A Matter of Loaf and Death sees Wallace and Gromit in charge of a bakery
By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News
Wallace and Gromit's latest adventure will premiere on BBC One at Christmas - but it will have to wait until 2010 to be eligible for an Academy Award.
"We've missed the Oscars for this year, but it can qualify next year," creator Nick Park said as he unveiled A Matter of Loaf and Death in central London.
"We have never made films for awards, though. We do them for the fun of it."
Previous Wallace and Gromit shorts The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave took home the Oscar for best animated short.
Park won, too, for his 2005 Wallace and Gromit feature, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
The wacky inventor and his long-suffering dog also landed an Oscar nomination for their first film together, A Grand Day Out.
On that occasion, they were beaten to the award itself - by Creature Comforts, another Nick Park creation.
His new film would have had to have been submitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences by 1 October 2008 in order to be eligible for next year's Oscars.
"We were trying to get it in on time," the director told the BBC News website.
"But when it became obvious we'd never make the deadline I found it a slight relief.
"In a way, I was glad when that goal disappeared. It meant we could just get on with making the film.
"My ambition was to make the most entertaining half-hour I could," Park continued.
"You should do it for the fun of it, and not have any other ambitions in mind."
A Matter of Loaf and Death sees Wallace - voiced as ever by veteran Last of the Summer Wine actor Peter Sallis - and his dog Gromit at the helm of an automated bakery, named Top Bun.
Their business is disrupted when Wallace falls in love with Piella Bakewell, the former star of a series of iconic bread commercials.
Meanwhile a mysterious "cereal killer" is targeting other bakers in the area, leading Gromit to fear his master's life may be in danger.
Ex-Coronation Street star Sally Lindsay supplies the voice for Piella (right)
Romance beckons for the plucky canine as well when he meets Fluffles, Piella's pretty pet poodle.
Park said he had welcomed the opportunity to return to the short film format after spending four years each on The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and 2000 feature Chicken Run.
"The half-hour format seemed a lot more humane," he said. "The process is so immense on a feature film, and I felt I needed to get ideas out quicker."
However, the 49-year-old said this did not mean he had turned his back on feature film-making.
"I have some feature ideas which Sony are interested in," he revealed, referring to the US studio Park's Bristol-based Aardman Animations company signed a three-year film deal with in 2007.
"But I don't want to rush straight into another one. I'm giving myself a bit of space to decide."
The new film's original title was Trouble At' Mill - a Yorkshire colloquialism considered too obscure to retain.
"It was thought that the expression wouldn't be understandable or translatable, being a very local saying," Park told the BBC News website.
As ever, Wallace is voiced by veteran actor Peter Sallis (left)
"A Matter of Loaf and Death just made people laugh, really, and seemed more universal."
The title - a play on David Niven's 1946 film A Matter of Life and Death - is one of several cinema references that pepper the story.
Others include a climactic action sequence that recalls the finale of Aliens and a reference to the pottery scene from Ghost.
Park said such tongue-in-cheek homages were "a way of entertaining adults as well as children".
"But it tends to come naturally, as part of the story we're telling. Whether it's nicked or a tribute, I don't know."
The Preston-born animator also defended his decision to open the film with a baker being felled by a rolling pin.
"The challenge for me was to have murder as an aspect of the story while dealing with it lightly, in a comedic way," he said.