Timmy’s a little lamb with (according to his creators) a lot to learn. Good thing he’s in preschool. This clay-animated marvel may be the most adorable depiction of a preschool to date. Timmy Time is a spin off from Aardman’sShaun the Sheep series, itself a spin off from the short film,Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave.
Aardman set themselves to a difficult task: to create—in effect—a silent series; a show whose stories are completely understandable on the visual level. They don’t rely on dialogue to explain what’s going on. The characters act out each story, with no more dialogue than each animal’s “bah” or “hoot” or “mew.” There are cinema critics who claim that silent cinema was actually best because it HAD to tell its stories visually. The creative team atTimmy Time didn’t have to go silent; they made a choice. And it’s an amazing choice.
By dispensing with dialogue, the stories are by definition more visual, but they’re also more solidly in the world of preschoolers. After all, preschoolers are often struggling with language and making themselves clear, and conflicts between preschoolers are often played out through actions that create misunderstandings. They don’t engage in wars of words. There’s something very authentic about watching two little animals have a tugging match over a toy. Or watching an animal act out his frustration at an unsuccessful art project; or make amends with a friendly gesture; or just plain jump with glee. And watching the animals who run the preschool—Harriet the Heron and Osbourne the Owl—negotiate conflicts and help the “kids” is a marvel. It really does have to be seen to be believed.
There’s more dialogue in the catchy opening jingle than in the entire series.Timmy Time is a show to treasure. And it’s not just for kids. Any serious student of cinema would do well to study Timmy Time. It’s a lesson in visual storytelling.
Timmy Time can be seen on Disney Junior. Have you seen Timmy Time? Here’s a sample episode: