DVD Review: Shaun the Sheep: Shear Madness

Who knew the antics of a flock of sheep could be so entertaining? Yet Shaun the Sheep continues to entertain every time we get to see what he’s up to on the Farm! And he and the rest of the gang are back with a new collection of seven animated shorts in Shaun the Sheep: Shear Madness hitting DVD shelves recently.

If you’re not familiar with this series from the creators of Wallace & Gromit, each animated adventure features the antics of Shaun, Bitzer the Dog, the Farmer, the Pigs, the flock, and the whoever else shows up to cause trouble. Shaun does his best to keep the Flock entertained, while Bitzer does his best to keep the sheep in line for the Farmer. But that doesn’t keep them all from getting in and out of trouble in every episode!

Shaun the Sheep: Shear Madness features a collection of episodes from the show’s second season.

In “Pig Trouble,” Bitzer is out of commission with a broken leg, the Farmer asks the Pigs to step in and help out. Of course, the Pigs manage to make it all about them. They make the flock their slaves and turn the farm into a porcine resort, which doesn’t sit well with Shaun, Bitzer, or the Farmer!

Then, in “Sheepless Nights,” a storm drenches the Farm in rain and the flock has to deal with holes in the barn roof. Finding shelter turns out to be hard work, especially when the only other dry place to sleep turns out to be the pig’s house. Have you ever tried sleeping with a bunch of pigs? When that doesn’t work out, Shaun finds a solution to the problem with a bit of ingenuity…

With “Cat Got Your Brain?” the farm is visited by a pair of alien scientists who abduct Pidsley the Cat and Shaun, then swap their brains. Imagine the surprise of the Farmer and the rest of the flock when Shaun starts cleaning himself like a cat and Pidsley starts eating carrots! The aliens manage to correct the issue, but not before more madness ensues.

And in “Two’s Company,” Shaun finds love when a new sheep joins the flock accidentally. Initially they have no idea what to think of the new sheep who is covered in mud. But once Shaun cleans her up, he falls head over hooves in love and the pair are inseparable. Will she stay when her true owner comes looking for her?

Also included are “Party Animals,” “What’s Up, Dog?”, and “Draw the Line.”

Though we loved the new episodes we hadn’t seen already, I was a little disappointed by the duplication of “Party Animals” and “Draw the Line” which both showed up on a previous DVD collection.

As special features on the DVD you get “Sing-along With Shaun” and “Timmy Time Sneak Peek – Timmy’s Tune #2.” Both of these have appeared on other Shaun the Sheep DVDs.

If you’re looking for good clean family fun, Shaun the Sheep is tough to beat. Be sure to check out Shaun the Sheep: Shear Madness and other DVD collections today!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe A Merry Christmas

Hi again!

Before you ask, yes I know it’s not quite Thanksgiving and I’m reviewing a Christmas-themed DVD. 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.”

In “We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas,” Shaun, Bitzer, and the rest of the gang see the Farmer is going to be spending Christmas Day alone and they can’t have that. They all work through the night, finding a Christmas tree, locating directions, making presents, and getting it all set up before the Farmer wakes up on Christmas morning. It’s that kind of holiday spirit that warms my Grinch heart a bit, so I was happy that Santa Claus also made an appearance to help them out!

“Fireside Favorite” sees Bitzer suffering from a cold. When the Farmer brings him inside to rest and recuperate, Pidsley the Cat gets mad because the dog is in his spot in front of the fire! It becomes an all out battle between the cat and the sheep to keep Bitzer inside where he can get over the cold. Don’t worry though, karma eventually catches up with Pidsley…

With “An Ill Wind,” the Farmer gets an electricity bill with a truly staggering amount and decides to do something about it. He builds a windmill and hooks it up to provide electricity for his house. But somehow I doubt he planned on it becoming an amusement park ride for the sheep which leads to all sorts of fun with the Farmer’s TV set!

Lastly, there was “Shirley Whirley.” If you’ve seen any episodes, you know Shirley as the biggest sheep of the flock and a virtual eating machine. But when she gets so big that Shaun has to enlist help to push her out of the barn, Shaun knows he has to do something… So he puts Shirley on wheels and sets up a remote control to drive her around the farm. Unfortunately, the Farmer’s TV remote seems to be on the same channel, which sends the big sheep zipping all over the place causing havoc!

If you have little ones, they will probably like Timmy Time, which is a Shaun the Sheep spinoff for preschoolers. Included on the DVD is a sneak peek of the show featuring “Timmy’s Tune #1.” Also included is a “Sheep Shearing Game,” but it’s a bit clunky and gets very repetitive for little replay variable.

Shaun the Sheep is always a favorite at our house and whether you’re 1 or 100 I bet you’ll enjoy their antics too! Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe A Merry Christmas is available now!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Shaun the Sheep: Party Animals

Hey there…

Did you know that farm animals secretly throw parties when their farmer isn’t looking? Neither did I, but somehow those sneaky barnyard critters are doing their best to have a good time at the farmer’s expense.

Shaun the Sheep comes from the same minds at Aardman Animation who brought us the Wallace and Gromit shorts and films as well as the movies Chicken Run and Flushed Away. Through the power of clay and stop motion animation, Nick Park and his crew tell stories with a sense of humor and creative genius that’s hard to beat. For each five minute episode of Shaun the Sheep, it takes more than 7,000 individual shots where models and backgrounds are tweaked ever so slightly between each frame, so you can only imagine the number of frames necessary for a longer film. Every time we see a new production from Aardman, I’m reminded of what must be infinite patience of these talented animators.

Each episode of Shaun the Sheep focuses on the flock of sheep that lives on a farm with The Farmer and his dog Bitzer. Shaun is the leader of the flock, always looking for ways to have a good time. Shirley is the biggest sheep in the flock, always eating. Timmy is the baby of the flock, whose mother wears curlers in her hair and sometimes forgets to watch him. The Naughty Pigs live in their sty beside the flock’s field and are always trying to get the sheep in trouble. And there are many other characters who appear from time to time throughout the series.

What’s always amazing to me is that though no clear words are said and every character mumbles, barks/growls, baas, or snorts their way through a conversation – the person watching the episode typically understands what’s being said. It’s that non-verbal communication that makes the series equally humorous for kids and adults alike I think.

There are seven fun episodes included on the Shaun the Sheep: Party Animals DVD, as well as a couple of bonus features.

In “Party Animals,” the farmer plans a costume party for his birthday, but Bitzer manages to destroy the invitations on the way to the mailbox. So Shaun and the flock save the day by creating their own costumes and showing up at party time. The Farmer has a great time and somehow doesn’t figure out that his party guests aren’t human!

“Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow” made us laugh hysterically as The Farmer gets ready for his big date and breaks out his hairpiece. When Shaun tries it on, it blows off his head and he and Bitzer go on a quest to save it in time for the big date. The part that made us laugh uproariously was seeing The Farmer’s animated clay butt stick out of the shower curtains at the beginning. The poor guy is more than a little clueless and yet hilarious at the same time.

And in “Pig Swill Fly,” the farm inspector pays a visit and everything has to be perfect. Of course, “perfect” isn’t in the cards when the sheep and pigs literally start a war. Shaun and the flock build a cannon and the pigs steal the crop duster as the war escalates. Though Bitzer does his best to protect the Farmer and the inspector, nothing can quite save them from mud pies falling from the sky…

Also included are “Double Trouble,” “Operation Pidsley,” “Shaun Goes Potty,” and “Strictly No Dancing.” “Operation Pidsley” is the first time we encounter The Farmer’s pet cat Pidsley who just happens to be the arch enemy of Bitzer.

The extras include a “Building-a-Pig,” which shows you step by step how to make one of the Naughty Pigs out of clay, and a sneak peek of Timmy Time, which is a new show for kids starring Timmy the baby sheep of the flock. Though I have to say that the Timmy Time sneak peek gave me a bit of a headache with their song “Timmy’s Tune,” the feature detailing how to make a pig was very interesting.

As with all Shaun the Sheep DVDs so far, I laughed through all the episodes with my family. It’s perfect for kids and parents and there’s plenty of funny to go around. Check out the series’ website at ShaunTheSheep.com for more information about the show and be sure to look for Shaun the Sheep: Party Animals at your favorite rental counter or retailer!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these Shaun the Sheep DVDs below!

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