Given the in-house nerd factor, perhaps it was only a matter of time before aliens landed at Mossy Bottom Farm. Richard Phelan, who is directing the film with Will Becher, said he grew up with Spielberg, moved on to Kubrick and has recently been watching clunky ’50s cult films such as It Came From Outer Space – all in the name of research, obviously. Farmageddon also has a nasty alien-catcher you could call Woman in Black. “It’s like we’re going, ‘What other films have secret shadowy organisations in them?’ ” he said. “Or what real organisations could we parody? And what is the Shaun version of that?” That’s always the bottom line.
After so many years making films in farmyard colours, the directors say it is exciting to introduce a character coloured blue and purple. Lu-La the little alien – who has some formidable powers, but still clings to an alien teddy – fits so well into Shaun’s shenanigans it is quite disorienting to see her earlier versions on display in the model-making room. An early version looked a bit like Cousin It. A more ferocious incarnation had a lot of tentacles.
“The design project is lined up carefully with the story process,” explained Phelan. “The Cousin It version we found couldn’t express certain feelings, so we would take it back and add something, take something away and then keep adding. We tried avenues where she was scarier, but it didn’t feel like Shaun would want to hang out with that character very much.”
The colour was also the result of an elimination process. “We ran up colours against every character and every set and gone, ‘Oh no, she’ll disappear! So, she’s been every colour of the rainbow before we arrived at this one.’ ”
The arrival of aliens inevitably transforms the village of Mossingham into a nerd magnet. That’s where the Aardman designers really had a field day, imagining the crowds.
“We have these UFO enthusiasts and geeks of every sort walking round in cosplay costumes, stuff like that,” said Lord. And yes, they put themselves in there. “You’re often thinking gosh, that one looks familiar,” he noted. “In the first film, a bearded puppet was me. I was the photographer taking pictures of the farmer, all in denim. Thanks, guys.”
It really is geek heaven.
Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon opens on January 9.