Amazon today announced it had snagged a U.S. content licensing agreement with Aardman Animations that will make Prime Instant Video the exclusive subscription streaming home for the TV and short film series Wallace & Gromit, Shaun The Sheep, Timmy Time and classic animation Rex The Runt. In addition, new shows from the Shaun The Sheep and Timmy Time series will be added to Prime Instant Video, including Seasons 3 and 4 of Shaun The Sheep, the Shaun The Sheep: Championsheeps special, and two new Timmy Time specials.
Former Aardman Animation Creative Director Sarah Smith is branching out on her own, creating the UK’s first dedicated high-end CG feature animation studio, Locksmith Animation. The new shingle’s focus will be on creating a long-term slate of CG-animated pics for a worldwide audience. Locksmith has received backing from Elisabeth Murdoch, who is the principle shareholder and made the investment in a personal capacity, as well as VFX house Double Negative which will collaborate closely with the company. This is a major development in the UK toon sector following the introduction of the animation tax credit last year.
Smith made her animation debut as director and co-writer of 2011′s Arthur Christmas, and co-exec produced The Pirates! Band Of Misfits in 2012. Her other credits include producing UK TV series The League Of Gentlemen, and several collaborations with Armando Iannucci. She joined Aardman in 2006. Double Negative, a major player in Britain’s bustling VFX arena, counts credits that include The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Les Misérables, Fast & Furious 6, Captain Phillips, Rush, Man Of Steel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Transcendence and Godzilla. Smith said today, “With animated films among the most beloved and successful movies in the world, but still only a handful of producers out there, the UK offers Locksmith a unique opportunity, including a world class CG Visual FX industry, brilliant comedy writers and …
Aardman Animations is modifying a scene in its upcoming stop-motion 3D pic The Pirates! Band Of Misfits (UK title: The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists) following objections from leprosy groups including Lepra Health In Action and the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP). The swashbuckler is voiced by Hugh Grant, Jeremy Piven, David Tennant, Salma Hayek and others. In a scene in the trailer that was released in December, Grant’s Pirate Captain lands on a ship demanding gold, but is told by a crew member, “Afraid we don’t have any gold old man, this is a leper boat. See,” and with that, his arm falls off. The leprosy orgs were concerned such a scene could increase stigma and discrimination for disease sufferers. An Aardman spokeman gave Deadline the following statement this morning: “After reviewing the matter, we decided to change the scene out of respect and sensitivity for those who suffer from leprosy. The last thing anyone intended was to offend anyone
‘Arthur Christmas’ Slays ‘Em In The UK
Sony Pictures Animation and Aardman’s Arthur Christmas jumped to the top of the UK box office this weekend – in its fourth week of release. This bit of holiday magic came courtesy of a £1.9 million weekend take for a cume of £11.5 million. The film has been holding steady in second place since it bowed on November 11 and this weekend faced off against Happy Feet Two for the family audience. Largely positive notices and the British voice cast — including James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton — have no doubt been a local draw. Sony Pictures Releasing UK’s Peter Taylor said: “Opening a movie at No. 1 in such a competitive market as the UK is difficult enough, but to reach the top of the chart in the fourth week of release is almost unprecedented. We are all delighted.”
Tom Hooper Decides Against 3D For ‘Les Miserables’
Although director Tom Hooper flirted with the idea of filming the new movie version of the hit stage musical Les Miserables in 3D, the Oscar-winning helmer of The King’s Speech has decided to stick with 2D. Hooper told the BBC he had been “very tempted” to use 3D but worried that some audiences might “physically struggle” with the format. Not to worry, purists. “I can definitely announce it’s good old-fashioned 2D,” Hooper said at the British Independent Film Awards. “I wanted to make a film that would touch everyone. I believe the story is so strong, 3D is not essential.” Hooper added that the casting of Eponine and Cosette would be announced soon. “I’ve never done a film where big star actors are as obsessed with being in it as this.” Starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and Russell Crowe as Javert,
They join Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton for Aardman’s first movie under its 3-year Sony Pictures Animation deal. The 3D CG film is slated for release on November 23 of next year. Set on Christmas night, the film’s story reveals the answer to every child’s question: “How does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?” McAvoy leads the cast as Arthur, Santa’s youngest son, while Laurie plays his older brother Steve, who runs Christmas night with military-style precision. Sony is also in production with Aardman on The Pirates!
Aardman, the animation company which makes the Oscar-winning cartoon duo, saw its profits fall from £1,061,408 to £469,243 ($747,826) in 2009. But at least it made a profit, Aardman stresses. It was reported here over the weekend that the company had made a whopping £2.5 million loss. That’s because we journos looked in the wrong column of Aardman’s profit-and-loss account, finance director Kerry Lock tells me. Aardman has been dragged down by its TV commercials division reporting its lowest income for 5 years plus an expensive move into its new Bristol headquarters. Because of the way the 20% UK film tax credit works, it makes reporting year-end accounts much more complicated, Lock says. Aardman is owed £2.9 million in tax credits, which will convert the £2.5 million loss reported in one column into the £469,243 profit reported in another. The animator’s in the middle of production on two new Sony movies: Arthur Christmas and Pirates. It’s due to deliver Arthur Christmas by the end of 2011 and Pirates in 2012. The company generated a 59% increase in turnover last year to £31.6 million.