Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics
Just Fun

My endless search for interesting or overlooked commercially-minded indie films sometimes leaves me feeling a little… well… understimulated, so I have, yes, been known to ask for “screeners” of lighter mainstream fare.  How else to explain this review of a collection of episodes from Aardman’s family TV show Shaun the Sheep?

Well, the other way is simply to explain that this is a collection of episodes from an Aardman-produced TV show.  Aardman is quite well-known for its oeuvre of claymation shorts and feature films, including the Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit and the feature-length Chicken Run.  In recent years, Aardman has expanded it production schedule to include the cable TV programs Shaun the Sheep (set in a British countryside farmyard) and its children’s educational spinoff Timmy Time.  The central protagonists in these TV shows are sheep, as you might have guessed, and they feature the same techniques and approaches from which Aardman has earned its reputation.

The farmer has things to do in Shaun the Sheep: Animal AnticsWhich is to say: If you love Aardman’s brand of childishness, you’ll love it here, too.  If the charm escapes you, Shaun the Sheep won’t clear things up any.

In seven or so minutes, episodes of Shaun Sheep the sheep set up a very basic conflict—the farmer bungles a romantic dinner, or a fox invades in sheep’s clothing—and Shaun, an uncharacteristically skinny sheep (especially considering his wool coat), manages to save the day accompanied by a good deal of antics from his wordless chums.  Hence the title of this collection: Animal Antics.

There’s nothing deep going on here.  Rather like Walt’s old “Steamboat Willie” class of cartoons, these short films are just interested in being stripped-down entertainment, offering light-hearted chuckles and a lightening of the daily load.  But therein lies the storytelling art, as well… plus the peculiar perennial appeal of claymation.

In my favorite of this seven-episode bunch, “Whistleblower,” the farmer charges watchdog Bitzer with cleanup of the farm in a form of frustrated (and naturally misguided) delegation.  With Bizter cracking the whip (and ditching his whistle in favor of a trumpet), the herd’s usual beach-loungey afternoon turns to mayhem as Shaun and company repair stone fences, paint the house, mow the lawn, and mend the gate.  That’s about it.

And it’s enough.  There’s no deep meaning here, no Aesopian moral, no symbolism rife with import. 

No, this is just good-naturedness in small doses.  Who could ask for more?  (Except, course, those who don’t get Aardman’s general appeal.  But I already mentioned that, didn’t I?)

Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics is unrated. G… I mean, gee… I wonder why?

Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional copy of Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics.