Shaun The Sheep – an animation for everyone

Posted on 12 February 2015
By George Heron
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The masters of stop-motion animation return with another big-screen offering, bringing another one of their franchises to celluloid, the eight year old Shaun The Sheep.

For those who never watched the TV series, Shaun is a super-intelligent sheep who always saves the day in the otherwise mundane existence of a farm-bred animal. Two other major characters play an important part: the farmer (named Farmer) who’s supposed to be looking after the sheep and the sheep-dog called Blitzer, Farmer’s right-hand dog who tries but often fails to keep the sheep in check. As Cyndi Lauper once tunefully sang, *sheep just want to have fun.

This film is supposed to be for young children. That is clearly the target and this enables Nick Park and his animated geniuses to strip away such superfluous tropes as speaking characters. Voice-over narrators are also gladly avoided. This is essentially a silent movie.

The kids at the cinema were enchanted and laughing throughout, but people of all ages need to see this. The physical slapstick comedy used throughout is of the highest calibre. Buster Keaton and The Three Stooges would be proud. A breathtaking depiction of the day-to-day minutiae of farm life builds to a hilarious crescendo and sets the bar high for this 85-minute wonder.

200 words in and no mention of the quality of the animation itself. It’s Aardman, for the love of Christina Hendricks! It’s jaw-droppingly ambitious as ever. Aardman’s wizards meticulously creates a living, breathing British metropolis, with busy traffic, pedestrians and cheesy shops like Gulpa Coffee. There are times when computerised animation kicks in for certain high-speed montages but it is used sparingly and does not detract from the stop-motion spectacle.

Although the movie is silent, the human characters speak in a form of gobbledegook. At one point, a doctor of Asian ethnicity walks onto the scene and starts to speak. Thankfully, racial stereotyping does not occur and they pull it off without offending anyone.

Such risk-taking is also apparent at the film’s climax, which goes surprisingly dark. It’s like the makers are toying with you saying “Yes, we know this is a kids film but we can fuck with adult’s heads a little bit too.” It’s all very subtle and nothing that would traumatise your child in any way.

With this and Big Hero 6, two new IPs experiencing their debuts on the big screen circuit, it’s going to be hard for any other animated feature to match this quality. Long live Aardman!