Ah yes, Wallace and Gromit. Who doesn’t love these guys? My favorite short of theirs is “A Grand Day Out,” because it’s a trip to the moon and it’s adorable. Wallace won’t be kept from his cheese, ladies and gentleman, especially if it’s a good Wensleydale.
However, cheese isn’t free (no, government cheese doesn’t count), and our intrepid heroes have to cook up ways to line the purse. Being famous inventors, these schemes usually involve gadgets of some kind, and Wallace and Gromit being Wallace and Gromit, there are always unintended consequences. This plays out in a big way in the 2005 feature, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
The people of Wallace and Gromit’s village love their vegetables. Like, they really love their vegetables. They sing them to sleep, tuck them in at night, plant them in fancy greenhouses. Their entire year revolves around the annual competition and fair held at Tottington Hall.
Naturally, where there are vegetables, there are pests, and Wallace and Gromit have risen to meet the demand with Anti-Pesto. They’re so on the ball that they have special garden gnomes in all of their clients’ yards. If anything suspicious comes around, a gnomes’ eyes light up, sending a message to Wallace and Gromit’s dining room, where pictures of all of Anti-Pesto’s clients hang on the wall. Each face has light-up eyes to show who’s in trouble.
Anti-Pesto’s biggest client so far is Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter), who has a bit of a bunny problem. They’re tearing up her expansive greens and she needs them removed before the big fête. Anti-Pesto comes to the rescue, vacuuming the rabbits out of the ground with their super-duper bunny extractor.
Just to keep things fun, Lady Tottington’s hopeful suitor, Victor (Ralph Fiennes) is hanging around promising to blow the bunnies away with a shotgun. He’s kind of a jerk, so it’s rather satisfying when his toupee gets sucked up by the bunny vacuum.
So yeah, there are a lot of bunnies at the Wallace and Gromit abode, and Gromit’s getting annoyed. There are bunnies in the basement. And bunnies in the fridge nibbling on the food. And in the closets. There are bunnies everywhere. Gromit starts every day chopping mounds of carrots for all their furry tenants.
Wallace comes up with an idea: He decides to basically hypnotize all the bunnies out of wanting to eat vegetables by connecting the BunVac to the Mind Manipulation-O-Matic. It’s part Dr. Frankenstein and part wind tunnel, and Wallace plops the electronic helmet on his own head. Never mind what these poor creatures are supposed to eat instead, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
Well, the bunnies don’t do much but go swirly-swirly. However, when one of them shrinks back at the sight of a carrot, Wallace thinks his plan worked.
Then strange things start happening around the village. Vegetables of all kinds get mysteriously chomped by some creature with very large jaws, and the tightest of all greenhouses doesn’t faze them. The creature makes its way into the church, where the vicar is sprinking holy water on his greenhouse garden, and announces itself with a loud belch.
Suddenly quite nervous, the vicar holds up two English cucumbers like a cross but the menacing creature bites them off short. Then it’s on to the other vegetables, which get plowed through like the creature is some kind of veggie-loving Cookie Monster.
Never fear, though, because the intrepid man and dog of Anti-Pesto are on the case. Figuring the creature is an outsized male rabbit, they rig a giant lady rabbit puppet on the top of their van, hoping that pulling the strings just so will give her the right amount of vamp and draw the creature out of the shadows.
They catch something all right, and whatever it is drags the Anti-Pesto truck and Gromit through miles of tunnel back to…his and Wallace’s house. Cautiously, Gromit goes into the house, only to find giant bunny footprints in the entryway leading down to the basement. The culprit could be one of the bunnies gone berserk, or…?
Meanwhile, Lord Chip-On-the-Shoulder, er, Victor, starts doing his own research. He knows Lady Tottington likes Wallace, and Victor is the jealous type.
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a winner. All the way through it makes fun of classic horror tropes, and everything from King Kong to Frankenstein to every classic creature feature in the book gets a nod. There are lightning strikes and thunderclaps at key moments like any good horror movie. However, these devices are played for laughs and never really scary.
It’s also just plain enjoyable. My personal favorite of the characters is Gromit because he’s so expressive–his character is what would happen if Harpo Marx and MacGyver had a head-on collision. Gromit knows Wallace comes up with some hare-brained schemes, no pun intended, but he always supports Wallace and bails him out if need be. He’ll take a golden carrot for his best chum or know the reason why. Yeah, I know that sounds cryptic, but this is a No Spoiler Zone.
Since The Were-Rabbit was a feature, creator Nick Park had to make a few changes to his normal production routine. Some of the bunnies had to be painted in digitally, which was difficult because of the amount of Plasticine, but they had no choice. These bunnies were going where no Plasticine bunnies had gone before.
Another change was in the dialogue, not in what words were spoken, but how they were spoken. In an interview with SciFi Magazine, Park mentioned that the British accents had to be made more clear because American audiences had trouble understanding them.
The effort paid off, as the film brought in $16M its first weekend, despite playing at a limited number of theaters. In the end, it would be the second highest-grossing animation film behind Chicken Run. Unfortunately, it would be the next-to-last film Aardman Entertainment made for Dreamworks, because after Flushed Away failed to deliver at the box office, the two companies parted ways.
Nick Park wasn’t too broken up about it, though. Apparently Dreamworks was pretty demanding, bugging Park to make Wallace and Gromit less British and more modern. I for one am glad he didn’t listen, because Wallace and Gromit wouldn’t be Wallace and Gromit otherwise.
Oh, and speaking of unintended consequences, after The Curse of the Were-Rabbit hit theaters, UK grocery chain Tesco saw a 23% increase in sales of Wensleydale cheese. This phenomenon is referred to as “the Wallace Effect.”
Hope you’ve all enjoyed our Five Days At the Fair, and check back tomorrow for the Van Johnson Blogathon. It’s gonna be a fun one, I think. Thanks for reading…