If you have watched any episodes of Shaun the Sheep, and yes, while the program is ostensibly aimed at kids, many adults will get a kick out of it too, furnished as it is with Aardman’ trademark silly wit and whimsy, you will have noticed the show’s protagonist is a cheeky young woolen fellow who is at his happiest when he is besting the Farmer and Bitzer (both voiced by John Sparkes).
His main goal, and thus that of the flock of which he is effectively the leader, any pretension by Bitzer to the position notwithstanding, is ensuring the sheep, and any other farm animals caught up in the schemes, get up to a whole lot more than standing in a field waiting for the day to end.
In Shaun’s subversively gleeful world, sheep lie around reading and sipping cocktails when they’re not doing aerobics class in the barn or holding wild parties with all the trimmings.
So you might expect that “We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas” – it’s an obvious titular gag but hey, this is Aardman and Shaun the Sheep, and if anyone can make it sound hilariously fresh it’s them – might be a whole lot of the same.
It is, however, not and while you might fear this tips the episode into treacly sweet territory instead, it somehow also manages to avoid that trap too.
What it is, is genuinely touching, an episode that speaks to the loneliness many people feel at a time of the year which, more than any other, is fiercely devoted to people being together.
The Farmer does have some company on Christmas Eve with carolling friends coming around to join him sing a few carols, all while he is clad in his Santa suit.
To look at him, you would assume, he is the epitome of someone living his perfect, people-filled, gently joyous Christmas.
He even gives presents to the sheep and Bitzer and while its vegetables and a bone respectively, it speaks to the fact that for all his manu failings, the Farmer does care about the animals in his care and that Christmas means a great deal to him.
Fast forward a little later in the night, however, and we find a sad and dejected figure sitting along in his loungeroom, gazing sadly and nostalgically at a photo album of happier childhood memories while the balloons in the room deflate and his Christmas lights flicker and crackle to an unsalvageable, spirit-sapping end.
It’s a deeply saddening scene and Bitzer, ever the loyal farm dog is howling with sadness while Shaun realises that while the Farmer might his erstwhile enemy of sorts, he’s also someone who needs a lovely Christmas, which is precisely what everyone rather heartwarmingly gives him, transforming the tried, empty loungeroom into a festive wonderland.
If that’s not enough, he is joined the next day by his family and his girlfriend, all unexpected visitors judging by the Farmer’s state of undress when he answers the door.
“We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas” is a heart stirring delight that brings home the fact that everyone wants Christmas with all the trimmings and if you can give it to them, that’s very much in the spirit of the season.
All this genuinely touching sentiment is leavened by Aardman’s trademark humour with some visually spot-on moments that demonstrate that those he is not averse to good deeds and kind acts, Shaun and the flock can also still be quite silly.
The scene where everyone is trying to push a giant pine tree, stolen from the nearby church no less, through the cat flap is priceless as the Goat, Mower Mouth chomping across fairly non-descript ribbons to create intricately worthy patterns to string up in the Christmas loungeroom makeover.
It may be short and sweet but “We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas” packs a lot of heart and humour into its story which manages to be both touching and hilarious, a feat that is not easy to pull off but which Shaun the Sheep manages, as he does with everything, with great and highly entertaining aplomb.