To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Shaun the Sheep Movie is a 2015 British stop-motion animated adventure comedy film written and directed by Richard Starzak (Shaun the Sheep) and Mark Burton (Early Man). Featuring the voice talents of Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Kate Harbour, Rich Webber, and Omid Djalili, Shaun the Sheep Movie is a spin-off of the short film Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave (1995) and the second feature film in the Wallace and Gromit franchise. Based on the television series of the same name, the story follows Shaun and his flock as they journey into the Big City to save their amnesiac farmer while eluding an animal hunter who wants to capture them all.
A home video starts with Shaun (Justin Fletcher) as a baby being bottle-fed by The Farmer (John Sparkes). Shaun is then shown taking his first steps and meeting Bitzer (John Sparkes). The two form a friendship and hang out with The Farmer and the rest of the farm animals. Sometime later, an older scruffier Shaun wakes up in his barn. As the rooster crows, The Farmer and Bitzer awaken to start their morning routine. They count the sheep, herd them in a pin, and put them back in the barn at night. They follow the same schedule day in and day out until the farmer shears the sheep’s wool.
Wanting something different Shaun organizes his flock and plans for them to take a day off. After paying a duck to distract Bitzer, the sheep attempt to leave before the farmer can count them. When The Farmer doesn’t fall for the flock’s trick they have him count them in a loop causing him to fall asleep. After placing The Farmer in a camper the flock head to the house to enjoy their free time; eating popcorn, pizza, and ice cream, making drinks, and watching a movie. Before the sheep can relax Bitzer intervenes having caught on to the duck’s schemes. Bitzer and the flock attempt to enter the camper and awaken the farmer, but inadvertently cause the camper to roll away from the farm and towards the Big City.
I remember watching Wallace and Gromit shorts on Nickelodeon as a kid. The first one I ever watched was A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit. That short film made me want to fly to the moon with a box of crackers! Claymation was widely used at the time which is probably why it’s my favorite genre of stop-motion animation. Shaun the Sheep Movie very much reminded me of the old Cartoon Network show Sheep in the Big City, for obvious reasons of course. Makes me wonder if the writers ever watched the show and took some inspiration from it although it’s probably the other way around. Richard Starzak and Mark Burton also crafted a story with a good message. By the end, there is a lesson to be learned about not taking what you have for granted and respecting those in your care. Also, everyone learns a lesson in the film – except for maybe The Naughty Pigs.
Aardman Animations does a fantastic job putting this film together. The time and detail put into molding the characters is breathtaking. If you pay close enough attention you can see little imperfections such as fingerprints on the people. The care placed in building Shaun, his flock, Bitzer, The Farmer, and everyone else makes the film feel lived in. The people are also very diverse. So many different ethnic groups are shown and each has different toned skin and style of hair. It would have been easy for the animators to slack and just make everyone person look similar, but they went the extra mile. I respect these decisions as Claymation is already arduous enough.
What’s interesting about Shaun the Sheep Movie is that even though there are voice actors, none of them speak real words. There are grunts, laughs, whistles, and of course barks and baaahs. This is a stark contrast to the Wallace and Gromit shorts where they speak throughout. I watched this film with my daughter and as a parent didn’t have to worry about her hearing anything that I had to explain. It made it an easy watch for both of us as we were just interested in the story. Because of this lack of speech the score is more important. Ilan Eshkeri (Stardust) is the composer of the film and brought his tremendous talent to the project. His score fills in the thoughts and feelings of every character that would normally be filled by dialogue. This is surprising as it’s his first time composing a children’s movie. Needless to say without him the story would not come together the way it does.
Who knew a film without words would be such an enjoyable watch? I give Shaun the Sheep Movie a Decent 8.5/10. Hopefully, Aardman Animations continues making stop-motions films as it’s nice to see a kid’s movie with a different style than the typical 3D computer animations we typically get.