Behind the soft toys, tie-in tea mugs and novelty clocks, there’s always been a vein of dark humour running through Wallace and Gromit. Here, an early short by co-writer/director Steve Box proves it: Stage Fright is 11 macabre minutes of backstage terror at a music hall, voiced by Graham ‘John Shuttleworth’ Fellows, enlivened only by the presence of some performing dogs. Meanwhile, Nick Park – he of the three unassuming Oscars – was responsible for the most disturbing section of Peter Gabriel’s groundbreaking ‘Sledgehammer’ video (excerpted here), when those freaky chickens danced on stage.
Were-Rabbit continues the theme, taking as its inspiration Universal horror movies and the small-town mob mentality of more British fare. Our heroes, now pest controllers, are forced to intervene when a were-rabbit of Wallace’s own creation ravages all the local vegetable patches. Box and Park, in their two-handed chat-track, are now on hand to enthusiastically point out any of their sight gags you may have missed at the multiplex. Featurettes trace the evolution of the leads, from their crude incarnation in Park’s student days to the iconic characters now adorning merchandising, and the exhaustive production process – from finding the right were-rabbit fur to building almost 80 versions of the man and his dog. Best of the extras, though? The Cracking Contraptions shorts, in which 10 more Wallace inventions (“Snowmanotron”, anyone?) test Gromit’s loyalty.