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Shaun the Sheep: Behind the scenes as our woolly hero ventures into Farmageddon

It takes an age to build an Aardman world - a year to shoot ten minutes, two weeks to get just ten seconds right on screen.

But for all the time, and labour intensive processes, Aardman animations in Bristol wouldn't have it any other way.

So for the last four years they have been busy working with their plasticine to bring back one of their most popular creations - Shaun the Sheep, who was last seen on the big screen in 2015, and was originally a character in the successful Wallace and Gromit franchise.

The Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon sees him venture into a sci-fi storyline, featuring an alien called Lula and with all the usual chaos around Mossy Bottom Farm.

The Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon still has the usual chaos around Mossy Bottom farm. Credit: ITV News

It is directed by Will Becher and Richard Phelan, who say the first two years of any production are spent story boarding, and building the sets - all that before the "stars" come onto the scene.

It is only when you see the sets yourself that you realise first how large and intricate they are.

Everything is handmade, with stop motion animation demanding that every movement is done by hand on the plasticine puppets and photographed before the next movement.

In a world of astonishing advances in animation - see this year's Toy Story 4, and the extraordinary live action movies like Lion King - Aardman, which was founded in 1972, prides itself on its techniques.

It has ventured into Computer Generation - see Flushed Away which came from their collaboration with animation giants DreamWorks - but for the company's co-founder Peter Lord there is something about their product, the plasticine, the finger imprints that are sometimes visible, the tactile nature of their creations - that is peculiarly British.

Shaun the Sheep and his iconic wave. Credit: ITV News

"We've never been mainstream," he argues, "but there is a value to being small scale, even if it means we don't get the massive box office that Pixar and Disney enjoy."

He believes that their claymation style offers a magic that they can't always experience with computer generated animation.

It's not been easy to hold their nerve in such a crowded market - when they started more than four decades ago there were around six animated films out, this year alone there will have been more than 30 he says.

Arts Editor Nina Nannar tries her hand at clay modelling. Credit: ITV News

There have been a couple of attempts to buy the company he adds, which is why last November he and the company's co-founder David Sproxton, who this week announced he's stepping down, transferred majority ownership of the company to its employees to keep Aardman independent.

In the meantime as I tour the studio I meet young animator Carmen Bromfield-Mason.

The future of the company depends on attracting young talent like her. She loves CGI she says but working with plasticine figures, being so hands on with every movement, is unbeatable.

She worked on an elaborate scene in the new Shaun film which takes place in a supermarket. There it was before me, like a huge doll's house.

  • An animator shows Arts Editor Nina Nannar how Shaun waves

I just wanted to step inside it! I watched as she showed me the slow process of getting the Shaun figure to wave.

She moves the figure a tiny bit, and photographs it, then repeats it again and again until she has a sequence. It is thrilling to watch.

With four Oscars and 14 Baftas, Aardman know what they are doing. Now employee owned and with a new Managing Director in Sean Clarke, they are looking to a new secure future.

But with a little help from the plasticine stars of its past.

On October the 18th the next Shaun the Sheep film Farmageddon is released and the company is also working on the follow up to the Oscar winning Chicken Run.