The folks at Aardman Animation have a unique talent for creating incredibly compelling characters and stories. From Wallace & Gromit to Chicken Run and at many points in between, Nick Park and company have a unique brand of humor, a quirky view of the world, and a way of making the audience smile at the very least and laugh uproariously at the most. This skill is most certainly evident in the latest set of Shaun the Sheep episodes being released to DVD in a set entitled Shaun the Sheep – A Woolly Good Time.
The disc contains six stories and very brief interstitials, all of which combined run for a total of approximately 40 minutes and which feature Shaun and his sheep cohorts, Bitzer the dog, and the Farmer. Oddly absent from this set of episodes are the Naughty Pigs. But, while the absence of the pigs may distress their particular fans, everyone else watching will still enjoy all the stories that the disc has to offer.
Each episode, as indicated above, is relatively short and all follow a very few basic patterns and tell a simple story. Most usually, this story has to do with pulling the wool over the eyes of the Farmer or Bitzer. Yet, within this same basic outline, the episodes always manage to impart a great deal of humor. Shaun, the wisest sheep of the bunch, routinely finds himself having to come up with a plan or save the day – as he does in his rescuing of Timmy the sheep in the episode "Big Top Timmy," where Timmy has run off to join the circus. This particular episode, which features some work on the tight rope and flying trapeze, may be the funniest of the bunch.
As with other Aardman works, Shaun the Sheep is done with stop-motion animation. Small, poseable figures are placed on a mini-set, shot, slightly repositioned, shot again, slightly repositioned, and shot again, etc., in order to create the appearance of movement when the stills are put together. Perhaps it is because so much effort goes into creating the pictures that the stories seem so simple and yet well-conceived – the amount of work that is required to film an episode causes more thought to be put into the production as a whole.
The disc comes with a minimal number of bonus features, there is a brief behind-the-scenes look at how episodes are created and a Shaun the Sheep sing-along. The former is all too brief and seems geared at a relatively young audience, but still gives a good idea of what it takes to make a Shaun the Sheep story. As for the sing-along, as with prior Shaun the Sheep DVDs, the opening theme song is played in an incredibly small picture as the words appear on the bottom of the screen. For a series where so much effort is put into creating every little movement and scene, to have such a haphazard, slapdash sing-along is incredibly disconcerting and relatively distressing.
Shaun the Sheep – A Woolly Good Time is, in short, another wonderful example of wit and wonder and a whole lot of fun. The episodes contained herein are enjoyable for young and old alike, and anyone looking for a new and different thing to watch with a mixed-age audience would do well to consider it.