Magazine article Screen International

Set Report: Shaun the Sheep the Movie

Magazine article Screen International

Set Report: Shaun the Sheep the Movie

Article excerpt

On the set of Shaun The Sheep The Movie, Aardman Animations veterans are taking inspiration from silent comedy to guide the flock to the big screen. Wendy Mitchell reports.

Shaun the Sheep's home is usually on bucolic Mossy Bottom Farm but when I meet Shaun for the first time, it's inside a large, unassuming industrial estate on the outskirts of Bristol: the home to the production side of Aardman Animations.

It's summer 2014 and I'm visiting the production of Shaun The Sheep The Movie. I do get to 'meet' Shaun; I have the surreal experience of holding one of a number of models (made of plasticine and silicone) used in shooting. There are 21 Shauns in this production (along with 110 sheep and 197 human models).

It is a character Aardman knows well; Shaun made his first appearance in the Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit short film A Close Shave in 1995. He has gone on to star in his own TV series (140 episodes and counting, sold to 170 territories worldwide).

Aardman Animations is now partnering with StudioCanal on the production of the stop-motion animation feature, which tells the story of Shaun, Bitzer and the flock going into the big city to rescue the Farmer in an "epic adventure".

David Sproxton, executive chairman and co-founder of Aardman, says: "It's a massive great franchise for us... he's become a major feature film star."

'The DNA of Shaun is so strong, we're not changing anything we're just pressing in deeper'Richard 'Golly' Starzak, Aardman

Shaun's first feature is another first for Aardman - the first time the animation stalwart has pacted with StudioCanal for financing and production. Sproxton says: "One of the things we learned with our American deals [DreamWorks then Sony] is that we're European. Our sensibility plugs more easily into Europe and the rest of the world. StudioCanal are great. It was an obvious fit when we started working on this project. They understood our sensibilities better than some Americans."

The production has moved along more quickly than many animation shoots, as producer Julie Lockhart says: "We're doing this quite fast. Usually we'd work 18 months on the script and story but that only took 12 months. It helps that we knew the characters so well; it's a familiar world."

Strong, silent type

The story had to be honed carefully, and the feature film has no dialogue. As Sproxton says: "We love silent comedy; great cinema doesn't need dialogue. It plays to our own core strength, which is visual comedy."

Having Shaun's biggest fan on board helped. Richard 'Golly' Starzak (born Goleszowski) - Aardman's first employee in the 1980s who created the Shaun TV series - co-writes and co-directs the film with Mark Burton. …

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