|A Matter of Loaf and Death|
|Created by||Nick Park|
|Based on||Wallace and Gromit|
by Nick Park
|Screenplay by||Nick Park|
|Directed by||Nick Park|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Executive producers||Peter Lord|
|Cinematography||Dave Alex Riddett|
|Running time||29 minutes|
|Production company||Aardman Animations|
|Release||3 December 2008(Australia)|
25 December 2008 (United Kingdom)
A Matter of Loaf and Death is a 2008 British stop-motion animated short film produced by Aardman Animations, created by Nick Park, and is the fourth short to star his characters Wallace and Gromit, the first one since A Close Shave in 1995.
A Matter of Loaf and Death is a murder mystery, including a serial killer murdering bakers. Wallace and Gromit operate a bakery business, and Gromit tries to solve the case before Wallace ends up a victim himself. It was the last Wallace and Gromit film before the retirement of Wallace's voice actor Peter Sallis in 2010 preceding his death in 2017. The short was also one of the most watched television specials in the United Kingdom in 2008 and received critical acclaim. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film at the 82nd Academy Awards, and won a BAFTA and an Annie Award for Best Short Animation and Best Animated Short Subject respectively in 2009.
A serial killer has murdered a total of twelve bakers, the latest being Baker Bob. While on a delivery for their bakery business, Wallace and Gromit save Piella Bakewell, a former pin-up girl for the Bake-O-Lite bread company, and her nervous poodle Fluffles, when the brakes on her bicycle fail. Gromit finds there is no problem with the brakes, but Wallace is smitten. He and Piella begin a whirlwind romance, and Gromit is angered when she redecorates their house and his room. Fluffles and Gromit share a sensitive moment when she returns Gromit's possessions, discarded by Piella, before the latter calls for her to go.
Wallace sends Gromit to return Piella's forgotten purse. At Piella's mansion, Gromit discovers numbered mannequins representing each of the murdered bakers, and an album containing photographs showing Piella in relationships with each one; Wallace is her planned thirteenth victim, completing a baker's dozen. In the morning, when Gromit tries to show Wallace the evidence, Wallace is too distracted with his engagement to Piella to listen, and Piella surreptitiously destroys the album to make sure Wallace does not know of her plot.
Determined to protect his owner, Gromit installs security measures in their home, including a metal-detecting security screener. After Piella tricks Wallace into thinking that Gromit bit her by biting her own arm, Wallace muzzles Gromit, chains him up and has him wash every single dish in the house. As Gromit washes, one of Piella's shoes is caught in the machinery of the baker mill, and Wallace attempts to retrieve it. Gromit watches helplessly as Piella prepares to push Wallace to his death, but Wallace is saved when Piella is struck by a swinging bag of flour, which, is implied to have been caused by Fluffles. After an angry outburst about bakers, Piella leaves but later drops by to apologise with a cake. Gromit, upon hearing Fluffles is ill, follows her home, where Piella captures him and throws him into a storeroom with Fluffles.
Escaping in Piella's old Bake-O-Lite hot air balloon, Gromit and Fluffles arrive at Wallace's house as he lights the candle. After a struggle, the cake falls, revealing it to be a bomb. Wallace and Gromit are attacked by Piella, who reveals she detests bakers after her weight gain ended her career as the Bake-O-Lite girl. She is about to kill Wallace with a wrench but is attacked by Fluffles in a forklift, who has had enough of her mistress' abuse. In the chaos, the bomb ends up in Wallace's trousers; Gromit and Fluffles neutralise the explosion by filling the trousers with dough while Piella leaps onto her balloon to escape, vowing to return for Wallace again. However, Piella's weight drags the balloon into the zoo and right into a crocodile enclosure where she is devoured. Distraught by her master's death, even though she is offered to stay with the pair, Fluffles decides to leave, leaving Gromit devastated. Wallace and Gromit decide to take their mind off, with a delivery. Outside, they find Fluffles, who had changed her mind, and Gromit opens the door for her and she joins them as they happily start their delivery.
- Peter Sallis as Wallace
- Ben Whitehead as Wallace (additional dialogue), Baker Bob (uncredited)
- Sally Lindsay as Piella Bakewell
- Melissa Collier as Fluffles (noises)
- Sarah Laborde as Bake-O-Lite singer
- Geraldine McEwan as Miss Thripp (uncredited)
In October 2007, it was announced that Wallace and Gromit were to return to television after an absence of ten years with a new short film titled Wallace and Gromit: Trouble At' Mill. Filming began in January 2008; creator Nick Park commented that the production period for the short was significantly quicker than that of the feature-length films Chicken Run and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which each took five years to complete. A Matter of Loaf and Death 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 would 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 Batman, Aliens and Ghost.
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".
In the United Kingdom, it aired on Christmas Day at 20:30 on BBC One with over 14 million people watching, although it had been readily available on The Pirate Bay since 3 December 2008. On 19 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. In Germany, one 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 idents for 2008, to promote the showing of A Matter of Loaf and Death. These idents led Russell T Davies to request similar idents for Doctor Who the following year.
The programme was watched by the most viewers of any programme on Christmas Day 2008 in the United Kingdom and secured the largest Christmas Day audience in five years. It was also the most watched programme in the United Kingdom in 2008, with a peak average audience of 14.4 million. The programme had a share of 53.3%, peaking with 58.1% and 15.88 million at the end of the programme.
The repeat showing on New Year's Day 2009 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 2009, 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 United Kingdom since 2004, when an episode of Coronation Street garnered 16.3 million.
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