Based on the popular British animated TV series about Shaun, a relatively small yet smart sheep, Shaun the Sheep Movie will hit Chinese mainland theaters on Friday.
It was released in theUnited Kingdom in February.
Richard Starzak and Mark Burton, the directors of the movie, say they are impressed with the series’ popularity in China, adding jokingly that they will consider making a sequel titled “Shaun the Panda” for the world’s secondlargest movie market after the United States.
Shaun first appeared in A Close Shave (1995), an Oscarwinning short film, and gained his status as the protagonist of a four-season animated series, produced by Bristol-based Aardman Animations.
The TV series was aired by BBC in 2007 and has been viewed in around 140 countries since then.
China introduced the dialogueclay animation series in 2012, and now all the episodes can be watched for free on several major videostreaming websites, such as iQiyi and Letv.
Figures from the sites show that most of the episodes have been watched more than one million times in the country.
Alongside children, Shaun and his flock have gathered many adult fans in China, as evident from popular reality TV shows — Divas Hit the Road and RunningMan— on which the cartoon characters appeared on T-shirts as cultural icons.
By Tuesday night, the movie had up to 11,000 followers on SinaWeibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, and more than 8,000 reviews on Baidu Tieba, one of the country’s largest online movie platforms.
In the era of computer-generated imagery, such cartoon titles spark nostalgia among younger Chinese, many of whom grew up watching clay models or puppets of animated characters on TV series in the 1980s.
“They were like puppets manipulated by the animators. With skeletons inside their clay bodies, they could move their arms, legs and eyes,” says Starzak, 56, known for the clay animation comedy franchise Creature Comforts. He uses his fingers on a tabletop to show what is known as the stop-motion effect.
Stop motion, a technique that originated in TheHumpty Dumpty Circus (1898), makes a physically manipulated object or person move in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of continued movement, when the series of frames are played in a sequence.
Up to 150 crew members worked for three years on Shaun the Sheep Movie at Aardman Animations, sometimes with just a few seconds of the 85-minute feature completed at the end of a long day.
The British directors spoke to China Daily on the sidelines