A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon Review
It has been twenty five years since Shaun the Sheep burst onto the screen and into people's hearts with 'his' appearance in Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave. A favourite of Aardman Animation since then he has had his own TV show before taking to the silver screen in 2015 for his own movie. Now he's back in an all new film Farmageddon and this time there are all sorts of space shenanigans happening down on Mossy Bottom farm.
Farmageddon is obviously aimed at the younger viewer but the best children's films usually offer up a bit more depth and provide something for the accompanying parents. Pixar are usually the leaders in this but Aardman are usually pretty consistent too. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a prime example. A fantastically made family movie with a lot of jokes aimed right over the younger heads that provide a lot of laughs for the adults. Farmaggedon is, for the most part, devoid of these sorts of moments and instead is really just a feature length version of the TV show. It is absolutely adequate for what it is and I'm sure kids will lap it up. It just feels a bit slight and seems like it could have been a lot more.
Story wise if you've seen E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial then you know exactly where Farmageddon is heading. A cute alien called Lu-La lands in a wood near Shaun's farm and has to evade capture from government agents whilst trying to return to her home planet. There are a lot of references to classic science fiction movies and TV shows and even several uses of Strauss' 'Also Sprach Zarathrustra' (2001: A Space Odyssey), notably where a slice of burnt toast stands in for the iconic monolith. These little nods will have parents nodding with recognition but everything else is definitely for younger viewers.
The best parts of the movie are when the screenwriters make some slightly more oddball choices. There is a great gag where Shaun and Lu-La see a bicycle leaning up against a dumpster. They turn to look at each other and nod in agreement. Cut to a perfectly timed shot of the two of them hurtling down the road in the dumpster. It's fantastically irreverent and, overall, the film could do with more moments like it. One of my favourite parts is after the end credits where a certain keyboard playing astronomer starts to play 'Things Can Only Get Better' before being cut off by a nonplussed sheep. Some more jokes like this would certainly have livened the film up.
During the brief making of featurette found in the extras the filmmakers mention how they drew inspiration from such silent comedy greats as Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati. In a film devoid of any actual dialogue the physical comedy and timing of the jokes is certainly of the the utmost importance. Luckily Aardman have some of the most talented model animators working today, rivalled only by Laika.
Ultimately Farmageddon is a beautifully shot piece of animation which will keep the youngsters entertained but probably won't linger too long in the memory. At least, as it says at the end of the credits, no sheep were probed during the making of this film
Studiocanal present Farmageddon at 1080p in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Animation tends to look good in HD and Farmageddon is no exception. Detail is exceptional, for example you can easily see the fingerprints of the animators embedded in the brow of Lu-La as they've manipulated the puppet. Traditional stop-motion animation using puppets always gives a much more traditional feel than its CG counterpart. This release really allows you to pick out all the details and textures of the models used. The film features an array of aesthetically pleasing bright colours and they are vividly reproduced for this release.
Audio options for the feature are: Dolby Atmos and 5.1 DTS-HD master audio. There is also an Audio Description track.
The surround sound is excellent and, suprisingly, for a kids film the bass is pretty solid with the subwoofer getting a good workout. The Atmos track just beats out the DTS as you would expect with a richer fuller sound. The height channels add an extra dimension as UFO’s and catapulted sheep go flying through the air. I was pleasantly surprised that a Dolby Atmos track was included and as I’ve stated before there is no reason that this shouldn’t be the norm. With no actual dialogue to deal with sound effects are dominant as you'd expect. The music is also used to great effect with a score resembling John Williams in places and a sprinkling of pop songs which will please or annoy you based on your preferences.
Subtitles consist of a sole English Hard of Hearing track which for a film containing no actual dialogue is pretty funny mainly consisting of “sheep bleating”, “sheep giggling” and “sheep grunts”.
Only totalling about 15 minutes the extras on this release are somewhat brief and lacking. You could argue this is to be expected on a kids release but a bit more thought wouldn't have gone amiss.
How to Draw Lu-La 02:42 - One of the Aardman story artists shows you how to draw the loveable alien. The use of simple shapes allow you to easily draw along. Children should be able to follow along easily and produce their own artwork.
How to Draw Shaun the Sheep 02:49 - This time we are shown how to draw Shaun. He's slightly more complicated but still quite easy to reproduce.
How to Make Painted Easter Eggs 01:49 - Now, make sure you get a grown up to boil the eggs for you. A skilled artist shows you how to paint eggs to resemble the main characters. Your results may vary. There are templates on the Shaun the Sheep website which you can download to assist you.
Lu-La Slime Time 01:30 - If slime is your thing then you’ll love this featurette which shows you how to combine various household ingredients together to make a sticky goop. Using templates from the Shaun the Sheep website you can decorate an old jar to look like Lu-La and store your slime inside. This one also says get a grown up to help, although you’ll need to find a grown up who is happy to have slime stains and glitter covering every available surface.
How to Make Christmas Decorations 02:15 - This featurette is pretty good as it essentially shows you have to model Shaun and Lu-La out of modelling clay. You end up with figures looking pretty much like the ones in the movie. It does somewhat rely on you already having some art skills in order to achieve this effect as you are only given basic instructions such as “make a head shape”. If only it were that easy. Also technically there is nothing "Christ-massy" about them.
25 Years of Shaun the Sheep 03:56 - Aardman legend Nick Park delves into the origins of Shaun the Sheep. We see how he went from his first appearance in Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave to getting his own TV series and eventually making his way to the big screen in 2015. The directors of Farmageddon explain why they decided Shaun’s new adventure would take him into the unexplored territory of space.
Making Farmageddon 03:14 - Directors Will Becher and Richard Phelan takes us behind the scenes of the movie. It’s interesting to see how virtually the whole film is shot in live action as the animators work out the best ways to animate a scene.
The Woolmark Company Presents: Super Natural Wool 00:59 - In what is basically an advert for the Woolmark Company Lu-La turns up at the barn and is freezing cold. Shaun and his sheep buddies extol the warming qualities of wool by knitting her a jumper. That's pretty much it.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2019)
Dir: Richard Phelan, Will Becher | Cast: Andy Nyman, Chris Morrell, John Sparkes, Justin Fletcher | Writers: Jon Brown, Mark Burton (story by), Nick Park (characters), Nick Park (story by)