If there’s yet another Christmas particular that may refill your time within the week between the vacation and New 12 months’s, it needs to be Aardman Animation’s Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Earlier than Christmas.
The completely charming 30-minute particular is on Netflix, and tells the story of busy farming-influencer mother and father and their baby who, in unlikely circumstances, discover themselves amidst Shaun and his total flock of sheep.
A virtually wordless story, the plot primarily exists for an opportunity to observe one attractive stop-motion gag after one other. Involving YouTube tutorials, robotic vacuums, sheep snowmen, and extremely fizzy soda, the charms and delights of Aardman are clearly at work right here. A brand new piece in Variety reveals precisely how lengthy it takes to create a chunk of vacation magic.
The making-of story for Flight Earlier than Christmas began in 2018. Producers had been discussing the thought of future Shaun the Sheep specials earlier than the thought of a Christmas particular was given the inexperienced mild the following 12 months. By 2020, it appeared like the whole lot was shifting easily, as had been the case for 2015’s Christmas particular, The Farmer’s Llamas, and the 2018 film, Farmageddon.
Producer Richard Beek instructed Selection that “the whole lot was going nice weapons; we’d bought the script into such an awesome place; actually, actually strong. Folks had been pleased with it internally. Our manufacturing companions had been pleased with it. So we felt like we’d used that six months actually, rather well. And we’re all prepared to begin [story] boarding … then COVID hit.”
That necessitated an eight-week shutdown at Aardman’s studio, with distant work filling in for storyboard and animatics. By the tip of 2020, storyboarding grew to become a “full-on course of,” Beek mentioned, with the restrictions of COVID-19 narrowing the staff’s focus.
The plot of the Shaun the Sheep sequence, for non-Aardman-heads, revolves round a sheep on a small British farm. First airing in 2007, there are 170 episodes which might be filled with pleasant mishaps. Shaun may be very intelligent, his Farmer may be very silly, and the Farmer’s sheepdog, Bitzer, usually finds himself in additional bother than the sheep as he tries to corral them. It’s all very healthful and foolish.
In 2020, Aardman gave The Farmer a pair of not-quite rivals within the type of the influencer-farmer household of Ben, Jin, and their daughter Ella. However even when the farmer is at odds with the internet-famous couple, they definitely aren’t the villains of the sequence — that’s far too dastardly for Shaun the Sheep.
“We had been very clear that the movie didn’t have villains. So we’ve people who find themselves inflicting issues for Shaun, however the household couldn’t be the unhealthy guys,” Beek mentioned. Ben and Jin are simply careless in numerous methods than the Farmer. For example, in The Flight Earlier than Christmas, when Ella asks her father to learn her a bedtime story, as an alternative of really studying it he offers her a display screen with a video of him studying it. Their lives could also be smoother than that of the Farmer, however maybe lacking his heat.
It’s a heat Ella is lacking, and that she finds within the cute type of Timmy the Sheep over the course of the brand new particular.
It’s all very candy and fairly a bit totally different than Aardman’s most well-known work, Wallace & Gromit. It additionally required creating a number of new characters, which is an concerned course of. Ella began with two-dimensional drawings, after which finally was given to Claire Cohen, who designed her steel skeleton (generally known as an armature), and the whole lot from her garments to her wild hair had been chosen in deciding her character.
That’s a tough a part of something animated: each element needs to be thought by way of and added in hopes of making a larger world. That goes double for Ben’s home. Director Steve Cox instructed Selection that the “artwork director, Andy Brown, was asking: ‘What sort of curtains would you like in right here?’ and I mentioned we want them to be ceiling to ground,” earlier than discovering the best answer in a automotive commercial.
When Aardman lastly bought to capturing, it took six “livid” months beginning in January 2021, Beek mentioned. “It’s not as thought-about as a number of the different work we do. However that’s a part of its power.”
It’s the kind of work that may solely be carried out with an skilled staff. “All of the issues which might be economies about Shaun are additionally a part of what makes it Shaun. I feel if we had been to overthink Shaun, and to begin rehearsing all of the photographs, possibly it could lose its spontaneity and power,” Beek mentioned.
All that spontaneous power is definitely on show in Shaun the Sheep: the Flight Earlier than Christmas, which is obtainable to stream on Netflix.