A deeply endearing trilogy, Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit short films are receiving a much-appreciated release on a single DVD. A member of Britain's Aardman Animation studio, Park first received attention for his 1990 short Creature Comforts, a look at the inner lives of zoo animals. Two years later, Park unveiled Wallace and Gromit, characters that would make him famous in Britain and semi-famous elsewhere. In their first film together, 1992's A Grand Day Out, Wallace, an eccentric, absentminded, cheese-loving inventor, and Gromit, his much more responsible dog, use a homemade spaceship to travel to the moon. There they find, naturally enough, cheese, but also a troublesome robot. Though somewhat crude and plotless by the standards of later films, A Grand Day Out is still a fine introduction to Park's characters and an enjoyable film in itself. Park hit his stride in 1993 with The Wrong Trousers, a suspenseful, extremely funny short that won Park the first of his two Academy Awards. This time out, Wallace and Gromit take in a lodger, a mysterious penguin with designs on a rare jewel and Wallace's electronic pants. Here, Park perfects his mix of endearing characters, distinctive animation, and tense action sequences that would also serve him well in Trousers' 1995 followup, A Close Shave. Much in the same mold as Trousers, Shave, in which Wallace and Gromit get to the bottom of some mysterious sheep-rustling, also won Park an Oscar. Currently at work on Chicken Run, his first feature-length film, Park has produced little new material in some time, a problem this DVD helps correct, if only slightly, by including four early short films (two of them apparently from Park's childhood), a brief documentary, and a series of Christmas-themed station announcements for BBC 2. A bit more extra material would have been nice, but even without it, The First Three Adventures is both a great collection for fans and a terrific crash-course introduction for those who will be.

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