DVD Review: Shaun the Sheep: Spring Shenanigans (and Giveaway!)

Hey!

Whenever something new from Aardman Animation comes along, my family takes notice. Our fascination began when we found the Wallace and Gromit shorts on DVD. Stop-motion animation lovingly done in clay is tough to beat and A Grand Day Out and The Wrong Trousers quickly gave way to The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and A Matter of Loaf and Death. Like the animation addicts we are, we even liked the computer animated feature they did with DreamWorks – Flushed Away.

So when Shaun the Sheep left the comfy confines of Wallace and Gromit’s short film A Close Shave and started his own television series a few years ago, we were immediately fans as episodes began appearing on the Disney Channel in the United States. Slowly a great number of these episodes are finding their way onto DVD and we’ve been enjoying all of them!

If you don’t know who Shaun is, he’s the leader of a flock of sheep on a farm. However, he’s not like normal sheep. He’s actually more like a human kid with creativity and a love for anything fun. As such, he gets himself (and his flock and friends) into quite a bit of trouble. Along with Shaun are many other fun characters like Shirley (the huge sheep who is a veritable eating machine), baby Timmy and Timmy’s Mother (easy to spot with the curlers in her hair), Bitzer (the farmer’s dog who tries to keep Shaun out of trouble), the Farmer (a clueless bloke who runs the farm but has no idea of what goes on), and the Pigs (who are always trying to get the sheep in trouble).

Like Wallace and Gromit, Shaun and his friends are animated using stop-motion techniques in a moldable plastic. The sets and characters are all hand-created and every second of an episode is composed of 24 individual shots. If you’re counting, that amounts to more than 7,000 individual shots in a normal 5 minute episode.

What’s amazing is that there’s no actual speech in any episode except for grumbling and the lyrics of the Shaun the Sheep theme song at the beginning. By removing the language element, I think it’s much more easily translated from country to country and culture to culture. The comedy uses classic slapstick visual gags and I have to admit I don’t mind the lack of words!

The series has been garnering all kinds of awards lately as well, including an Honorable Mention in Audience Choice Award at the World of Comedy Film Festival (March 2010), the British Animation Award for Best Children’s TV Series, an International Emmy for Children and Young People (November 2010), the Children’s BAFTA for Best Animation (November 2010), and the Writer’s Guild Award for Best Children’s Television Comedy (November 2010). So we’re not alone in thinking Shaun the Sheet is a terrific series.

The new Shaun the Sheep: Spring Shenanigans DVD includes seven fun episodes. The baby sheep Timmy even gets top billing in a couple of them – “Spring Lamb,” in which he gets stuck on a spring and bounces around the farm while trying to avoid a bath; and “Supersize Timmy,” where he eats a tomato with “Miracle-Grow” on it and stomps through the farm destroying everything in his path King Kong-style. Also included are “Bagpipe Buddy,” “Cheetah Cheater,” “Lock Out,” “Draw the Line,” and “Ewe’ve Been Framed.”

Shaun the Sheep
Image via Wikipedia

We love that they’ve added a cat – Pidsley – to the mix in more recent episodes. He’s a vindictive little critter who gets himself and the rest of the farm into all kinds of trouble. In “Cheetah Cheater,” he watches a nature documentary about cheetahs on TV with the Farmer and decides he’d like to scare the flock a bit. He creates a cheetah suit out of one of the Farmer’s bathrobes and stalks the farm, scaring Shaun, Bitzer, and the rest of the farm. Eventually the flock catches onto his plan, but so does the Farmer – and he doesn’t appreciate the cat destroying his clothes!

“Bagpipe Buddy” shows how clueless and kind the flock can be at times. When a ball gets stuck in the junk pile, Shaun and Timmy go poking around and find an old set of bagpipes. They don’t know what it is until Bitzer finds a book and they decide it must be a sick duck. It’s hilarious to see them trying to fix the bagpipes and set them free so they can join their friends flying in the sky…

And in “Draw the Line,” a road line-painting machine is left nearby the farm and gets used in various odd ways. Initially, the Farmer uses it to draw the goalie box for a small game of soccer with Bitzer. Then Bitzer uses it to outline his doghouse and where his bowl and bone should go. But once Shaun and the flock get a hold of it, lines go everywhere around the farm as you might imagine. By the time the line painter gets his equipment back, the whole farm is in an uproar!

In addition to the episodes, the DVD also includes a game where you can shear the sheep on screen and a couple of extras from the new preschool series Timmy Time. If you’re looking for some family fun, my family will back me up when I say we highly recommend you check out Shaun the Sheep: Spring Shenanigans on DVD!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

I have one extra copy of Shaun the Sheep: Spring Shenanigans for some lucky reader. If you’re a fan, all you have to do is leave me a comment on this entry and let me know you’re interested. The contest is open to U.S. residents only (sorry, cost of shipping is prohibitive internationally) and will end on February 18, 2011 – I’ll let the winner know by e-mail who’s getting the prize!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great Shaun the Sheep DVDs below!

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Trailer Time: Winnie the Pooh – July 2011

True innocence seems to be rare on the big screen when it comes to animated features these days. Sure, we’ve had our share of fun films like Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon, but they’ve dealt with monsters and mayhem mostly. It’s rare to see a simple, pure of heart, innocent kid’s film hitting theaters.

So I was shocked and when I heard of a new film from Disney in the traditional 2D tradition… Winnie the Pooh, which will be released in July 2011. The first trailers were just released this week and I have to say I went a bit nostalgic when I watched.

With two girls, Winnie, Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, and Christopher Robin have been frequent visitors over the last 10 years. I’ll be happy to see Winnie and the gang back up on the big screen again.

The story looks very cute, centered around finding a new tail for Eeyore. And it appears to have some trippy honey-induced fantasies in it from a particular bear we all know and love. So I for one will be going to see this one in the theater.

Here’s the trailer… What do you think?

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! – Season One, Volume 4: Spooked Bayou

Hi all…

When Scooby-Doo and the gang come on screen in all their animated glory, I know I’m going to enjoy some part of the production – new or old. The pairing of Scooby-Doo as a talking dog and Shaggy as the eternal slacker are sure to provide comic relief with their Zen approach to food (the old “see food diet” – if they see it, they’ll eat it) and a fear of anything remotely scary. Combine those two with Fred Jones, the team leader and planner, the brilliant mind of clue hound Velma Dinkley, and the fashion sense of Daphne Blake, and you actually have a well-rounded clue crew working together to get to the bottom of mystery after mystery.

The new Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! – Season One, Volume 4: Spooked Bayou DVD release includes four episodes from the first season – “Which Witch is Which?”, “Go Away Ghost Ship,” “Spooky Space Kook,” and “A Night of Fright Is No Delight.” When Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! began airing in 1969, somehow I doubt that Hanna-Barbera had a clue it would still have an audience 40+ years later!

In “Which Witch is Which?” the gang drives the Mystery Machine (the green paisley van they drive everywhere) through a swamp on a “shortcut” only to find themselves face to face with a Zombie on the road. He’s not very forthcoming with directions, but they find themselves knee-deep in a mystery involving the uncommunicative monster and the Witch who brought him to life. Why is the creepy pair chasing everybody out of the swamp?

“Go Away Ghost Ship” pits the gang against Redbeard the Pirate… Why is a pirate ghost so interested in the ships of shipping magnate C.L. Magnus? What’s behind the hauntings and why are they so interested in a modern freighter? Can Freddie, Velma, and Daphne save Shaggy and Scooby from walking the plank from Redbeard and his ghost pirate friends?

In “Spooky Space Kook” the van runs out of gas near an old airfield and the gang meets the glowing alien who now calls it home. What does the alien want with the old WWII airstrip? Can they figure out what the alien wants and why he’s plaguing the local farmer?

And finally in “A Night of Fright Is No Delight,” Scooby inherits money from Colonel Sanders (not of KFC fame), but there’s a catch… He and the gang have to spend the night in the Colonel’s haunted mansion. Will they succeed? Or will they get scared away?

It was great fun to see these classic Scooby episodes again. Though I have to admit I’ve enjoyed recent Scooby movies like Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo and Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare, there’s an innocence to the originals done in a hand-drawn style as opposed to today’s crisp, clean computer-aided or CGI animation.

In addition to the classics, there’s also an episode from the Shaggy & Scooby Doo Get a Clue series that aired a few years ago. “Lightning Strikes Twice” pits our scared but well-meaning heroes against the evil Dr. Phibes who has created a machine to create worldwide lightning storms. We loved this series from 2006-2008 and were quite bummed that it wasn’t renewed. Somehow it captured a bit of the innocence of the original show while managing to merge it with a new villain and fun new mysteries.

If you love classic Scooby-Doo, be sure to check out Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! – Season One, Volume 4: Spooked Bayou on DVD at your favorite retail or rental counter!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great Scooby DVDs below!

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