Xu Fan

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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