Shaun the Sheep Movie, A: Farmageddon (Blu-ray Review)
DirectorRichard Phelan, Will Becher
Release Date(s)2019 (October 18, 2022)
Studio(s)Aardman/StudioCanal/Netflix (Shout! Factory Kids)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C-
The unfortunate fate that befell A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon was that it wasn’t given a chance theatrically in the US. Despite the popularity of the franchise and the success of the previous film, it was sold to Netflix, barely bringing in enough worldwide to pay off its budget costs. The reasons stated are based upon the poor reception to Aardman’s previous film Early Man, which halted Lionsgate’s plans of releasing Farmageddon in the US, fearing that it would simply lose money. In hindsight, it was a poor decision, and one that has potentially limited the chances of future Aardman projects getting theatrical releases outside of their home country. Nevertheless, Farmageddon has persevered and seen its share of success on streaming, providing fans young and old with further adventures of the lovable scamp Shaun and his antic-loving barnyard friends.
UFO sightings are being reported in Mossingham, and back on Mossy Bottom Farm, the farmer has decided to cash in on the craze by creating a theme park called “Farmageddon,” despite dismissing it all as hogwash. Meanwhile, Shaun and the other sheep are still trying to live it up without being caught by the farmer’s dog, Bitzer, who is ever vigilante in his duties to keep them all in line. One day Shaun discovers an alien visitor, Lu-La, a friendly little being that can move objects with its mind and mimic various sounds. Lu-La causes him some grief and gets him into trouble with Bitzer, but he soon realizes that it's missing its family and that he must help it get back home, all without getting caught by the farmer, or before the Ministry of Alien Detection tracks them down.
Farmageddon is certainly not an unwelcome return to the world of Shaun the Sheep, but it also feels more over the top in terms of what you would do with these characters. The story pushes the limits of what a group of secretly self-aware and intelligent animals can get away with, more so than anything in the original series or the previous film. It also feels a bit too much like a conventional family film, almost Pixar-ish, complete with occasional pop songs that feel out of place in a world where none of the characters speak a word of English. That said, Lu-La is quite cute, and makes for a fun addition to the world of Shaun. Farmageddon may not be stuffed with the homespun originality or down-to-earth qualities of its previous incarnations, but it’s still a charming and enjoyable adventure that deserved far better treatment in the US than it got.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon was composed digitally using stop-motion animation and finished at the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Shout! Factory Kids brings the film to Blu-ray (and DVD) for the first time in the US sourced from what was likely a 2K Digital Intermediate, despite the film being released by StudioCanal on 4K Ultra HD in the UK. Regardless, this is still a nice-looking presentation with excellent color and clarity. There are high levels of fine detail on the characters and objects with good contrast, although blacks could be a tad deeper. Extremely mild banding and compression issues are present, but nothing that’s overly intrusive. This is a lovely high definition presentation that’s sharp, crisp, and colorful with a mostly high bit rate.
Audio is included in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, with optional subtitles in English SDH. As this is a film without the need for dialogue, sound design is key, and both the surround and stereo tracks take full advantage of that. The 5.1 track offers excellent immersion with carefully-placed sound effects, frequent ambient moments, and discrete panning. The score and music selection is also healthy in the mix, and there’s a surprising amount of LFE activity to be had. The Dolby Atmos mix from the 4K Ultra HD release in the UK would have been the icing on the cake (if not entire meal), but these two channels of audio are very satisfying.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon sits in a Blu-ray case with a DVD copy of the film and an insert that features the original UK theatrical artwork. The following extras are included, all in HD:
- How to Draw Shaun (2:48)
- How to Draw Lu-La (2:42)
- Lu-La Slime Time (1:39)
- Shaun the Sheep: 25th Anniversary (3:58)
- Get Crafty with Shaun and Lu-La (4:07)
- Making Farmageddon (3:16)
- Super Natural Wool (1:02)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:55)
As you can see, this is a very fluffy extras package without much substance to it. How to Draw Shaun and How to Draw Lu-La features off-screen Aardman storyboard artist Sanna Myllykangas showing how to draw the characters. Lu-La Slime Time and Get Crafty with Shaun and Lu-La are demonstrations on how to make a Lu-La slime jar, Shaun and Lu-La tree decorations, and painted eggs. Shaun the Sheep: 25th Anniversary and Making Farmageddon features appearances by Nick Park, David Sproxton, Richard Starzak, Paul Kewley, Peter Lord, Will Becher, and Richard Phelan, who all discuss Shaun’s beginnings, lasting impact, the new film, and the possibility of another. Super Natural Wool is a promotional short in which Lu-La comes back to Earth for clothes made of wool to keep warm in space. Last is a theatrical trailer. Not included from Region B Blu-ray releases are additional promos and trailers. As previously mentioned, the film was also released on 4K Ultra HD in the UK with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos options (though the Blu-ray featured in that release is Region B-locked).
Here’s hoping that better heads prevail and we get more Aardman adventures on the big screen, where these types of films are begging to be seen. Farmageddon may have lesser qualities that don’t allow it to measure up to what’s come before, but it’s a wonderful little film. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons
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