(Release Info London schedule; September 22nd, 2019, BFI Southbank, London SE1, Belvedere Road, South Bank, London, UK, SE1 8XT, 12:15 pm)
"A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon"
Strange lights over the quiet town of 'Mossingham' herald the arrival of a mystery visitor from far across the galaxy. "Farmageddon" takes the world’s favourite woolly hero and plunges him into an hilarious intergalactic adventure he will need to use all of his cheekiness and heart to work his way out of. When a visitor from beyond the stars, an impish and adorable alien called 'Lula' (Amalia Vitale), crash-lands near 'Mossy Bottom Farm', Shaun (John Fletcher) soon sees an opportunity for alien-powered fun and adventure, and sets off on a mission to shepherd 'Lula' back to her home. Her magical alien powers, irrepressible mischief and galactic sized burps soon have the flock enchanted and Shaun takes his new extra-terrestrial friend on a road-trip to 'Mossingham Forest' to find her lost spaceship. Little do the pair know, though, that they're being pursued at every turn by a mysterious alien-hunting government agency, spearheaded by the formidable 'Agent Red' (Emma Tate) and her bunch of hapless, hazmat-suited goons. With 'Agent Red' driven by a deep-seated drive to prove the existence of 'Aliens', 'The Farmer' (John Sparkes) unwittingly dragged into the haphazard chase, can Shaun and the flock avert 'Farmageddon' on 'Mossy Bottom Farm' before it’s too late?
'Shaun The Sheep' is already an 'A-List Star', beloved by millions of all ages worldwide for his hit TV series and cemented as a movie star in smash spin-off "Shaun The Sheep Movie' in 2015. But, for his second outing in cinemas, the film pushes the character to places he has genuinely never been. And in ways that are bigger, more like an epic, 'Sci-Fi Movie'. Trying to make it feel like a very big, cinematic, very much 'Sci-Fi Extravaganza', and open up Shaun’s world in a way that we’ve never seen before. Shaun is always naughty, you know he’s always going to be skirting the corner of trouble. Shaun is the guy who will always press the red button, but he’ll always know he’s done something wrong when he has. Shaun is always about a spirit of rebelliousness, but always with a good heart. He'll always know he’s done something wrong when he has. If you see Shaun walk past the sweet shop and see him stop and look in the window, you think aye-aye. Something is going to go on here. And 'Lula' doubles that jeopardy. She's even cheekier and more out-there than Shaun. Shaun has to keep 'Lula' secret from the world at large, hidden from 'Agent Red' and her cohorts. Shaun is a very clearly defined character and always has been. But in this movie, we definitely see new levels to Shaun. He's given responsibility. And we see how he deals with that. It starts off as organic and then themes start to emerge. The film contrasts the everyday, deliberate plainness of his home farm with the colourful and surreal alien world and hardcore military tech. Shaun’s world in the TV series feels quite contained, quite small in a way. And that 10,000 light years away there's another planet. Then his world just gets huge. The visual elements become more exciting the bigger the journey he goes on. He's excitable and naughty. He’s a flawed character, but in an innocent way.
In "Farmageddon", 'Shaun The Sheep’s' blissful, if occasionally mischievous, everyday existence is upended entirely by the arrival of an extra-terrestrial, a cute, crazy, sparkly purple-blue one; 'Lula'. And she’s not just an excuse for some hilarious and action-packed set-pieces, but a character who throws Shaun’s beloved family dynamic into chaos. 'Lula' is an alien who has crash-landed on Earth and finds herself pursued by the dastardly 'Agent Red' and her hazmat-suited goons, a bunch of secret and sinister government types out to prove the existence of aliens and capture their quarry by any means necessary. It’s up to Shaun to get 'Lula' home safely. But he’s going to have to pull off all of his greatest ever tricks if he’s going to do it. We've some fun in space. An element of 'Lula’s home is her spaceship and we get to spend a lot of time in that. For him, the spaceship is like the most amazing toy he could imagine. It’s Shaun having to take on responsibility and discovering what it’s like to have to deal with someone who's like Shaun, his naughtiest sibling, basically. Because this new character we've, 'Lula', has emerged as this beautiful thing from a beautiful world. It's decided that she would have certain otherworldly skills and party tricks. But until you put them into the plotting, you don’t know how they’re going to reveal themselves.
Also, everything she does has to reflect that character and those attributes. She has to be consistent. If we’re saying she's cheeky and a bit of a handful, she has to be that. 'Lula' is in real danger because there are forces out there that will take her away. Shaun has to step up. These are feelings that many people with siblings will identify with. 'Lula' is the key creatives talk this brand-new edition to 'The Shaun The Sheep' universe, his new alien best buddy who's blowing early audiences away. She's a new element of nuance, of Shaun growing up. She’s a young alien who has crash-landed on Earth, and who needs Shaun’s help to get back home. She's a puppet unlike any other in 'The Universe'. She’s stretchy. She moves at a speed that no other character can. Her eyes bug out. Where 'Lula' has ended up is that she’s got such a warmth and charm that she’s quite irresistible. Highlighting her vulnerability and innocence is key, showing that aliens could be just as scared and sensitive as us. You’ve got think about what works in the world of Shaun because she has got to stand next to these characters and feel like she’s from that universe. 'Lula' has emerged as this beautiful thing from a beautiful world, who's beautifully designed. She has certain otherworldly skills and party tricks. But until you put them into the plotting, you don’t know how they’re going to reveal themselves. Where Shaun can, you know, throw a ball and smash a window, she can levitate tractors. She's chaos on another level. It adds a bit of chorus fizz and unusualness.
'Agent Red’s' underground lair is all very 'James Bond'. The stakes are raised in that way. First you see the government agents just in their sinister black van, then you find out they've a secret base deep under 'Mossingham'. The base is called 'MAD', 'The Ministry Of Alien Detection'. It’s been where it's since way, way back, even though they’ve never actually found a 'UFO' before! That’s why 'The Bond Theme' fit, because this place is set up around the time of those earlier movies, in the ‘60s. Not that things ever get too sinister, of course. It’s not quite life or death, but you know they're out to get her. Get ready to meet the dastardly 'Agent Red'. The sci-fi genre is famous for it's iconic villains, and the film delivers on that. So, we've various meetings trying to figure out who she's. There are lots of different approaches. We've a character that isn't black and white, who isn’t a villain just for the sake of being a villain. And she really is a great villain, even if the people she's surrounded by are useless! In particular, she has a team of guys in bright yellow hazmat suits. They’re kind of a comedic troupe that acts almost like a single character.
They tend to sort of run around in a little gang, like idiots. Really, when you’re editing them, you deal with them like one character. One failed, not very successful, alien detector character! They frustrate 'Agent Red' greatly, but she’s not just the ‘uptight boss, she’s got much more depth than that. All the way through the film wrestles with who 'Agent Red' is. We realised that if we're going to redeem her, she has to be misunderstood. It’s taken a long time to find the right combination of shots and backstory, to make you understand her. She’s not cruel, she’s driven. She’s misunderstood. It’s easier to have someone just be a plain baddie when you've no dialogue. In many ways, the film makes this way more difficult for us But 'Agent Red' isn't that simple. Her human story makes for a much better resolution. You know, this is a film for kids. At one point 'Agent Red’s' motivation is that she wants a promotion, but for kids that doesn’t mean anything. What she wants needs to be clear from a child’s point of view. Money or promotion doesn’t resonate with children. It has to have a deeper emotional connection.
As the film wrangles a vast flock of creative types, it's perhaps no surprise that the favourite character is that of authoritarian big brother, Bitzer (John Sparkes). But while Bitzer is synonymous with taking himself too seriously, the films attitude is a mix of both the serious and the silly; the perfect qualities to steer Shaun on his biggest adventure yet. The most important thing when you're in a position to make decisions is to make a decision quickly and concisely and if you're wrong at a later stage then make the right decision and learn from the mistake you made. In the first movie, Shaun and his mates had a simple goal; they wanted a day off, to get out from the farmer rules. In this the film looks at the relationship between the brothers Shaun and Bitzer. How would that play out? Not that Shaun wants to get rid of Bitzer. He just wants to be free and always do what he wants. So, the film gives him a new character that would force him to take on the Bitzer role, where he has to feel what that feels like, where he would start to appreciate what he does for him. And through this whole story, Bitzer realises that he takes himself too seriously, that his rules are too much. Mischievousness is close to anarchy, in a good way. Youthful rebellion, that’s his modus operandi, isn’t it? There he's, in a very small world. The world of 'Mossy Bottom' farm is deliberately very small and domestic. 'The farmer', as far as he’s concerned, he keeps his sheep in the barn, that’s all he’s aware of. So, they should have a very constrained worldview. But good old Shaun, he doesn’t accept that. He's always pushing the boundaries. Usually the rebel of the stories, straining against the authoritarian rules of the long-suffering sheepdog Bitzer, while always trying to make sure his antics remain unseen by 'The Farmer', the film sees Shaun discover an all-new, and deeply terrifying, emotional frontier.
In "Farmageddon" the world’s favourite woolly wonder goes where no sheep has gone before. "Farmageddon" at once elevating the world of 'Shaun The Sheep' to epic new genre heights, but never forgetting the sheer pure heart beating beneath it's woolly exterior. This is a movie that’s about friends and responsibility and what it’s about to meet someone and become best friends. But then we also bring some villains in. We've top secret government organisations, robots, gadgets and gizmos so this whole world opens up. We’re always asking ourselves questions like, ‘what if 'Lula' is as cheeky as Shaun? What does her planet look like? Why do they get along so well? Is her home a bit like his home?’ The film always plays with those ideas. Shaun’s farm is set up almost like one in 'The American Midwest', isolated, with an expanse of cornfields around it and a big horizon in the distance, so the film plays some great crop circle gags. But in terms of the mood, this movie is quite eerie at points. It’s quite cheeky. It’s high summer as far as the corn is concerned, but everywhere else it’s autumn. That gives you your misty forest stuff for the scary bits and also some stunning colouration for daytime in the woods.
The difficulty, because of how simple Shaun is, is how to get a human expression out of him. It’s when you get something meaningful out of something simple, that's really quite magical. And Shaun does that. It’s funny. One idea often spawns the next, and you don’t even know it at the time. Shaun is almost a silent movie star with a big heart, and he appeals across the ages. He’s the perfect character for this divided world. It's very timely, isn’t it? This film is something that everyone, adults and children, can sit and watch and all laugh together. There’s nothing better than a laugh to let people forget their differences. What 'Shaun The Sheep' is good at is sending up the way we're as humans. A lot of the premise of 'Shaun The Sheep' is that a lot of what these characters are doing is behind the backs of humans, but we're privy to that. "Farmageddon" is at once a tribute to the classics, and an hilarious, Shaun-shaped reinvention of it's many established tropes. It really plays to that classic, Steven Spielberg-style 'Sci-Fi Genre'. Capturing that spirit of classic sci-fi, and appealing to all ages, is crucial for the film. Most great animation crosses divides, it reminds people that we’re all the same. This is a story about an alien coming to our world and getting accepted.
It's a film that works for adults and kids. It's like a Amblin films, these big popcorn family movies. And animation has moved more and more into that space. All characters have a backstory written down somewhere. Because it’s important that everyone has the same understanding of a character. Because if you’ve got 20 animators all animating the same character, they've to all have the same idea of who that character is. It’s essential. You try to keep the characters as concrete as they can be. The only time you might break that's for comedy, for a moment that's funny. And people know these characters. If you talk to kids, they will be able to tell you who Shaun is, who the farmer is, who Bitzer is, and what they’re like. We grew up watching 'Wallace And Gromit', obviously. And Shaun has a tiny amount of screen time in ‘A Close Shave’, but he was just the most adorable and funny character. And his story that has come out of that since grew organically but had these really strong foundations, in that the characters are very clearly defined. Really, it’s all about family. Shaun’s stories are told through the eyes of a boy and his mates. And there’s limitless appeal to a sheep doing things in the human world that the humans don’t see. He’s a challenge to create because in some ways the possibilities are limitless. But there are certain rules without dialogue. A lot of this is based on ideas that relate to our lives.
This is a bit of a learning-to-grow-up story. That's sort of the start point. Okay, so we've this alien story. Something happens, the character learns something and moves on a bit. But what does that mean?’ You’re working backwards, always trying to think what’s next for the characters, what’s next for the relationships? The other interesting thing about these films, unlike other feature films, is that they're a serial, so you’ve got to end up back at square one. You need to find accessible things, for a young audience. That doesn’t mean showing them their own lives, necessarily. The film takes the view that there are certain experiences that are fairly common to most people, and certainly one of those is having a younger sibling, or a younger friend, coming along and sort of taking some of the limelight, the spotlight. The experience of being obliged to take responsibility. Initially he has no desire whatsoever to take responsibility, to be a caring fellow. He just sees it as being great fun! An enormous potential for fun. It’s a selfish choice, initially. And then there’s the fundamentally comic idea of the guy who has always been the mischievous one, now getting a taste of his own medicine.
We're preparing for our future. The creation of an employee trust is the best solution we've found for our highly creative culture. And of course, those that create value in the company will continue to benefit directly from the value they create. British comedy in America has always been a mysterious thing. A few things cut through and work really well, and it’s really hard to predict what. We've done incredibly well in that world, to make such an impact. We very consciously set out to not take ourselves too seriously, because Hollywood movies for children often contained a very, very strong moral message. It’s become part of the package now. It’s what people positively expect now. That’s okay. But we’re pretty subtle with that moral message! The most important thing is that goodness wins out. Goodness, optimism, humanity wins out, and cynicism and calculation and evil doesn’t. Goodness in the most profound sense. But you don’t have to labour that point. "Farmageddon" is an epic adventure featuring space travel, an alien, a sinister government agency and a quest for the perfect pizza.