Aardman Animation. For hordes of animation fans, you don’t need to say anything else about a film in order to get them to pack a theater. I, however, will add that the latest from that storied studio, the SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE, is everything that not just a great Aardman film should be, but also everything that a great from should be. Period.
I valiantly attempted to put my own fan-girlness aside when I spoke with Mark Burton and Richard Starzak on August 4, 2015, but it wasn’t easy. I started with the questions I always ask animators, about whether or not they dream in animation, and then quizzed them on the finer points of stop-motion animation, a process I find endlessly fascinating, from finding something that will look like sheep’s wool on a reduced scale, to what exactly it is that a “puppet runner” does.
We also covered the planning and organization that goes into producing a full-length film, the magic of puns, subconscious tributes, the correct length of butt-crack to show in a film children would be seeing, and whether or not they had ever succumbed to the temptation of sneaking onto a set to play with the models and puppets. During it all, they displayed the same wit and intelligence as the film they co-wrote and co-directed. Even when, at one point, a question I posed prompted Starzak to call for a lawyer.
SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE is a film about the power of social media, the consequences of over-scheduling, and the terrors of a dog with a hacksaw. In this, his first feature film, Shaun finds himself in a rut on Mossybottom Farm, and, in a clever attempt to take a day off from grazing, inadvertently sends the farmer who tends Shaun and his fellow farm denizens off to The Big City, forcing the plucky ovine to find a way to bring him back despite the help of his fellow sheep. Mayhem ensues, of course, made worse by a determined animal control officer with a fetish for police tape, an unexpected fashion trend, and sheep impersonating other animals. Shaun first appeared in Nick Park’s Oscar™-winning short A CLOSE SHAVE before finding fame as the star of his very one television series. Burton and Starzak co-directed from their own screenplay. Burton’s previous work includes CHICKEN RUN, THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT and GNOMEO AND JULIET. Starzak was behind the series that led Shaun to stardom, as well as directing television’s Creature Comforts. Burton speaks first.