Shaun The Sheep (lost pilot of British stop-motion TV series; early to mid 2000s)
In 1995, the character Shaun the Sheep made his debut in Aardman Animatons' third Wallace & Gromit short, "A Close Shave". Like its predecessors it was produced entirely using the studio's signature hand-built stop-motion animation and proved to be a great success, winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film the same year.
Aardman soon realized they had a breakout star on their hands in Shaun, the intelligent but mischievous young leader of a flock of sheep that prove invaluable to Wallace over the course of the short. With Shaun's merchandise sales surpassing that of the leads, a spin-off series of his own was the natural next step.At some point in the early 2000s, after production wrapped on Chicken Run and before it began on Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, a pilot was made to pitch the series to broadcasters.
Not much is known about the pilot's production save that it was evidently keyed to a somewhat lower budget than the final series, using smaller and less detailed sets. It's unclear how far the eventual farm setting was developed, although concept art suggests Bitzer the sheepdog and the Three Bad Pigs in the sty next door were included somehow. From their appearance, it seems that Shaun and the flock's models were simply recycled from "A Close Shave", with the exception of Shirley - originally just 'the big fat sheep' - the only sheep character specially created for the pilot.
In the course of 2022, concept art of Shirley, Bitzer and other characters by Sylvia Bull was released on the official Shaun the Sheep Twitter account. A Twitter user called Random Sheep claimed to be the voice of one of the background sheep in the pilot; they also revealed Shirley's in-house nickname, which is assumed to have been changed to avoid negative stereotyping.
This pitch pilot, like most such, was never aired on television or given any kind of official release. In 2004, it was shown to the BBC, who would greenlight a full series for their spinoff channel for children, CBBC. That same year various articles would be published by the BBC showing the only currently available screenshot from the pilot.
In 2005, a fire broke out at Aardman's storage warehouse, destroying many of the delicate production props (with the exception of those from The Curse of The Were-Rabbit, which were either on tour or at Aardman's offices). This likely included the props from the Shaun pilot. Fortunately the master production tapes of all Aardman films remained safe in a separate location, presumably including the Shaun pilot film.
On April 17th, 2007, an article was posted on an Aardman exhibition featuring images of unseen material from Shaun The Sheep, including one evidently from the pilot. Whether the film itself was shown at the exhibition is unknown.
- Aardman Animations (found Cuprinol stop-motion TV ads from British animation studio; 1988-late 1990s)
- Aardman Animations (partially found stop-motion commercials from British animation studio; 1980s-2010s)
- A Grand Day Out (lost Peter Hawkins' "Gromit" dialogue from stop-motion animated film; 1989)
- Lurpak (partially lost Aardman Animations commercials for Danish butter brand; 1990s)
- Pib and Pog (lost original college animation of stop-motion short; early 1990s)
- Sumitomo Life (found "Wallace & Gromit" commercial for Japanese insurance company; 2000-2001)
- Wallace & Gromit Alive On Stage In A Grand Night Out (lost recording of stage show; 1997-1998)
- BBC news article announcing the Shaun the Sheep TV series. Retrieved 24 Sep '22
- Shaun the Sheep Twitter post on the pilot's concept art. Retrieved 25 Sep '22
- A tweet from a user that voiced one of the sheep in the pilot. Retrieved 25 Sep '22
- Second BBC News article on the Shaun the Sheep TV series. Retrieved 24 Sep '22
- BBC News article announcing the Aardman with material from the show. Retrieved 24 Sep '22