“Precisely, that,” explains Peter Lord, creator of Morph and uber-meister of Aardman in Bristol, where the magic still takes place.
“Before we invent anything, we say to ourselves, ‘Sheep in the city’? Yes, that works.
All Shaun wanted was a day off – how difficult could it be?
“We just do what amuses us,” he ponders, when pressed. “We really don’t try to guess, only very occasionally we wonder if it’s understandable, translatable, or just us laughing to ourselves. But Shaun, his story was pretty straightforward.
“It’s about a creature, who could be any one of us, deciding he just wants a day off, and from that tiny decision, everything goes haywire. That, to me, is a pretty universal concept. It’s certainly happened to me a few times,” he adds.
Simple and splendid, it is, as Shaun’s big screen outing finds him waking up on the farm, at the start of a very normal day, which sees him variously stowing away on a bus, breaking out of an animal pound, eating French delicacies in a restaurant, hanging out in a new-wave barber’s salon, and… oh, you’ll just have to see the film to count the numerable scrapes, near-misses and sweet encounters that Shaun and his fellow sheep, plus the tireless Bitzer get themselves into, in their mission to rescue the farmer they have unwittingly put into deepest urban peril.
Best-laid plans of sheep, Bitzer and men…
It’s another masterpiece from the Bristol-based studio that is already clunking heavily under the weight of Oscars and other awards for their painstaking but timeless work. Shaun has been hanging around the studio since he first appeared in ‘A Close Shave’, before his agent secured him his own TV series. But for Peter and co, the idea of giving him his own film was “almost too easy”.
“We were very cautious,” he reflects now. “But Golly (that’s director and writer Richard Starzak in IMDB, Golly to everyone else) sold it to us. He’s extremely funny, and he understands Shaun very well.”
The decision has obviously paid off, and there are plenty more adventures already planned for Shaun, which will make a busy time for Peter Lord, already busy creating web-based adventures for his original creation, one Morph. So, at risk of stirring up trouble, I ask Peter who his favourite is at at the moment…
“Oh dear, you’ve done it now,” he admits. “Well, this week, because of all the fanfare, I’d have to say Shaun. Yep, just as I feared. Morph’s over there in the corner, and he’s giving me one of his looks. I can’t forget about him. He wouldn’t let me.”
‘Shaun the Sheep: The Movie’ is in cinemas now. Watch the trailer below…