Aardman’s Shaun The Sheep Movie is a lovely, lovely thing; a genuinely funny and warm family film made with terrific attention to detail. Such attention to detail in fact, that it’s easy for some of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them gags to, well, be missed when you blink.
To celebrate its DVD release, we’ve teamed up with our old pal the freeze-frame button to search out the background gags and nerdy nods. There’s a great deal more than shop-name puns and that tremendous The Silence Of The Lambs spoof, too.
From Breaking Bad references to Aardman animator cameos, a Harryhausen homage to the odd break in continuity, here’s what we found…
1. The first date the Farmer swipes off his calendar is Monday the 1st of June, which just happens to be the Shaun The Sheep Movie DVD release date. Coincidence?
2. Shaun’s canvas bag spots a Smiley, a ‘Ska’ badge and a Blue Peter badge (one also featured on the hat of a pirate in The Pirates! An Adventure With Scientists). This one was presumably won by The Farmer in his youth for, according to the Blue Peter website “sending interesting letters, emails, stories, pictures, poems, good ideas for the programme, or having appeared on Blue Peter”.
3. Why is the pub the caravan passes called The Moon? So the cow can pay homage to its nursery rhyme counterpart and jump over it.
4. And why did the chicken cross the road? To avoid the flying caravan. (This hapless nuggets-promoting chicken suit wearer is also caught crossing the road during the movie’s final chase scene.)
5. Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park makes a cameo as this twitcher, about to be attacked by a pair of birds.
6. Take a closer look at the Big City sign and you’ll not only see that it’s twinned with Großstadt , La Grande Ville and La Gran Ciudad (the Big City in German, French and Spanish), but that the ‘facilities’ advertised include drinking, fighting, kebab eating and vomiting.
7. This shop sells cameras and seems to be called Aztec. Is someone dressing the Shaun The Sheep sets a fan of Scottish post-punk?
8. It would seem so, as this punk-styled bus driver is later seen wearing what appears to be a t-shirt promoting the band.
9. On the sports pages of The Times being read by this bus passenger, doesn’t that look an awful lot like Wallace?
10. You can purchase “Ray The Angry Skeleton”, who comes complete with sword and shield from all good charity shops. An homage surely, to stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen’s Jason And The Argonauts. Note the garden gnome next to it, too – one also features in each of the Wallace & Gromit films.
11. Propped up next to the blonde lady doll on that shelf, could that be our good friend the Farmer?
12. The names written on this hospital whiteboard (James Held, Andy Brown, Rob Slagter…) belong to members of the movie’s set-dressing team.
13. Part of the film’s music was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, hence this Beatles album cover nod.
14. Timmy the lamb disguises himself as a popular bit of 90s merch here – a Shaun The Sheep backpack.
15. Le Chou Brûlé, the name of the swanky restaurant ransacked by the party of sheep, translates as The Burnt Cabbage, a particularly unappetising smell.
16. The character with the red hair and purple dress here is a model of Radio Times competition winner Jennie King, whose prize was to be turned into an Aardman model and to cameo in the film.
17. Robert Mitchum’s L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E knuckle tattoos in 1955 film The Night Of The Hunter have since passed into the pop culture lexicon. Here, they’ve been transposed for a canine psycho as B-A-R-K and B-I-T-E. Other film references in Shaun The Sheep include a nod to Max Cady in Cape Fear, when Trumper rides underneath the caravan back to the farm, and Predator, when Trumper is using night-vision goggles to track the flock. (We debated whether the man who drops the cabbage in shock near the start of the film was an oblique Godfather/oranges nod, but came down on the side of no.)
18. When you think about it, a dialogue-free film about a bunch of sheep has to have a The Silence Of The Lambs reference. This Hannibal Lecter-alike cat joke was officially licensed from MGM.
19. Look closely at this wall of contained animal polaroids and you’ll see one or two familiar faces. On the top row, that’s Vince from co-director Richard Starzak (formerly Goleszowski)’s Rex The Runt and on the second from top row is Feathers from producer Nick Park’s Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers.
20. If continuity errors float your boat, here are a couple of teensy ones. The design on this hessian shopping bag held by this bystander changes from a plane to a tree in the space of a few seconds.
21. And the date on this surgical theatre display before Bitzer goes to town on that skeleton first reads the 5th of June, then later reads the 2nd of June.
And one more…
22. When celebrity hairdresser ‘Mr X’ goes viral, he’s inserted into a number of popular internet memes. He goes doge (“Wow haredo so style”), Shepard Fairey-style with the Barack Obama pic, he’s Nyan Cat, Banksy and made part of hit localisation meme “All your hair are belong to us”. There’s even a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Christine Keeler homage in there, but it’s far too racy for us to reproduce here. Finally, if you follow the QR code on the Mr X poster around 48 minutes in, it apparently sends you to the official movie website (though we couldn’t get it to work).
23. That poster on the city wall? It’s for Breaking Bad (or possibly Dad, but the logo is unmistakeable).
24. Other posters in the Big City background advertise performance poet John Cooper Clarke and English post-punk band, The Fall. Not references pre-school kids are likely to pick up on.
25. And that’s not the only nod to Walter White in the film. When the flock go all A-Team and build their pantomime horse contraption at the junkyard, here’s what Shaun and pal are wearing.
26. Animal containment officer A. Trumper (a joke in itself) appears to be channelling a certain former Russian president by posing for a macho topless-on-horseback portrait.
27. More set-dresser and other crew names appear in this graffiti on the bridge (Omi is perhaps part of Omid Djalili, the voice of Trumper?), seen after the sheep perform their baa-bershop quartet rendition of Feels Like Summer. There’s also a little Cookie Monster if you look closely.
28. When the flock return to the farmhouse towards the end of the film, the pigs are happily ensconced there Animal Farm-style, eating recipe books and watching TV. Listen closely to the music playing on the TV set and you’ll hear the theme to Aardman’s Amazing Adventures Of Morph.
29. No, it’s not quite Nick Fury, but stick around all the way through the end-credits and you’ll meet a sheep doing the vacuuming.
Shaun The Sheep: The Movie is out now on DVD.
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