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By Shawana Farshiya on

The development of Shaun the Sheep

As we get ready for our Shaun the Sheep-themed half term, Shawana delves into the history of one of the nation’s favourite animated characters.

Over the past decade, Shaun the Sheep has become an iconic character and a part of thousands of people’s childhoods. The fun-loving, intelligent animated sheep was first introduced to the world back in 1995 in the Wallace & Gromit short film A Close Shave. He wasn’t on screen for long, but he was a key part of the plot when he got Gromit out of jail. The film attracted huge audiences for the BBC and went on to win an Academy Award®.

12 years later, Shaun hit our screens once again in 2007 for his own CBBC show. Also titled Shaun the Sheep, the series depicts Shaun’s life on Mossy Bottom Farm with the rest of The Flock, Bitzer the sheepdog, and The Farmer. Shaun is a sheep with human-like instincts and intelligence; he uses this to his advantage to get him out of trouble. In the comical series, The Farmer is oblivious to the fact that some of his flock are unnaturally human-like, and that they live like one big happy family.

Shaun and Bitzer
Shaun and Bitzer

What makes Shaun different to the others is his unique topknot hairstyle and his comedic intelligence; although he doesn’t actually speak any language, we can still understand what he is trying to say. Instead of dialogue, simple grunts, bleats and sighs are all used to add subtle expression to each character’s moods and feelings. This has helped to make Shaun popular internationally, too. While Wallace & Gromit were based in Britain, Shaun the Sheep reached a global audience. The successful show has now been broadcast in a whopping 170 different territories and has made Shaun the most successful animated character in Aardman’s history.

Nick Park, the creator of the character, has won four Academy Awards® and five BAFTAs. “It was quite spontaneous, for [co-writer] Bob Baker and myself,” says Park of the day Shaun was born. “It was really just writing that scene, because you have to have a name for a character, for people to latch onto them, for people to relate to them.”

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, co-directed by Will Becher and Richard Phelan, involved manning 35 shooting units on up to 70 custom-built sets and recording the final soundtrack at London’s iconic Abbey Road. The film is made in the classic stop motion animation style that Shaun the Sheep has always used—so it’s an extremely painstaking and long process to make a full movie, but worth it in the end!

Animating Shaun the Sheep

“For years I thought, ‘he could have his own series. He could get up to all sorts. He is both cute and cool at the same time,’” says Park. “But I didn’t have much more than that. Then Richard Starzak [Series Creator] got hold of it and ran with that idea and really made it a lot more concrete. He really took that and expanded it and injected a humour I hadn’t established with the original character. That’s when it really took off.”

Now, after five series and two feature films, Shaun has achieved more than anyone could have imagined… and is showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon!

These days, the character has nostalgic appeal as well as being a favourite of thousands of children, appearing in Shaun the Sheep and a spin-off series for younger children, Timmy Time! So A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon is the perfect choice for families to enjoy together this autumn. The all-new story follows Shaun on an intergalactic adventure after he meets an adorable alien named LU-LA.

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon is out now in cinemas. Come along to the National Science and Media Museum this October half term (26 October – 3 November 2019) for lots of brilliant activities inspired by Shaun, as well as screenings of the new film.

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon poster

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