Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Shaun the Sheep Adoption Movie Review

Shaun the Sheep lives the same life every day, surrounded by his fellow flock, The Farmer, and Bitzer the dog. Shaun decides that he’d like a day off, and so he tries to distract The Farmer for a day. However, through a series of accidents, Shaun and the rest of the sheep lose the farmer. After enjoying their newly-found freedom, they start to miss him. They leave the familiar grounds of Mossybottom Farms for the Big City to try to find him – and to reclaim their normal everyday life.
*Spoiler alerts ahead the rest of the way*

The Adoption Connection

The Farmer is certainly a parental figure to the sheep. He feeds them, cares for them, and provides order to their lives. Bitzer is sort of an older brother to the sheep – he is somewhat in charge, but also depends upon The Farmer. Almost every kid is tired of their parents at one time or another, and the drive for independence (and freedom) is a common one. The sheep wish to be free of The Farmer, but get their wish granted more thoroughly than they wanted. For much of the movie, they are separated from their father; they wonder how they will get food, and they miss him emotionally as well. Bitzer also misses The Farmer, but is prevented from seeing him. The sheep see people who resemble The Farmer, and wonder whether they might actually be looking at him, much like adoptees may wonder whether a stranger might actually be a relative. This film could connect with adoptees or children in foster care who grieve a separation from their parents. Also, because the sheep, Bitzer, and The Farmer all look different but function as a family, I wonder if some adoptees might relate the characters to their adoptive family, and thus relate the separation to a fear of the adoptive family being separated, which might be particularly relevant to kids who’ve been through multiple foster placements, or who were adopted at an old enough age to remember living with other families prior to the adoption. (Spoiler Alert) The Farmer also suffers from amnesia, and at least for a while can’t remember the sheep. This could be triggering to adoptees who wonder whether their first parents have forgotten them. (End Spoiler).
There is a scene where animals, caged in a pound, are put up for adoption (the word “adopt” is specifically used). Like the kids in Meet the Robinsons, the animals try to put on their cutest faces, but they are obviously heartbroken when they are not chosen.

Strong Points

Although it doesn’t say it explicitly, Shaun the Sheep portrays that, even though we might get tired of our everyday life, we’d probably miss it quite a bit if it went away.
The Sheep and Bitzer (and The Farmer, too) work together and function as a family, even though they look different.

Even though The Farmer is separated from the sheep because of Shaun’s idea, there is never a sense of guilt. That’s appropriate – what happened was completely accidental. It’s helpful for kids to understand the concept of an accident – something painful did happen because of something you did, 
yet you’re not guilty of any wrongdoing.

A familiar song brings joy to Shaun and Bitzer, even when they are in a time of sadness.


There is a scene where animals in a pound are put up for adoption. They sit in their prisonlike cells, trying to smile and be cute so that they will be adopted, and they’re heartbroken when they are not chosen – instead of being adopted, they have to stay in a pseudo-jail with a guard who mocks them. A family pretty obviously decides against adopting one animal because they find him ugly. This could be quite triggering to some kids.
(Spoiler Alert: After much searching, the sheep finally find The Farmer. He does not recognize them. He backs away, and shoos them off. They are heartbroken and tearful, and end up living in a sewer, dejected and displaced. Although The Farmer eventually does remember them, this scene could trigger viewers because of parental abandonment in general, or because a missing parental figure, when found, rejects his “children.” Some adoptees may want to search for their birth families, but are fearful of rejection, and this scene could trigger some emotional responses connected to that fear.) END SPOILER.

Weak Points

A character becomes bent on revenge and tries to kill Shaun.


Shaun the Sheep is remarkable in that it generates an emotionally compelling, connecting story (I heard kids in the theater crying), without using any spoken dialogue. Think of the first ten minutes of Up, but feature length. There are some sad moments and some scary scenes mixed in with the humor. One child in the theater cried out when Shaun was in peril. (Spoiler Alert: Another asked his parent, when Shaun was rejected by The Farmer, “Is it funny yet?” It’s a good question. END SPOILER). Shaun the Sheep has some humorous moments that will appeal to kids up to 11 or so, and it’s got enough merit to entertain adults as well. However, the plot of the film revolves around separation from a parent (more or less), and also involves some parental rejection. This is a well-made film that is a good fit for many viewers, but seems likely to be a trigger risk for many foster kids and adoptees. Parents should tread carefully, or watch it themselves before watching it with their kids.

Similar Films

Antwone Fisher, Annie and Closure all feature a quest for reunification with a parental figure.

Meet the Robinsons and Despicable Me both feature sad scenes with orphanages.

Questions for Discussion

What does it mean to take something for granted? What about your life is awesome, that you might not notice every day?

Bitzer and Shaun were happy when they remembered the song The Farmer used to whistle. What memories do you have that sometimes help you be happy, even when you’re sad?

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