The idea of a silent film done entirely in stop-motion just makes me feel giddy. As a huge fan of animation, I have a few favourite studios. One of which being Aardman. I’ve watched Aardman’s productions for almost as long as I can remember. Wether it be Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts, Chicken Run, or even some of their more recent efforts like The Pirates: Band of Misfits, I’ve always been able to count on the studio’s stellar work. When I heard that their next film was going to rely on purely visual storytelling and humour, I got pretty excited. The film in question is Shaun the Sheep, based off the tv show of the same name. The series is actually a spinoff of Wallace and Gromit, but the character of Shaun has become immensely popular in the UK, so a feature film seemed like a natural progression for the character. Is it another hit for the studio? Let’s find out.
The best way to describe Shaun the Sheep is “charmingly simple.” (Which is Ironic, considering that the film took 6 years to make.) I’ve only seen a few episodes of the television series that the film was based on, but from what I can tell, the film is practically just an episode stretched out to a feature length, Much like the Mystery science Theatre 3000 movie. Some may be turned off by the film’s almost overly simplistic story, but I found it refreshing. Animated movies geared at children often feel the need to keep their target audiences attention by being loud and obnoxious, but with Shaun the Sheep, it’s much more quiet and subdued, as well as incredibly subtle with it’s humour. I can imagine the film would be more rewarding upon multiple viewings, since there’s so many background and foreground jokes going on the screen at once, that’s near impossible to catch everything in one viewing. Not every joke works, but more often than not the film succeeds with it’s humour. The animation itself is some of Aardman’s best work. It doesn’t take that any risks and it’s not quite as filled with variety as their previous film (The Pirates) but it’s still remarkably well crafted and executed, which is to be expected from the studio that has mastered the stop-motion game for decades.
What makes the animation even more impressive is the fact that there is no dialogue. At all. Aside from the film’s soundtrack and a few little sound effects from the sheep and humans. The feel of the film is very reminiscent of a Charlie Chaplin-esc classic from the 1930’s or 40’s. The recent Minions film was touted for relying on visual storytelling, but that film still had characters who spoke lines of dialogue. Shaun the Sheep however, is the real deal. The only downside with the animation, for me at east, is that the environments (in the city) all seem a little generic and not as imaginative as the locations seen in some of the studio’s other work, like The Pirates or Wallace and Gromit. This doesn’t bring the film down, but it does make it feel less memorable in comparison to other Aardman products. For fans of the show however, the film does succeed by keeping the style and tone of the series while also expanding the world a bit by bringing the characters to the big city rather than keeping them on the farm.
Shaun the Sheep is charming and heartwarming, yet I don’t think it’s quite good enough to be considered Aardman’s absolute best work. I dunno, maybe if I was more of an avid watcher of the TV show I would get more of a kick out of it. Even so, while I didn’t think the film was spectacular, it’s still very good, and absolutely worth a watch if your a fan of animation and silent movies. This is a simple, quant and endearing way to end the summer movie season, Despite the fact that the UK got this film back in February…..Lucky punks.