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.”

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • Quicksand Scandinavian Cinema

    Sweden Is Not on Lockdown Despite Coronavirus Threat

    While most of the world is on lockdown mode, Sweden has taken a different route, with schools, restaurants, some theaters and most public venues still open. The Swedish health minister, Stefan Löfven, has asked people to behave like “adults” and not give in to the panic, and advised them to work from home, as well [...]

  • Lindsay Lindenbaum on 'Tomboy,' Female Drummers,

    How 'Tomboy' Filmmaker Used SXSW Cancellation to Fine-Tune Her Film

    “Tomboy” filmmaker Lindsay Lindenbaum spent five years following four female drummers trying to make it in a male-dominated world. Lindenbaum profiles Bobbye Hall, a drummer who started at Motown Records in the late ’60s and later toured with Bob Dylan. Samantha Maloney, whose obsession with MTV’s “Headbangers Ball” as a teenager led her to fall [...]

  • U.K. Freelancers

    U.K. Government Faces Pressure From Industry on Economic Measures for Freelancers

    The U.K. government is facing increasing pressure from the creative industries after it emerged that economic measures set out for the self-employed last week by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have yawning gaps in them. The measures may have come as a welcome move for many creative industries workers, but not all are eligible [...]

  • Coronavirus Placeholder COVID19 Variety

    IATSE Estimates Up to 95% of Its Members Are Out of Work Due to Coronavirus

    As many as 95% of IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) below-the-line crafts workers are currently out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic. The figures come as over 3.3 million Americans have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment benefits. In an email to Variety Monday, director of communications Jonas Loeb said, “Estimates are [...]

  • 20190702_788LCDP_S4_tamaraarranz_DSC_9303.nef

    Spanish TV Industry Adjusts to Harsh Realities of the Coronavirus Crisis

    The Spanish TV industry has been shaken by the dramatic impact of the coronavirus crisis, but it is fighting back. Industry players have reacted fast, pushing forward with development, post-production and other business activities using online tools, and with the expectation of supporting funds from both public and private initiatives that will mitigate the effects [...]

  • His Dark Materials HBO

    'His Dark Materials' Costumers Make Scrubs for U.K. Medics Fighting Coronavirus

    Costumers behind the Bad Wolf-produced HBO and BBC fantasy series “His Dark Materials” have united to make scrubs for medical staff fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the U.K. The initiative, titled “Helping Dress Medics,” brings together a number of staff in the series’ costume department in Cardiff, Wales, and around the U.K. to stitch garments [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content