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How ’80s Sci-Fi Films Inspired ‘Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon’

Shaun, everyone’s favorite sheep, is back, and this time he’s facing aliens and robots in “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.”

Directors Will Becher and Richard Phelan teamed together on this film for their first full-length collaboration. While the two have been working at Aardman Studios, Phelan’s background was as a story artist and Becher’s background was in animation. Producers saw the two as a perfect fit since they both had desires to direct.

“Wallace and Gromit” and “Shaun the Sheep” creator Nick Park sat in on initial meetings and story discussions about alien invasions and suggested the title, “Farmageddon.” As Becher and Phelan worked out the story, the idea started coming together and the “Farmageddon” title stuck.

When it came to brainstorming ideas, Phelan said, “We had fun with all the sci-fi tropes: Robots, secret government organizations and aliens coming to the farm. We looked at everything from the ‘50s through to modern sci-fi. It was great to go back and just watch all the films.” By going down the alien invasion route, it allowed for the pair to immerse themselves in the world of sci-fi.

In the stop-motion film, an alien named Lu-La lands on Shaun’s farm and needs his help to go home. There’s also lots of classic sci-fi references throughout the movie. “We have everything you can imagine,” Phelan teased. “‘Alien,’ ‘Back to the Future,’ ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘E.T.'”

Becher added, “We go right up to the modern-day with ‘Gravity’ and ‘Interstellar.'”

Since the goal for the sequel was to go bigger and explore a genre that hadn’t been done before, they also explored the color palette. Aurélien Predal did the concept art, which Becher said “was a helpful starting point so we could see where we could take it.”

The film was shot in a wide scope, which allowed for more of the field and isolated farm to be shown. “We wanted to make it feel cinematic,” said Phelan.

While the farm and the crops had a warm autumn feel to them, Phelan said they also looked at bio-luminescent fish as inspiration for the colors. Production designer Matt Perry played with a lot of colors and painted the set in UV paint. “

“It’s bright under certain lights,” Phelan explained. “The underground glares in this surgical blue light, and then there’s the white light, too.” The challenge was making all the different environments work, but once it did, the film captures that sense of adventure through its visuals.

Composer Tom Howe created the score and Lu-La’s theme film based on the ’80s sci-fi references.

“It was so magical,” Phelan said. “There was this idea of glass underwater and this theme of Lu-La being a villain, but she’s got this tragic backstory.”

Howe used a theremin, a musical embodiment of science fiction, but he didn’t want it to sound like a traditional sci-fi score. “The challenge was creating this theme that would feel epic,” Phelan said.

The other challenge was finding the right balance of comedy for kids and adults. “We always try to keep it personal,” Becher said. “Whenever a joke fits with the scene and adds to the comedy, we stick it in.”

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