If you are a parent, or someone who works in child care, there is a high possibility you will have heard of Justin Fletcher. You might not recognise the name right away but there is a good chance you will visibly shudder if you heard the name Mr Tumble. Fletcher has been at the forefront of CBeebies television programming since the early two thousands, and on any given day there seems to be multiple programs featuring him on the channel.
Before his CBeebies days though, Fletcher landed himself a voice-only role that connected him to a British phenomenon, various spin offs and one he would still be playing twenty five years later. Fletcher provided the voice, or more accurately the bleets, of Shaun the Sheep in A Close Shave. The third outing for Aardman’s Wallace (the late Peter Sallis) and his long-suffering dog Gromit, introduced the world to Shaun, who has gone on to have his own TV show, a short film and two feature length films. The second of which, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, henceforth referred to as just Farmageddon, lands on Blu-ray and other formats on February 10th.
At a running time of eighty six minutes this sequel – or, if you will forgive us, sheep-quel – does not overstay its welcome so that adults find it too much of a chore. Farmageddon is definitely aimed at a younger audience though. That’s not to say there are not a few moments that will have growns up smirking, like a kid friendly recreation of the chest-burster scene from Alien, and a blink and you’ll miss it nod to the hieroglyphics that featured in the 2016 film Arrival, but most of the gags are for the youngsters.
Farmageddon, rather than being a film about Shaun surviving in a post apocalyptic nightmare world (although that does sound awesome), is a Spielbergian sci-fi tale that sees a little alien called Lu-La (Amalia Vitale) crash landing not far from Shaun’s home. It is up to Shaun, his friends and the farmer’s dog, to help get the cute alien safely back home and out of the clutches of the Ministry of Alien Detection, led by Agent Red (Kate Harbour). It’s not an overly complicated plot, visually it is a joy to look at, and there is something about stop motion that makes it far more endearing than CGI. It also held the attention of the five year old who was watching fairly well.
In addition to the film, both the Blu-ray and the DVD releases have the same special features on the disc. All of them are quite short, in keeping with the fact that they are aimed at a younger audience, but are entertaining all the same. Two of the features are quick and easy tutorials that teach you how to draw both Shaun and Lu-La. The aforementioned five year old refused to have her attempts photographed so we cannot share them here.
Another crafty special feature gives a tutorial on how to make painted Easter eggs, which you will be able to perfect in plenty of time before Easter rolls around. The last of the tutorials, and by far the most terrifying if you are a parent, is how to make Lu-La out of slime. As slime is a banned product in our five year old test subject’s home she was unimpressed by this one.
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The last two features are documentaries but, again, are on the short side as to not lose a child’s interest. The first is ’25 Years of Shaun the Sheep’, in which the clever people at Aardman, including Nick Park, talk about the mischievous sheep’s illustrious career, and lastly there is ‘Making Farmageddon’. This featurette goes into detail about how Aardman utilises stop motion to make the film, and how they were able to bring the film to life.
Overall Farmageddon is not a bad watch. It does make use of a number of pop culture references and adheres to sci-fi tropes, but Aardman manages to do this in a way that does not feel stale and tired. Definitely a film to pick up for your little ones.