Sheep in the Big City
Sheepinthebigcity.png
GenreComedy
Created byMo Willems
Written by
Directed by
Voices of
Narrated byKen Schatz
Theme music composerJulian Harris
ComposerJulian Harris
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes26 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
  • Mo Willems
  • Steve Oakes
  • Susan Holden
  • David Starr
  • Richard Winkler (for Curious Pictures)
  • Linda Simensky
  • Jay Bastian
  • Khaki Jones (for Cartoon Network)
Producers
  • Kris Greengrove (season 1)
  • Bruce Knapp (season 2)
EditorDave Courter
Running time22 minutes
Production companiesCurious Pictures
Cartoon Network
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Release
Original networkCartoon Network
Original releaseNovember 17, 2000 (2000-11-17) –
April 7, 2002 (2002-04-07)
Chronology
Related showsThe Off-Beats

Sheep in the Big City is an American animated television series created by Mo Willems for Cartoon Network, and the 9th of the network's Cartoon Cartoons. The series' pilot first premiered as part of Cartoon Network's "Cartoon Cartoon Summer" on August 18, 2000, before its official debut on November 17, 2000.[1]

Willems previously created The Off-Beats for Nickelodeon's KaBlam! before working on this animated show. The series follows a runaway sheep named Sheep in his new life in "the Big City", where he tries to avoid a secret military organization.[2] It also features several unrelated sketches and shorts, similar to those from The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends.[3] With an emphasis on sophisticated (in particular, literal) humor, using different forms of rhetoric from characters to plots, it included comic references to filmmaking and television broadcasting.

At the time, the premiere of Sheep in the Big City was the highest-rated premiere for a Cartoon Network original series.[4]

The animation services for the series were handled by the Korean animation studio Rough Draft Korea. This was Cartoon Network's first original series produced by the animation studio Curious Pictures, who would later go on to produce Codename: Kids Next Door in 2002.

Premise

Sheep lives happily on a farm with his friends. Unfortunately, a Secret Military Organization, led by General Specific, needs Sheep for its Sheep-Powered Ray Gun (with a sheep-shaped hole in it).

General Specific will get Sheep at any cost, and, knowing that the farm is at stake, Sheep is forced to leave for the big city. Now Sheep is on the run from General Specific, who is assisted by his henchmen, Private Public, the Angry Scientist (who in the show is often wrongly referred to as "Mad Scientist"), a bunch of other military types, and the Plot Device.

In addition, Sheep has to come to grips with the Big City and trying to romance his love, Swanky the Poodle. All the while, he has to avoid the attentions of a host of unwelcome characters — Lisa Rentel and Swanky's owner, the sheep-hating Lady Richington, wielding a stainless-steel wig.

Characters

Production

Series creator Mo Willems began his career doing stage comedy in the 1980s, but he had also wanted to be an artist. Willems would recall this in a 2001 interview, stating, "My desire as a kid was to find a way to be funny and draw. Animation turned out to be the best way for me to do that."[5] After graduating from New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Willems began making short films for Sesame Street and writing for The Muppets.[5] He would also work on Nickelodeon's short-form animated series The Off-Beats, which had a similar art style to Sheep in the Big City.[5] Willems has stated that the work of Pablo Picasso has influenced his art style.[5]

Sheep in the Big City was broadcast alongside a number of potential series pilots during Cartoon Network's "Cartoon Cartoon Summer" marathon on August 18, 2000. The series was greenlit and would go on to broadcast for two seasons.

Style

The show usually begins with a completely unrelated clip, which turns out to be a show that Sheep is watching. Sheep presses a button on his remote to change the channel, which segues into the theme song.

Each episode is divided into three chapters; each one's title, as the narrator once quipped, is "some pun on the word 'sheep' or something": in the episode "To Sheep, Perchance to Dream!", one of the chapters was actually named "Some Pun on the Word 'Sheep'".

Fake advertisements are in between the chapters, and sometimes short skits, such as the Sombrero Brothers. The fake advertisements are usually of products from Oxymoron with Victor the spokesperson promoting it. Each product is usually of low quality (contrary to what one may think) or causes pain in some way.

The show's most unusual characteristic is its frequent breaking of the fourth wall. For instance, the vast majority of the characters make references to the show's structure, script, and, occasionally, its premise. For example, in episode 8, when General Specific finally captures Sheep, the Angry Scientist states that he didn't actually have the Ray Gun ready, thinking that they would never capture Sheep due to it "being so contrary to the set-up of the show". The Narrator is also a pivotal character, frequently interacting with the characters via voice-over (and sometimes directly, when other characters unexpectedly show up in his studio). He also criticizes the television medium itself (such as the fact that two-thirds of the final episode of the first season was actually composed of dream sequences) and the script, occasionally ad-libbing when he does not quite understand the script. He also tells the viewer to "just go with it" when the script seems to make no sense.

Literal humor is also important to the show's style. Phrases and expressions such as "Hold the phone!" or "wild goose chase" are usually followed by literal interpretations of the phrase mentioned. A running gag in the show, for example, is that whenever a character exclaims "Great Scott!" a Scotsman appears out of nowhere, saying, "Yes?" Another example is that whenever the phrase "Hold the phone!" is said, it would cut to a still of Lisa Rentel holding a phone.

Episodes

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
Pilot August 18, 2000 (2000-08-18)
1 13 November 17, 2000 (2000-11-17)[6] July 29, 2001 (2001-07-29)[7]
2 13 December 2, 2001 (2001-12-02)[8] April 7, 2002 (2002-04-07)[9]

Pilot (2000)

No. Title Directed & Written by Original air date Prod.
code
Pilot"In the Baa-ginning"Mo WillemsAugust 18, 2000 (2000-08-18)[10]000

Sheep leaves Farmer John's farm in pursuit of a happy life in the big city.

Guest Stars: Christine Walters

Season 1 (2000–01)

No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date Prod.
code
1"Be Still My Bleat-ing Heart!"Karen VillarrealMo WillemsNovember 17, 2000 (2000-11-17)[6]101

Sheep falls in love with a poodle named Swanky. Unfortunately, Swanky's owner, Lady Richington, hates sheep.

Guest Stars: Christine Walters
2"To Bleat or Not to Bleat!"Mike de SeveMo WillemsNovember 24, 2000 (2000-11-24)102
A girl named Lisa Rentel "saves" Sheep from General Specific so that she can keep him as a pet against his will.
3"Belle of the Baaaah!"Maurice JoyceDavid WainDecember 1, 2000 (2000-12-01)103
Sheep gets more than he bargained for when he accidentally swallows a diamond and becomes the center of the town's attention.
4"Going Off the Sheep End!"Sue PerrottoJoey MazzarinoDecember 8, 2000 (2000-12-08)104
Sheep tries to get Swanky's attention by making changes to himself.
5"Home for the Baaa-lidays!"Karen VillarrealMo WillemsDecember 29, 2000 (2000-12-29)106
Sheep returns to the farm for the holidays, with General Specific in hot pursuit.
6"Can't Live Without Ewe!"Karen VillarrealMo WillemsJanuary 12, 2001 (2001-01-12)105
Sheep enters a fake sheep convention set up by the military wearing a mustache. Farmer John misses him, and hires the German Shepherd to bring Sheep home.
7"15 Muttons of Fame!"Maurice JoyceMo WillemsJanuary 26, 2001 (2001-01-26)107
When an agent for a dish washing commercial discovers Sheep, he decides to become a model to avoid General Specific. However, he might have to sacrifice his friends in the process.
8"The Agony of De-Bleat!"Sue PerrottoMo WillemsMarch 2, 2001 (2001-03-02)108
General Specific finally captures Sheep and fires all of his soldiers. However, the crew decides to free Sheep to get their jobs back.
9"Baaa-ck in Time!"Karen VillarrealJoey MazzarinoMarch 23, 2001 (2001-03-23)109
Sheep travels through time to find a better life.
10"Fleeced to Meet You!"Maurice JoyceMo WillemsJune 10, 2001 (2001-06-10)110
General Specific hires X-Agent to befriend Sheep and entrap him so they can use him for the sheep powered ray gun. X-Agent successfully entraps Sheep but later changes his mind because he realizes that friendship with Sheep mattered more.
11"A Star Is Shorn!"Maurice JoyceDavid WainJune 24, 2001 (2001-06-24)111
Sheep discovers his talent for spinning plates.
12"Mistaken Identi-Sheep!"Sue PerrottoJoey MazzarinoJuly 8, 2001 (2001-07-08)112
A sheep-like creature robs the town, while Sheep is blamed.
13"To Sheep, Perchance to Dream!"Karen VillarrealMo WillemsJuly 29, 2001 (2001-07-29)[7]113
An episode about the nightmares of people in the Big City.

Season 2 (2001–02)

No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date Prod.
code
14"Wish You Were Shear!"Karen VillarrealStory by: Mo Willems
Weird Bits by: Joey Mazzarino
December 2, 2001 (2001-12-02)[8]201

Sheep buys a bone for Swanky as an anniversary gift, but a dogcatcher (who mistakes Sheep for a dog due to the bone) throws him in the pound, where he is adopted by Lisa Rentel.

Guest Stars: Fran Brill, Christine Walters
15"Baah-Dern Times"Sue PerrottoMo WillemsDecember 9, 2001 (2001-12-09)202

With the entire cast of "Sheep in the Big City" sick, the audience shall instead, watch an old black-and-white silent film featuring the ancestors and relatives of the cast.

Guest Stars: Fran Brill
16"Flock, Up in the Sky!"Mr. WarburtonMo WillemsDecember 16, 2001 (2001-12-16)203

X-Agent returns and swears to protect Sheep from General Specific, but Sheep doesn't want his help.

Guest Stars: Christine Walters
17"My, How Ewe Have Changed!"Karen VillarrealMo WillemsDecember 23, 2001 (2001-12-23)204
Sheep is invited back to Farmer John's farm for a reunion.
18"The Wool of the People"Mr. WarburtonMo WillemsFebruary 10, 2002 (2002-02-10)205
General Specific cannot capture Sheep because of a law implemented by the mayor of the Big City, but with the current mayor leaving office, he campaigns to be the new mayor.
19"Party of the Shear!"Sue PerrottoMo WillemsFebruary 17, 2002 (2002-02-17)206
To escape the clutches of the secret military organization, Sheep enters a dance club which General Specific is "not cool enough for."
20"Daddy Shear-est!"Karen VillarrealMo WillemsFebruary 24, 2002 (2002-02-24)207

Private Public is visited by his father, General Public, who assists him in trying to capture Sheep.

Guest Stars: Jerry L. Nelson
21"The Wool Is Not Enough!"Sue PerrottoStory by: Mo Willems
Weird Bits by: David Wain
March 3, 2002 (2002-03-03)208
Tired of the Angry Scientist's failures, General Specific hires Dr. Oh No No No to help him capture Sheep. However, the doctor has own his agenda.
22"Beauty and the Bleats!"Mr. WarburtonMo WillemsMarch 10, 2002 (2002-03-10)209
Sheep is turned into a human-sheep hybrid by a Genie to get in Swanky's new mansion.
23"An Officer and a Gentle-lamb!"Karen VillarrealMo WillemsMarch 17, 2002 (2002-03-17)210

The military organization gets Sheep fired from his job as barber and he sets out to find a new job.

Guest Stars: Ruth Buzzi, Christine Walters
24"Oh, the Ewe-manity!"Sue PerrottoStory by: Mo Willems
Weird Bits by: Joey Mazzarino
March 24, 2002 (2002-03-24)211
General Specific cannot capture Sheep because he is too small for his net, so he makes him grow to the size of a giant using an enlarging ray.
25"Here Goes Mutton!"Mr. WarburtonStory by: Mo Willems
Weird Bits by: Joey Mazzarino & Mo Willems
March 31, 2002 (2002-03-31)212
Farmer John becomes a football player, while Sheep comes down with amnesia from a hit on the head.
26"Baa-hind the Scenes!"Karen VillarrealMo WillemsApril 7, 2002 (2002-04-07)[9]213

Sheep and his manager have a lunch meeting behind the scenes. General Specific tries to cancel the show, but is talked into leaving Sheep alone by the show's writer when he is threatened with being replaced by a new character.

Guest Stars: Christine Walters

Home media releases

The first season was available on iTunes. However, it was taken off of iTunes for unknown reasons. In the UK, 3 episodes (excluding the pilot) have been released on a DVD in region 2 format.[11] The pilot is on the Powerpuff Girls "Powerpuff Bluff" DVD and also on the Powerpuff Girls "Dream Scheme" VHS tape (although there was an intentional mislead on the back cover of the tape saying it has a bonus episode of fellow cartoon Courage the Cowardly Dog) to much amusement of the audience.

Other appearances

Sheep has a cameo role in the OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes crossover special "Crossover Nexus", as one of the many Cartoon Network heroes that was summoned and defeated by Strike.

References

  1. ^ "Cartoon Cartoon Summer". Cartoon Network. Archived from the original on August 15, 2000. Retrieved 2012-12-28.
  2. ^ Perlmutter, David (2018). The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 545. ISBN 978-1538103739.
  3. ^ Erickson, Hal (2005). Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1949 Through 2003 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Co. pp. 732–733. ISBN 978-1476665993.
  4. ^ "Eliciting a Sheepish Grin - Cartoon Network's campaign for Sheep in the City - Brief Article | Brandweek | Find Articles at BNET". Archived from the original on 2009-08-15. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  5. ^ a b c d Goodman, Martin (June 25, 2001). "Talking in His Sheep: A Conversation with Mo Willems". Animation World Network. Archived from the original on October 18, 2019. Retrieved 2019-10-17.
  6. ^ a b "Be Still My Bleating Heart". IMDb. Archived from the original on 2017-02-10.
  7. ^ a b "To Sheep, Perchance to Dream". IMDb. Archived from the original on 2017-02-10.
  8. ^ a b "Wish You Were Shear". IMDb. Archived from the original on 2017-02-10.
  9. ^ a b "Baa-hind the Scenes". IMDb. Archived from the original on 2017-02-10.
  10. ^ "In the Baa-ginning". IMDb. Archived from the original on 2017-02-10.
  11. ^ "SHEEP IN THE BIG CITY | British Board of Film Classification". Archived from the original on 2016-09-16. Retrieved 2016-09-04.