Before you ask, yes I know it's only Halloween and I'm reviewing a Christmas-themed DVD. In retail-terms, holiday-themed items have to hit the market in October so there's enough time for folks to notice them and pick them up as gifts. So, as a reviewer, I start seeing holiday-related products well in advance of the time most folks are even thinking about such things.
My family will be the first to tell you I'm a bit of a Grinch when it comes to the holidays. After working one holiday season in a mall with Christmas music playing 24/7, it pretty much burned away any love I had for decorations and forced holiday spirit. That said, I have a soft spot buried deep for the core thought around that time of year: 'tis better to give than receive.
Sometimes a product will sneak through my defenses and tickle that small bit of holiday spirit I have left. When you take a set of characters I already know and love — Shaun the Sheep and the rest of the gang on the farm — and offer holiday-themed stories that are both entertaining and heart-warming, how can I resist? Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas offers seven five-minute episodes from the Shaun the Sheep series by the creator of Wallace & Gromit. And every episode is a delight.
As I've mentioned before in other DVD reviews, this series takes stop-motion claymation techniques and uses numerous slapstick, silent film, and Vaudville techniques to present fun, heartfelt stories without the use of speech. It's more akin to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops than most modern animated shows (except maybe for the first half of Disney/Pixar's WALL-E). Though the animals and human characters sometimes make noises, it's the gestures, expressions, and actions that are used to tell the tale. And the animators at Aardman have this style of storytelling down to an art that continues to amaze me episode after episode.
Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas is the first holiday-themed DVD from Lionsgate, HiT entertainment, and Aardman featuring Shaun and the whole cast, and it doesn't disappoint. There is plenty of winter mayhem to be had by these lovable characters. Three of my favorite episodes in the collection are "Fireside Favorite," "An Ill Wind," and "Shirley Whirley," but my daughters' favorite was the title episode "We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas."