From the creators of Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run and that little fellow who played the trumpet in the Lurpak advert, comes Shaun the Sheep Movie. Yes Aardman, the clay-mation wizards are back to bring an old favourite to the big screen. Shaun, that most lovable of sheep has leaped from TV for his first solo film outing.
Similar to Wallace and Gromit, in its progression from short to feature, the studio have managed to adapt a much loved character to a larger audience, while staying true to its original tone. Also, like the studios previous works, Shaun is a brilliantly entertaining and loveable film.
When one of Shaun’s schemes sends the farmer off to The Big City it is up to Shaun, Blitzer and the flock to go and rescue him. A feet that is made all the more complicated by the fact the the farmer has lost his memory and is now, thanks to his sheering skills, a sought after hairdresser.
It has been a long journey for Shaun and his friends to make it to the big screen. Shaun first appeared in the Wallace and Gromit short A Close Shave. Thanks to the short’s popularity, Shaun soon starred in his own spin-off show with his show even spawning another spin-off Timmy Time. It’s no surprise that Shaun and his team got their own feature.
The film even gifts our beloved farm yard animals with a rich back-story that fits into the character, the shows and now the film exceedingly well. Shaun, Blitzer and the farmer once lived where life was not always routine and trickery on the farm. Before becoming the cynical character we have known from the show the young farmer once treated his animals as family. It is this memory of a loving father figure that prompts Shaun to travel to The Big City to retrieve his lost friend. With this back story, the film has a new tone and allows it to flow from the small screen to the big one, jumping right into the plot with great pace that keeps the audience entranced.
The biggest obstacle that Aardman faced with the film is the characters lack of speech. With the exception of a few moans and grunts, none of the characters in the film talk. You have to wonder how you can make a feature length film with mute characters but this is a fact that audiences will forget five minutes into the film. The studio are able to convey story, character and emotions through visuals as well as some unusual uses of music and sound. The absence of dialogue in no way hinders the film, which Aardman have not just overcome but made part of Shaun’s trademark.
The studio have always had a direct link to audiences’ funny bones and this film is no exception. Shaun The Sheep Movie is made with the same wit and dry sense of humour that Aardman are famed for. With the films lack of dialogue, physical humour is used throughout as well as slapstick, innuendo and the occasional ‘in joke’ that older audiences will appreciate.
Yet this is not a film of just humour and laughs. The film makers have injected real warmth and heart into the story. The scene of Shaun’s first ill fated reunion with the amnesia suffering farmer will break audiences hearts. Also, the scene where Shaun and his flock baa-, sing and “bleat box” to an upset baby Timmy is by far the film’s most tender moment. The film has it all and really can speak to audiences of all ages.
Shaun, as with the majority of Aardmans feature length work, (and frankly their best) is made with their distinctive claymation stop-motion animation. All the usual characteristics of their work are here including the occasional animators’ fingerprints. The main difference from the show to screen is the boundaries the film makers have pushed with Shaun. The sheer number of characters all interacting with in the city scape is a triumph for the studio and their work.
Alongside the films masterful character animation is the brilliantly crafted sets. For Wallace and Gromit, Aardman had to create an idyllic village setting. For Chicken Run the great British countryside and for Pirates! the 19th century high seas. Here, Aardman faced the challenge of a Metropolis setting. With traffic, highways and a range of characters the studio are pushing themselves with every project they do. The result is bustling and impressive visuals.
The animators have layered the film with such rich detail that with each viewing you are bound to notice things that escaped you previously. From the added nods to British culture, such as the Blue Peter badge on Shaun’s backpack to the moment a cow is sent flying over the moon, (in this case a pub sign). Aardman have created a world that is full of hidden treasures.
Another triumph for the great British claymation studio. Able to create a great story with lovable characters despite the films lack of dialogue as well as being funny and cute in the extreme, Shaun the Sheep Movie is how you transfer a show from the box to the screen.
Now, bring on a Timmy Time film, (please, I love him) And Shaun the Sheep 2!