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By Brad Cook | September 23, 2009

My first exposure to “Wallace & Gromit” was sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s, when I stumbled across “A Close Shave” on my local PBS station. As a fan of most things British, I was immediately drawn into Nick Park’s odd little world, and my appreciation only grew over the subsequent years. While I have no desire to own every licensed “Wallace & Gromit” doohickey ever produced, like the guy profiled in the featurette on the “Grand Day Out” disc, I’m happy to have this set for my DVD collection.

The four discs in “The Complete Collection” cover all of the duo’s short films: “A Grand Day Out” (1989), “The Wrong Trousers” (1993), “A Close Shave” (1995), and “A Matter of Loaf and Death” (2008). The latest one continues the duo’s madcap adventures as they find themselves in the midst of running their latest business venture, a bakery. When a dozen bakers wind up dead over the course of a year, Wallace winds up next on the list, unless Gromit can save him in time. Poor Wallace also struggles with another bout of unrequited love. The guy can’t catch a break, but at least his dog remains loyal.

It’s hard for me to say which of the four is my favorite. All of them feature strong storytelling, and watching them in order really highlights Park and company’s artistic and technical evolution. It’s not a surprise the feature-length “Curse of the Were-Rabbit” (not included in this collection) was such a strong movie, given the three 30-minute films and 10 shorts that predated it. Those 10 shorts – known as “Cracking Contraptions” and featuring various Wallace inventions gone awry – are also found spread across these four discs, along with a quartet of making-of featurettes, informative audio commentaries with Park and others at Aardman, and a demo for the “Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures” game. An episode from the “Shaun the Sheep” spin-off series is also included.

“A Matter of Loaf and Death” is also available as a standalone disc that’s identical to the one in “The Complete Collection,” so there’s no need to double-dip.

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