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: Animal Antics

Hi again!

Before I begin this review, I must confess something. I’m a 41 year old married father of two and I still like cartoons just as much as when I was a kid. There, I said it! By now it’s probably no secret that I have a soft spot in my heart for well-written and animated cartoons, but I can’t stop. Hopefully I won’t have to stop until I stop breathing!

So why this confession? Because I need to explain my fascination and admiration for Shaun the Sheep. HIT Entertainment has just released a new collection of shorts called Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics, and I have to say it’s one of my favorite collections since Shaun the Sheep: One Giant Leap for Lambkind. The DVD includes seven great stories this time covering everything from golf and garage sales to a persistent fox doing his best to find some dinner.

What? You don’t know about Shaun? Well, let’s remedy that!

Shaun the Sheep is a stop-motion animated series from Aardman Animations, the studio behind such great features as Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit, Chicken Run, and Flushed Away. Shaun himself is a smart sheep with more than a touch of creativity that gets him in and out of trouble. He first appeared in the Wallace & Gromit short feature A Close Shave when he saved his flock from an evil mechanical dog that wanted to turn the flock into dog food!

The Shaun the Sheep series started airing in the UK on the BBC back in 2007, but started gaining quite a following in the US when the shorts started airing on the Disney Channel. Since then, HIT Entertainment has been releasing the shorts in DVD collections. Each short is painstakingly created frame by frame by the animators working with actual sets and plasticine/clay figures that can be posed in myriad positions. If every second of an episode is composed of 24 frames, you’re looking at more than 1,400 frames for one minute of animation – and each short is around five minutes long. That’s a long process and I have an amazing amount of respect for the artists involved.

The beautiful part of these shorts is the absolute lack of spoken words. Each character grunts, baa’s, barks, or grumbles its way through any “lines” that must be said – so it’s almost more like a silent film than a modern cartoon. The stories are told through facial expressions and gestures, which makes every frame that much more critical to making sure the intent is understood. As a result, you have a show that’s enjoyable for people of any age and language isn’t a barrier. It’s as though Charlie Chaplin has been channeled to a whole new audience.

Shaun is obviously the star of the show, but he has a lot of help on the farm. The Farmer has no idea at all what goes on when he’s not looking, but his ignorance is one of the things that gets made fun of quite a bit. The Farmer’s dog, Bitzer, really runs the farm along with Shaun and tries to keep the flock out of trouble. Shirley is the biggest sheep of the flock and is really an eating machine – and if she didn’t eat it but it was lost on the farm, it might be found in her thick wool coat. Timmy’s Mother tries to keep her baby, Timmy, out of trouble and succeeds sometimes. (Timmy has his own new spin-off show called Timmy Time for preschoolers.) The Pigs live next door to the flock and are constantly trying to get the sheep in trouble. And there are many other characters that crop up now and again to keep Shaun, Bitzer, and the flock on their toes.

Among the seven shorts on Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics, there were three that really made me giggle as I watched with my two daughters ages 6 and 10.

  • “Foxy Laddie” not only introduces some new sheep to Shaun’s flock, but a Fox who tries to infiltrate the flock in an attempt to eat Timmy. Seeing the Fox in disguise really made us all giggle. And he almost fools the flock until Shaun and Bitzer catch on.
  • “Frantic Romantic” shows that the Farmer really needs a lot of help to impress his date. He can’t cook at all and Shaun has to step in to cook a “gourmet” meal out of scraps while Bitzer scrambles acting like a waiter at a fancy restaurant.
  • And “Everything Must Go” proves what I already knew – that garage sales get crazy. When the Farmer decides to sell some of his produce in a little stand along the road outside the farm, he gets a lot of interest and soon hands it off to Bitzer to run. When Bitzer gets tired, he hands it off to Shaun and Shaun decides he likes selling things… He and the flock manage to sell everything but the kitchen sink while the Farmer and Bitzer aren’t looking!

In addition to the seven shorts included, there’s also a feature on “Building a Pig” that features one of the animators, Harriet Thomas, working with a group of kids to show them how to create one of the naughty pigs out of clay. There’s also a short video from Timmy Time.

If you haven’t seen Shaun the Sheep yet and want something to share with your kids, I recommend picking up any of the DVDs that have come out so far. Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics continues the hilarity and would be a great addition to any family DVD collection. To learn more about Shaun the Sheep, be sure to check out the series website and watch for other great productions from Aardman Animation!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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