Review: Simply scintillating 'Shaun the Sheep'

By Fred Hawson

Posted at May 05 2015 09:12 PM | Updated as of May 06 2015 06:50 PM

"Shaun the Sheep" is a creation of Academy Award-winning British stop-motion animator Nick Park. Shaun was first seen in a 1995 Wallace and Gromit animated short film entitled "A Close Shave." It then evolved to be the lead character of its own long-running stop-motion animated television series which started airing in the UK since 2007.

Initially, I had no plans to watch this film, but the very good reviews encouraged me. I watched it only with my youngest son (who had to orient his old man about the characters during the film). My older son was not interested to watch it with us, saying this cartoon style was not his type. That also got me more curious about it.

As it turns out, "Shaun the Sheep" is practically a SILENT barnyard comedy. Aside from its eclectic musical score, we only hear the occasional baa from the sheep characters and garbled mumbles from the human characters. It is one thing to make this a visually entertaining seven-minute long short on television, but to take this concept and make it into a full-length film for the big screen must have been a big endeavor and challenge for Aardman Studios since its first full-length stop-motion animated feature film, "Chicken Run," a big box-office hit back in 2000.

In this film, Shaun wanted a change in the humdrum routine of farm life. So he conspired with his sheep cohorts to lull their Farmer to sleep and lock him in a trailer car, while they go watch television in his house. However, the trailer gets dislodged from its mooring and it rolled downhill all the way into the city! The resulting head trauma from this accident gives the Farmer amnesia. Realizing their folly, Shaun and friends have to find the Farmer and get him back, even if it means having to face the dangerous animal catcher Trumper.

Since I was not really familiar with the "Shaun the Sheep" TV series before watching this, it took some time for me to get used to the slow pace and silent nature of the film. It was quite a departure from the very frenetic, very loud animated films we are more used to seeing on TV (like "Spongebob Squarepants").

However, once you get the drift of things, you will be thoroughly entertained with the homespun storytelling style of "Shaun." It is droll and delightful, very British in wit and humor. The storyline of having country folk getting lost in the big city is simple and familiar, but the charming demeanor of Shaun and friends and its sweet, light, cheery treatment of the hero's dilemma win us over. The sequences about the runaway trailer and the restaurant are particularly hilarious. I also liked the references to films like "Wolverine" and "Silence of the Lambs."

Stop-motion is really a painstaking style of animation requires patience and precision in its animators. "Shaun the Sheep" may be considered lower-key when compared to the fast and furious "Chicken Run" (2000) or the complex and rowdy "The Pirates!" (2012). However, in a silent film like "Shaun," you really appreciate the littlest details that go into this process. It is really admirable and amazing how emotions are expressed in very minute and subtle changes in the eyes of those clay animal figures. This film is scintillating in its apparent yet deceptive simplicity. 8/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."