Believe it or not Shaun The Sheep is twenty years old this year having made his debut in Wallace & Gromit adventure A Close Shave back in 1995. Not bad for a character whose only line of dialogue is essentially a well-placed “baaa” that Shaun The Sheep: The Movie now exists. And it’s nothing short of a country filled breath of fresh air.
For while everyone always raves about Pixar and Ghibli, both powerhouses in the realm of animation, Aardman Animation, the people behind Shaun The Sheep bring their wonderfully whimsical stop-motion-animation to brilliantly British life in their latest outing. There is a sense of real-world magic when it comes to stop-motion-animation, a tangible sense that you can reach out and touch the characters, squish them if you’re of a destructive nature. But what Aardman have always done better than anyone is bring their characters to fully-breathing and realised life.
As with Wallace & Gromit’s first adventure Shaun The Sheep: The Movie could just as easily be called A Grand Day Out as Shaun and his flock decide to take the day off. But when they accidentally trap the farmer in a banged-up old caravan and said caravan careens into the big city Shaun and the gang find themselves in uncharted waters. With the Farmer suffering from memory loss Shaun et al soon find themselves hunted by a ruthless pest controller.
Shaun The Sheep is endlessly inventive, there’s rarely a frame that doesn’t include some smart little gag to raise a smile or chuckle, a Hannibal Lecter cat at an animal pound as well as a spontaneous sheep a cappella song are particular highlights. Add to that the huge amount of laughs that the concept of sheep, be it following, counting or otherwise, brings and Shaun The Sheep never ceases to entertain.
But the real genius of is that it achieves so much character, story and emotional investment by remaining essentially a silent film. Yes there is sound and sheep bleating but there is no dialogue to speak of. Even the humans talk in a garbled manner of consonants streaming out. Think the wonderful opening act of Wall-E for a full movie and you are somewhere close to understand the magic of Shaun The Sheep.
The ending feels a little too similar to another Aardman great Chicken Run but when you’re having this much fun it’s hard to begrudge them a Marvel third-act scenario that they know works.
Aimed at kids but pitched perfectly at an adult audience Shaun The Sheep: The Movie is flocks and flocks of fun.