Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit characters first appeared in 1989’s A Grand Day Out and have gone on to spawn and spin-off other productions. One such character, Shaun the Sheep, was a central part of 1995’s A Close Shave and has gone on for the last 25 years to be featured in a television program and films. The most recent of which, A Shawn the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, released in October of 2019 before landing on Netflix in the U.S. on February 14th of 2020. Now, nearly two years later for the first-time in North America, Shout! Factory is releasing Farmageddon in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack with roughly 21 minutes of bonus materials. Farmageddon is not just a solid entry in the Wallace and Gromit Universe, it’s an outstanding achievement in claymation: dazzling in its technical supremacy, wholesome storytelling, and universal humor.
After a strange flying object lands in the woods, everyone in the town of Mossingham is atwitter with UFO Fever. For The Farmer, this is an opportunity to raise cash for a new thresher; but for Shaun the Sheep, it’s a chance for adventure. But this isn’t any regular adventure as Shaun finds himself trying to help a small alien named Lu-La get home while trying to dodge secret agent Agent Red and her Hazmat Team. This would be an enormous lift for anyone, but lucky for Lu-La, Shaun is as clever as they get.
When Spooky Season starts, most families reach for whichever film they deem traditional to their habits. For me growing up, it was The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), a film terrified me to no end as a kid for the way the Headless Horseman’s flaming pumpkin was animated as it screamed toward the audience. Farmageddon is the type of film that can be enjoyed by families to help get in the mood without all that pesky trauma getting in the way. This has little to do with the medium utilized to construct the story from directors Will Becher (Shaun the Sheep TV series) and Richard Phelan and more with the execution. As evidenced by my example, hand-drawn stories can be terrifying (the recent Unicorn Wars cementing it); though, here, the use of claymation gives the world of Shaun a feeling of creativity, malleability, and endless possibility. With this in mind, the film as a whole is startling in its innovation, finding new ways to tickle the audience as it bounces from one gag to another without sacrificing the narrative in the process. Too many films lose the thread and Farmageddon never does; instead, the script from Mark Burton (Early Man) and Jon Brown, from an idea by Richard Starzak (Shaun the Sheep Movie), continually presses forward, the various slapstick gags and wordplay happening as naturally here as they do in classic silent cinema. Thanks to the bonus features (we’ll get to this in a moment), we can see just how far Becher and Phelan went to ensure that all the humor within the film was styled and structured on real world movements so that everything we see on-screen feels anchored in reality despite its very otherworldly visual design. Even better, more so than any other family-friendly E.T. story, Farmageddon is, top-to-bottom, gentle in its storytelling so that even the most sensitive viewer can feel like they’ve gone on a fantastical adventure without any possible trauma. In short, for those with sensitive palettes, a film like Farmageddon is an absolute crowd-pleaser for all ages, from start-to-finish.
Regarding the quality of the home release, you won’t be disappointed when you pop this into your disc player. For one thing, the Blu-ray is 1080p uncompressed compared to the compressed image available on streaming, so the disc is naturally going to be superior as there’s no concern over Internet speed and the tech’s ability to decompress the data. Watching it through my Xbox X and LG 4K UHD television, the colors are vibrant and details clear, enabling the smallest of features to be noticed (with claymation, there’s plenty of that) and the audio track DTS-HD Master 5.1 came through wonderfully through my 5.1 Yamaha surround stereo. There are few times in which 5.1 is noticed as most of the sound is either noises-as-dialogue through the center speaker or score/ambient noises through the front side speakers. Despite this lack of immersion, this isn’t the type of film that requires that much sound submersion to be enjoyed, so it’s not a major concern for the release. Overall, the video and audio quality are strong.
The bonus features accompanying the physical release are many in number, though brief in their individual length, totaling just over 21 minutes. They are a mixture of arts and crafts projects to challenge and entertain younger viewers or just the crafty. The two “How to Draw” featurettes are led by one of the storyboard animators who, invisible to us, walks us through the process of drawing both Shaun and Lu-La. The “Lu-La Slime Time” and “Get Craft with Shaun and Lu-La” featurettes allow for a hands-on experience, either creating Lu-La-inspired slime, tree decorations, or egg decorations, each inspired by various characters. These three are less demonstrative step-by-step videos as they are informative, quickly taking the audience through what they need as they need it. From a design perspective, it would be nice if they began with a materials list so that whomever was planning to take part in one of the activities could be ready without watching it first. For Shaun fans, there are two featurettes worth your time: “25 Years of Shaun the Sheep” and “Making Farmageddon.” The first provides a fairly in-depth though quick history lesson on the Shaun character, while the second offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this film. Make sure to visit “Making Farmageddon” before a rewatch of the film as the secrets within make the watch a touch more entertaining (a rather surprising realization as the movie is already a good time). The final two featurettes are a one-minute short for The Woolmark Company and the theatrical trailer.
The first time I watched Farmageddon was in November of 2020 when it was nominated in the first annual Critics Choice Awards Super Awards within the animation category. I’ve thought about it for some time since, remembering how silly and fun the film is, deft with its humor and heart, never giving up one for the sake of the other. On the rewatch, the film holds. So if you’re the sort who’s also a fan of this film and doesn’t want to have to worry about whether you’ve kept up on your Netflix subscription, snag this release in confidence.
Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon Special Features:
- How to Draw Shaun (2:49)
- How to Draw Lu-La (2:42)
- Lu-La Slime Time (1:30)
- 25 Years of Shaun the Sheep (3:58)
- Get Crafty With Shaun and Lu-La (4:07)
- Making Farmageddon (3:17)
- The Woolmark Company Presents: Super Natural Wool (1:02)
- Theatrical trailer (1:55)
Available to stream on Netflix February 14, 2020.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Shout! Factory October 18th, 2022.
For more information, head to the official Shaun the Sheep website.