So much greatness has come from Aardman Animations, or rather the gifted genius of Nick Park. Morph, Creature Comforts, Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run obviously leap to mind of the brilliance and wonder of stop-motion animation at it's best. And Shaun the Sheep is the next thing to continue that impeccable line of animated works.
Shaun the Sheep, as you no doubt have realized, is the spin-off series featuring the lovable character who achieved fame and stardom when he first appeared in Wallace and Gromit's A Close Shave. Here, Shaun has now grown into the young, brilliant leader of a flock of sheep in a quiet, peaceful countryside farm, where they get into all kinds of mischief, adventure, merriment and relaxation, either with or at the expense of the Farmer's trusty and friendly sheepdog, Bitzer.
And that's the theme for this whole series. Every episode features all kinds of wild antics, such as ordering pizza, playing football with cabbage, scrumping for apples, rivalling with the Naughty Pigs, exercising, trying to deal with wild, unleashed animals, performing magic tracks, having parties...the list goes on and on. And like all the other things that have come from Nick Park and Aardman, every single episode is presented and executed with great charm, brilliant humour and life-like animation.
Shaun the Sheep is something I personally consider to be the BEST thing on children's television today. The fact that it's Aardman should be reason enough for anyone to accept that, but other reasons include the fact that with each episode being roughly seven minutes long, a lot is packed into them, and each one is utterly wonderful and memorable. Shaun, being the star of the show, is even better here than he was in A Close Shave, showcasing unparallel charisma, leadership and all-round brilliance. But what also makes the show so special is the fact that he has a cracking supporting cast.
A leader is nothing without his flock, and that's evident throughout the whole collection with all his fellow sheep, who are absolutely hilarious. The most outstanding members of the flock includes Shirley, the largest, laziest sheep in the flock who eats anything and everything and has to be moved around by the other sheep in order to go anywhere. There's also Timmy, the cute but mischievous baby sheep who's always getting into trouble, much to the despair of his panicking mum, who doesn't seem to be doing that good of a job of looking after him.
The Naughty Pigs are also wonderful bullies, and the oblivious, mumbling Farmer adds more brilliance to the show, but I would say that the best supporting character out of the lot (second only to Shaun) is the sheepdog Bitzer. Although a dog that suffers the most from the antics of Shaun and his friends, as well as trying so hard to fulfil his duties, Bitzer is also a great friend to Shaun and the rest of gang, partaking in games, enjoying pizza, movies and embarking on all kinds of adventures with them, as well as helping them out whenever in trouble. Bitzer's presence makes all the episodes even more fun to watch, and really, there is a lot to be said about a sheepdog who enjoys listening to music on his iPod and eats sandwiches/drinks tea.
On top of all this, the show also has a really catchy theme-song, performed by the one-and-only Vic Reeves. And that's the icing on the cake. It's typical high-quality, which you'd only get from Aardman.
This DVD set consists of five discs and contains all forty episodes from the series. Basically, it's collecting all the volumes that have been released previously, "Shape Up With Shaun", "Off The Baa!", "Saturday Night Shaun", "Abracadabra" and "Wash Day". But rather than just release all the regular DVDs together and put them all in a box sleeve, the BBC and 2entertain have put together a beautiful DVD set that folds out. The set is beautifully decorated with characters from the show and also features a fabulous panorama, with each of the discs produced in a way that adds to the image effect. It's a really nice touch that adds to the package.
What can you expect for extras? Well, there's a grand little sing-a-long feature to the "Shaun the Sheep" theme tune, which you'll get plenty of enjoyment out of. There's also a nice behind-the-scenes look at Aardman Studio, documenting the making of the show, a guide on how to make your own Naughty Pig, and an introduction to the main characters of the show. I found these extras to be very satisfactory and should be enough to please all fans. There's also subtitles and typical, high-picture quality, which is a natural given that it's from BBC and 2entertain.
Shaun the Sheep: The Complete First Series is a fantastically good 5-disc DVD set. It's a brilliant show with virtually nothing to criticise. I would recommend getting this over the individual volumes, personally. At £30, it is a bit steep, but the volumes are about a tenner each individually and would cost you more altogether if you decided to get them instead of this. Besides, you're getting every, single wonderful episode and some nifty extras here, all in a beautifully presented package. Unquestionably essential for all Aardman lovers and fans of Nick Park.