A star is Shaun

EXCLUSIVE SHAUN the sheep is to finally be granted star status. But the woolly wonder proved a little quiet for interview, so entertainment reporter HELEN JOHNS spoke to his director from Ipswich instead.


SHAUN the sheep is to finally be granted star status. But the woolly wonder proved a little quiet for interview, so entertainment reporter HELEN JOHNS spoke to his director from Ipswich instead.

BRITAIN'S best known and loved animation company has set its sights on winning over a new audience with its latest project.

Directed by former Ipswich man Richard Goleszowski, or Golly as he is known, a new series has been created that will see one of the most popular animated characters created projected into stardom.

Shaun The Sheep first appeared in one of the Wallace and Gromit films made by Bristol-based animation company Aardman, of which Golly is a director. Despite having a very minor role in that film, Shaun became a hugely popular character and now a series has been created for children's television that sees Shaun take centre stage.

Former St Pancras Primary and Northgate High School pupil Golly has been working on the project for two years, and said Aardman decided the popularity of Shaun had made them keen to give him his own series.

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“We cut out all of Shaun's bits from A Close Shave and put them together and it was only six minutes that he was in the film,” said Golly.

“But we know that people really liked the character and when the film was out the Shaun merchandise outsold all of the Wallace and Gromit things. I think people like him because he's got a very accessible face, Nick Park describes it as being like a pint of Guinness, it's a very simple face and I think that's what attracts people to him.”

The new 40-episode series has been made for young children and sees Shaun living on a farm with a flock of other sheep. Each episode follows different events on the farm involving Shaun, the flock, Bitzer the sheepdog, the farmer and some naughty pigs.

Making an animated series focusing on sheep meant Golly and his colleagues had to spend time watching and learning about sheep.

“We did quite a lot of sheep research,” he said.

“I live in the country now and when you pass a field of sheep, obviously they all look pretty much the same but they do all have different voices. And they are very funny when they just stop and stare at you - so we've got some scenes where the sheep just stare at the camera and that seems to make people laugh. We did research on farms and looked at what happens and how animals live and how things all work together.”

But making an animated series about sheep isn't as simple as it might sound.

“The key thing with any films is to get the relationships right between the characters,” Golly said.

“Shaun is more clever than the rest of the flock, who are all a bit stupid. The sheepdog is torn between being a sheepdog and being a friend to the sheep. But we had to keep thinking of Shaun as a sheep and asking 'how would a sheep react in that situation'?

“We have tried to play the joke that the farmer never gets to see the things the animals get up to, when he appears it's all completely normal - even though they might have got up to crazy things he never sees it.”

And while Shaun's adventures have been made with youngsters in mind, Golly knows that Aardman's creations are popular with all ages.

“This is our first major children's series outside of Morph, which was a long time ago, and we said at the start that we didn't want to patronise kids. We absolutely aimed it at young children, but we left the door open for older children and adults too. I expect there will be a few parents looking in, and people tend to video things and watch them again later.”

Golly's team for the series had all worked on the Oscar winning 2005 film Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

“It can be a crazy schedule to get it all made and everyone has to work around the clock,” he said.

“All the people who worked on the series came from Were-Rabbit so they were in that cinematic frame of mind, so I think the quality of the animation is really good.”

Shaun The Sheep will be shown on BBC1 between 4pm and 5pm from March 5 and two episode will be shown each day, Monday to Friday. All ten episodes from the week will go on CBBC each weekend.

EACH episode of the new Shaun The Sheep series took two weeks to make, with teams working on five episodes at time. The speed of animation was four times faster than on the Wallace and Gromit films.

Shaun - A sheep who does not follow the flock. Inquisitive, imaginative and mischievous, his lively personality marks him out from the other sheep in his field. His fun-loving, maverick nature is forever leading him into tricky situations, but he usually proves resourceful enough to come out on top. He confronts problems with a can-do sheep-like logic, but has a tendency to leap before he looks - this mix of enthusiasm and inexperience is often a recipe for trouble.

Bitzer - The long-suffering sheepdog who keeps a watchful eye over his wayward flock. He only wants a quiet life, but this is the last thing he is going to get when Shaun is around. He has tolerant attitude to the sheep's antics, but is ready to step in if things get seriously out of hand. He behaves like a factory foreman, checking the sheep into the field on his clipboard and bringing a flask of tea and sandwiches to work.

Timmy - Adorable but perhaps not as innocent as he looks, Timmy is a baby lamb who sucks a dummy and has an alarming propensity for getting into dangerous situations.

The Naughty Pigs - Housed in a yard next to the sheep's field, the Naughty Pigs are the bane of Shaun's life. Mocking, cantankerous and greedy, they get no greater pleasure than disrupting Shaun's schemes - though they are far too lazy to come up with any good ideas for themselves.

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