I grew up with Aardman Animations. Whether it was Wallace and Gromit or Chicken Run, I was extremely familiar with and fond of their signature style . Aardman Animations has always managed to to make their films endearing and funny. I’m also incredibly impressed by how they haven’t made the switch to digital animation yet. They have always stayed true to stop-motion animation, and it’s one of the reasons that I love them so much.
I had never seen Shaun the Sheep before this film. Apparently, it’s been a series of shorts since 2007 about a sheep and his friends causing havoc and fun on the farm. How could they possibly make that into a ninety-minute film and not have it get old after a while? Well, they have to leave the farm and go to the big city, of course.
The film opens with a little backstory. A baby Shaun is shown in his early days with his young Farmer and shepherd pup, Bitzer. Fast-forward many years later, and Shaun is bored at Mossy Bottom Farm. He gets sheared and fed, he sleeps, then he repeats it all over again. He gets tired of his daily routine and decides that he wants to take a day off. With the help of the rest of the sheep, Shaun devises a plan to get the farmer to take a nap so that they can party with Martinis and toaster pizza. Unluckily for them, things end abruptly when the farmer ends up with injuries and memory loss , and they have to battle the Big City (that’s the actual name) to get him back.
What I loved about this film was the complete lack of dialogue. The writers and directors completely relied on physical humor to tell jokes, and it was very effective. Most gags were simple enough for children to understand, and some that had the adults giggling to themselves. The lack of dialogue made the audience examine every frame carefully. It gives them a chance to take in every little detail in shot. Whether it be an allusion to a past joke or simply something clever, there was always something to look out for. There were even little quirks about the characters added in that brought laughter and even melancholy.
Shaun the Sheep added in a touch that hasn’t been seen in previous Aardman films: social media. In the past, it was never clear on what time the film was set in. But in the film, the use of phones and social media is used as plot progression and a few gags are set up around it. It’s used a very minimal amount, but enough to send a message about the impact of the digital age in today’s society. The studios even took it a step further by parodying other films’ posters such as James Bond.
Shaun the Sheep easily may be my favorite animated film of the year. Yes, even more than Inside Out. Unlike the latter, it didn’t try hard to be a huge spectacle. Through silence and vivid details, it was able to create an experience that was not only silly but also beautiful.