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Shaun the Sheep is a British stop-motion animated children's television series produced by Aardman Animations, first aired in the UK on CBBC in March 2007. The first series was deemed a success worldwide and a third batch of episodes (the second series production-wise) is currently being aired.

History

The character first appeared in the 1995 Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit short film A Close Shave. Sucked into Wallace's Knit-o-matic contraption, the sheep is accidentally shorn, so Wallace names him "Shaun" (a pun as "Shaun" sounds identical to "shorn" when spoken with a non-rhotic accent). Shaun later appeared in the 2002 series Cracking Contraptions episode, "Shopper 13", ostensibly to rescue a wayward wheel of cheese. The popularity of the character, as expressed in the success of Shaun the Sheep merchandise, led to this spin-off series of 40 seven-minute episodes.The second lot of twenty episodes (correctly, still part of the first series) started on 3 September 2007 on CBBC. Some characters also appeared in two idents for the relaunched CBBC.

The second series began on 23 November 2009 on BBC One and BBC HD.

Synopsis

A premise of the series is that Shaun the sheep exhibits human intelligence, creativity, and behaviour in a farm setting, which usually provides a situational comedy conflict which Shaun must resolve before the end of each episode. Recurring themes include the characters evading the sheepdog Bitzer (though he is sometimes with the sheep in their escapades) and avoiding discovery by the Farmer. In the first episode, a stray cabbage bouncing into the field provokes an impromptu football game. In the second episode, a freezing cold sheep dip sends Shaun on a commando raid to get hot water from the Farmer’s bathtub.

Episodes are a combination of slapstick and classic silent comedy in Aardman’s recognisable animation style. There is no spoken dialogue, even by human characters. In this way it is reminiscent of silent comedy films and even Pingu and the animated version of Mr. Bean.

Based on the theme-song, a longer CD-version was released under the title Life's A Treat, sung by Vic Reeves, which became a major hit in Britain and Germany, there sung with German text by comedian Ralf Schmitz.

International broadcasters

The series is currently airing on Danish, Indian (Nick), Icelandic, German, Japanese, Finnish, Polish, Croatian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Lithuanian and American television, and is scheduled for broadcast in 74 countries in total.

Country Channel(s) Pbs Kids
Disney Channel
ABCmarker and Nick Jr.
ORF
Disney Channel and TV Cultura
RTBF
RTV
Teletoon
HRTmarker
Disney Channel
Cartoon Network and Česká televizemarker
Disney Channel, DR1 and DR Ramasjang
ETV
YLE
Disney Channel and TF1marker
WDR, KI.KA
Disney Channel, TVB Pearl
Cartoon Network
Sjónvarpið
Nickelodeon
Tehran TV
RTÉ Two
Logi Channel
Disney Channel, RaiDue
NHKmarker and Disney Channel
EBS and Disney Channel Asia
TV6 Latvia
Lithuanian National Radio and Television
Disney Channel Asia
Disney Channel México, Once TV
TV2 and Nickelodeon New Zealand
Nickelodeon
NRKmarker
Disney Channel
Cartoon Network and TVP1
RTP2 and Disney Channel
Cartoon Network
2x2
MBC3
Fox televizija
Disney Channel Asia and MediaCorp okto
Cartoon Network and STV
Radiotelevizija Slovenijamarker
Nickelodeon and Canal Super3 (in catalan)
SVT
SF, TSR
Disney Channel
ThaiPBS,Disney Channel Asia
TNT
BBC One, BBC Two, CBBC
Disney Channel, Toon Disney
Disney Channel Asia


Episodes

Reception

Reviews of the series were consistently positive. Harry Venning of "The Stage" found "characterisation charming and the animation superb. All this before even a mention of how funny and splendidly slapstick the script is."The Guardian noted that the series "hits the four-to-seven-year-old age group smack in the eye."Charles Arthur wrote "classic Aardman style that leaves me laughing out loud."On forums, the show has received rave reviews, with Shaun becoming a favourite among adults as well as children.

The Daily Mail's "Weekend Magazine" gave it an average of five stars in the past six months

Major characters

  • Shaun the Sheep has an inquisitive, mischievous nature which distinguishes him from the other sheep, and leads him into tricky situations from which he usually recovers. He is popular, and is a natural leader. He is also a moral character who will try to "make things right".


  • Bitzer is the long-suffering sheepdog who watches the flock. His dim owner never notices the flock as anything but normal, and Bitzer tries to keep it that way. He tolerates antics, but steps in if things get out of hand. Bitzer acts as foreman, blowing his whistle, checking the sheep into and out of the field and lunching with a flask of tea and sandwiches. However, Bitzer never misses an opportunity to take it easy, which gives the animals opportunity for mischief. The relationship between Bitzer and the animals is essentially friendly, and he seems to be friends with Shaun, but not to the extent of abandoning his duties. Bitzer will do anything when he is offered a game of "Fetch". He also enjoys listening to electronic music on his MP3 player. A character designed by a Blue Petermarker competition winner, XX2000 Robot Dog, almost replaced Bitzer in one episode. In series 2, Bitzer has fur.


  • Shirley is so much bigger than the other sheep that she has to be pushed (or rolled—even carted away) from place to place and can eat just about anything that comes her way. She is useful as a trampoline, a battering ram and her capacious fleece provides a hiding place for unlikely items—even an ideal food store. Her weight made her an ideal clothes press and deadweight (for "heavy duty" purposes). In Fleeced, her weight became a delaying tactic, enough for Shaun to destroy the shearing razor. She momentarily lost her weight in Shape Up with Shaun.


  • Timmy is an adorable baby lamb who sucks a dummy and gets into dangerous situations. He loves his teddy bear and will cry if he is without him. He sometimes shares his pacifier with Shirley, as in Things that Go Bump. He likes pizza, and only has one tooth. He is also a convenient chalkboard eraser and small table. The character went on to star in Timmy Time.


  • Timmy's Mother wears curlers in her hair, and is a bit careless about maternal duties (even turning Timmy once into some sort of a paint brush). But when her offspring goes astray, she is inconsolable until he is safely back in her care.


  • The Flock are typical sheep, content to spend the day chewing the cud until Shaun gets an idea into his head, when they will easily follow his lead. They are an enthusiastic audience for Shaun, but are clumsy, easily frightened and not bright, which undermines Shaun’s exploits.


  • The Farmer is a solitary and plain figure, who tends to his smallholding farm with loyal Bitzer. He goes about his business expressing little emotion except the occasional burst of frustration when things go wrong, or an air of bemusement at the results of some of Shaun’s antics. He is enthusiastic about new technology. Like all the human characters in the series, the Farmer is seen from the animals’ point of view and his speech comes across as a series of grunts and mumbles. He is unaware that his farmyard charges are anything other than normal animals.


  • The Naughty Pigs are housed in a sty next to the sheep field, and are the bane of the sheeps' life. Mocking, cantankerous, greedy and generally lazy, they still find time to cruelly waylay Shaun’s and the other sheep's schemes, but often ending in backfire or not to their advantage. They also have taste—they never eat their food until it is sprinkled with freshly-ground black pepper. They have a loathing for pork sausages.


Minor characters

Animals

The Cockerel appears at the start of the opening credits. He also kicked out one of the sheep that intruded their coop in Sheepwalking.

The Mother Hen left her clutch of four eggs for a walk, only to find the nest empty (only eggshells are left). She then goes to look for them, posting "missing" signs everywhere, even erasing her fear as she asked The Bull for her chicks' whereabouts, and looked for them at night. She appears in Who’s The Mummy?.

Baby Chicks are chicks that easily annoy Shaun. They always follow wherever Shaun goes (because Shaun was the first thing they saw upon hatching—something called imprinting), and in order to make them accept Mother Hen as their real mother, they turned Shaun's fleece into clothing for her (because they like Shaun's fleece). They appear in Who's The Mummy. One chick returns in The Farmer's Niece.

The Duck suffers collateral damage due to Shaun’s exploits in Off The Baa, Tidy Up, and Bath Time. He and his lady friends, though, are guests in Saturday Night Shaun and Mower Mouth.

The Bird is tweeting on the scope in Off the Baa and beside Bitzer listening to the MP3 Player in Fleeced.

The Worm is under the grass in The Kite.

Mower Mouth the Goat is an unstoppable eating machine – while not an unfriendly character, all his considerable energy is focused on his next meal. He appears in an episode named after him, and also on Saturday Night Shaun. He was also routinely causing trouble for Shaun and the flock in Shaun the Farmer.

The Bull is belligerent, powerful, and easily provoked by Shaun’s antics and the colour red. He appears in The Bull, Saturday Night Shaun, Who's The Mummy? and Heavy Metal Shaun. When Shaun orders a red bed sheet, he stops chasing the other sheep (painted red) around the farm. He was an unexpected guest at the barn-turned-disco in Saturday Night Shaun.

The Mole is a rude pest in Mountains Out Of Molehills. He is fearless when mocking Shaun, but not so brave when Mother Mole turns up.

The Bees got into trouble with Shaun when he whacked one of them. But they later turned their attention to Bitzer's strawberry jam sandwich, and cause trouble for him, the flock, and later, the Farmer. They were one of the few computer-generated things in the programme

She-Bitzer is a female dog belonging to campers who pitch their tent by the sheep field in Fetching. After a brief courtship, she and Bitzer are cruelly separated when her owners pack up and leave the field.

Pidsley is the Farmer's lazy and selfish cat who can be remarkably quick and vicious, and dislikes it when the sheep sneak into the farmer's house. Appears in Timmy In A Tizzy, Saturday Night Shaun and Strictly No Dancing. In Series 2, Pidsley's coat is very different to Series 1.

The Frog is found in the scarecrow's hat, then in the pocket of the coat which Shaun takes. He is bartered along with three buttons, a small comb and a kazoo in exchange for a number of pizzas. He seems unwilling to become the pizza delivery boy's pet.

The Mouse is used by the Naughty Pigs for their prank on the flock in Things That Go Bump.

The Ladybird got squashed in The Kite when Timmy accidentally sat on him.

The Birds make occasional appearances. One of them provided diversion (by providing his voice when answering the phone) while Shaun raided the Farmer's bathroom for his hot bath; the others were watching Bitzer court She-Bitzer with a Frisbee (and one of them stuck inside).

Humans

Pizza Delivery Boy is a teenager who rides a moped and works in the local pizzeria. Also moonlights as a postman in Saturday Night Shaun.

The Farmer’s Niece is a sweet cherub whose over-enthusiastic love of animals spells trouble for Bitzer and the Flock, especially Shaun.

The Ramblers are a liberal, nature-loving couple in Shaun Shoots The Sheep.

The Scarecrow is not a human character, but a handy prop which Shaun uses in Take Away and Things That Go Bump.

Fair Stall Man tries to cheat the sheep on his stall (the cans cannot be knocked down), but was flabbergasted when the sheep wins anyway, and the sheep choose a cuddly toy that they want.

Bus Driver took the sheep to and from the fair in Sheep on the Loose and Takeaway.

The Granny is a short-tempered, short-sighted old lady, appears in Takeaway and Save The Tree.

The Camper is a man who camps on the farmer's field. He leaves litter around the field. The flock enjoys messing with his things, which angers him.

The Art Collector is never seen but arrives in a stretched limo buying the sheep's much overpainted canvas for a large wad of notes, which the farmer receives with ecstasy.

Aliens

The Alien Family appears in Shaun Encounters, consisting of 2 adults and 2 youngsters. They exhibit human-like behaviour and generally jovial personalities. They are green and have one large eye on the top of the head.

The Lone Alien appears in The Visitor. He is similar to the members of the Alien Family. He appears not to originate from Earth, as Shaun has to point out to him on a picture of the solar system, which planet he is currently on. He has a machine that can analyse the characteristics of an animal, including what it likes in life, and which can synthesise objects apparently from thin air.

References to popular culture

As with the series' parent show Wallace and Gromit, there are many allusions to scenes from movies such as Star Wars, The Lion King, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Matrix and Pulp Fiction. These include:
  • Shirley's training in the episode Shape Up With Shaun is based on the film Rocky.
  • The paintings parodied in Still Life include the Mona Lisa and Constable's The Hay Wain.
  • In Buzz Off Bees, the Farmer appears in his hooded beekeepers outfit, with accompanying Darth Vader-style heavy breathing.
  • The infamous shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is spoofed in the episode The Little Sheep of Horrors, whose name is based on the 1960 film The Little Shop of Horrors and its 1986 remake.
  • In Hiccups, Shaun turns his guitar amplifier up to 11 in a reference to a scene in This Is Spinal Tap.
  • In Fleeced, the Farmer drags one of the sheep away for shearing, slamming a large metal sliding door closed behind him. This is particularly reminiscent of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
  • In The Visitor the alien thrashes his car with a tree branch in the same way as Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers.
  • In one episode a sheep is reading a magazine called "Bleat", A spoof of celebrity gossip magazine "Heat".
  • Near the end of Off the Baa the well-known Nessun Dorma theme from Puccini's opera Turandot is used, which was the musical theme of the 1990 FIFA World Cup.
  • At the end of Mower Mouth the shrubs are clearly reminiscent of those in Edward Scissorhands.
  • In Saturday Night Shaun Shaun rips off his coat and tosses it away as he is dancing, only to have tossed back. This is reminiscent of the scene in the 1980 movie Airplane!, where Robert Hays tosses his white sportcoat away, only to have it tossed back in his face.


Video games

On June 16, 2008, D3 Publisher of America, which published a game based on Aardman's 2006 film Flushed Away, announced that it will also release a video game based on the television series. The Shaun the Sheep game was developed by ART Co. exclusively for Nintendo DS, and was released in autumn 2008. The Shaun the Sheep website also ran a contest which offered 5 packages containing a Nintendo DS and a copy of the game as a prize.

Spin-off

Aardman Animations produced a spin-off show aimed at pre-schoolers based on Timmy, called Timmy Time.

See also



References

  1. Shaun the Sheep gets his own show. BBC News, 23 September, 2004.
  2. Web
  3. http://www.shaunthesheep.com/forum/read/40979/1
  4. TV Review The Stage. Harry Venning. 12 March 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2007
  5. Last Night's TV Guardian UK. 6 March 2007. Nancy Banks-Smith. Retrieved 3 April 2007.
  6. Roll over, Pixar - Shaun the sheep’s here to tickle your funny bone CharlesArthur.com 20 March 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2007
  7. Forum entry DigitalSpy.
  8. Blue Peter reveals new character for Shaun the Sheep. BBC Press Release. 28 March 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-30


External links




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