bakers. To his horror, Gromit discovers Piella is the "Cereal Killer" as he discovers a picture with Wallace as her apparent intended thirteenth victim, thus completing a "baker's dozen." Gromit accidentally knocks over all the dummies, but gets them all back up again before Piella enters the bedroom, escaping detection by hanging from the chandelier. Despite Piella's lavish ways, Fluffles has to sleep in an old cardboard box, covered with a tattered rag, implying years of mistreatment.
Despite Wallace being oblivious, Gromit attempts to thwart Piella by installing an airport-style metal detector in their home. After tricking Wallace into thinking that Gromit bit her, Piella almost succeeds at pushing Wallace to his death whilst a chained up Gromit can only watch, but she is thwarted by being struck by a bag of flour from Wallace's dough-mixing contraption. After an angry outburst against bakers, she leaves but returns a day later to apologise with a large cake. Wallace says that it will do nicely for four o'clock tea. When Piella is leaving to attend to the absent Fluffles (who is "not well"), she tells him he will be getting a surprise. A worried Gromit follows her home only to be caught and imprisoned with Fluffles in a storeroom. Escaping in Piella's old Bake-O-Lite hot air balloon, they arrive at Wallace's house as he is lighting the candle.
After a struggle, the cake falls to the floor and a bomb inside is revealed. While attempting to dispose of the bomb, Wallace and Gromit are attacked by Piella, who reveals she is the cereal killer and detests bakers and their creations for ruining her figure and her career as the Bake-O-Lite girl after her obesity from consuming too much bread and cakes meant she could not ride her balloon anymore. While attempting to finish off Wallace, a battle ensues between Piella and Fluffles in a yellow forklift truck covered by giant oven mitts.
In the chaos, the bomb ends up in the back of Wallace's trousers. Gromit and Fluffles neutralize the explosion using a large amount of dough while Piella uses the distraction to leap onto her balloon and escape. However, owing to her weight, the balloon crashes into the crocodile pit at the zoo where she is eaten alive (off-screen). The balloon floats away with Piella's ghost (her former slim self) waving goodbye to Wallace and Gromit. Distraught by the death of her owner, Fluffles leaves, with both Wallace and Gromit depressed over their losses (though Wallace cheers up after a good tea while Gromit is still upset). Deciding to take their minds off things, they head out to deliver bread and find Fluffles standing in the driveway, uncertain as to what to do or where to go. She joins them in the van and the three drive off into the sunset.
Filming for A Matter of Loaf and Death began in January 2008, and had the fastest production period for a Wallace and Gromit short. This was the first Aardman film to be made using the software Stop Motion Pro. Five models were created for Gromit alone, with scenes being shot simultaneously on thirteen sets. Commenting on the fact that the short will be made directly for a British audience, Nick Park said: "I don't feel like I'm making a film for a kid in some suburb of America — and being told they're not going to understand a joke, or a northern saying." Regardless, Park changed the title from Trouble at' Mill as he thought it was too obscure a Northern England colloquialism. As well as a final title that references A Matter of Life and Death, the film also references Aliens and Ghost.
Nick Park said in an interview with the Radio Times, "The BBC hardly gave a single note or instruction on the whole thing", and Park goes on to remark how it was better than his previous work with DreamWorks, Curse of the Were-Rabbit, where they kept on receiving calls to change critical things.
Park cast Sally Lindsay after hearing her on the Radcliffe and Maconie Show on BBC Radio 2 whilst driving from Preston. Although unfamiliar with her role as Shelly Unwin in Coronation Street, Park said "Sally has a lot of fun in her voice, flamboyant almost, and I was also looking for someone who could be quite charming too, but with a slightly posh northern accent. Piella needed to at times sound well-to-do, and then at others sound quite gritty".
The short had its world première in Australia on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's ABC1 on 3 December 2008 and was repeated again the following day on ABC2. In the UK it aired on Christmas Day at 20:30 on BBC One, although it had been readily available on The Pirate Bay since 3 December 2008. In late December 2008, Aardman Animations revealed they had "no idea" of how clips were leaked onto YouTube ahead of its screening in the United Kingdom. In France, A Matter of Loaf and Death (Sacré pétrin in French) was shown - dubbed into French - on Christmas Eve 2008 on M6. A German version entitled Auf Leben und Brot was broadcast on the Super RTL network, the title is a play on Auf Leben und Tod meaning a matter of life and death.
In a similar style to A Close Shave, Wallace and Gromit became the theme for BBC One's Christmas presentation for 2008 to promote the showing of A Matter of Loaf and Death.
The programme was watched by the most viewers of any programme on Christmas Day, 2008 in the UK and secured the largest Christmas Day audience in five years. It was also the most-watched UK programme in 2008, with a peak average audience of 14.4 million. The programme had a share of 53.3 percent, peaking with 58.1 percent and 15.88 million at the end of the programme. The repeat showing on New Year's Day even managed 7.2 million, beating ITV's Emmerdale in the ratings. The short was shown on British Television for the third time on Good Friday pulling in 3.4 million viewers. In BARB's official ratings published on 8 January 2009 it showed that A Matter of Loaf and Death had 16.15 million, making it the highest rated programme of 2008 and the highest rated non-sporting event in the UK since 2004 when an episode of Coronation Street garnered 16.3 million. Though the short was successful, several people commented on the short's violence.
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