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Aardman Partners with Sony for Christmas, Pirates

Stop-motion animation studio Aardman has begun production on their next two animated feature length motion-pictures, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS and PIRATES!. Both films are to be released worldwide by Sony Pictures.

PIRATES! will be produced in Aardman's house style of hand-crafted modeling clay, while ARTHUR CHRISTMAS will be co-produced with Sony Pictures Imageworks in CGI.

PIRATES! -- a swashbuckling adventure with a rich vein of surreal and broad comedy -- is based upon THE PIRATES! (IN AN ADVENTURE WITH SCIENTISTS), from the bestselling series of books by Gideon Defoe. The movie will be created with the same hand-crafted technique that Aardman brought to the feature films WALLACE AND GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT and CHICKEN RUN.

The story follows the fortunes of a cheerful but hapless pirate band as they cross the seven seas in search of the thing pirates love best: adventure. And what greater adventure can there be than battling Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz in an attempt to win the coveted Pirate of the Year trophy? From the Caribbean, their journey takes them to Victorian London, where they encounter Charles Darwin, an articulate 'man-panzee' named Mister Bobo, and an all-powerful enemy determined to wipe out pirates forever. The pirates find that their quest is a victory for good-natured optimism over the boring forces of common sense.

PIRATES! is directed by Peter Lord, a founding partner of Aardman, director of CHICKEN RUN (with Nick Park), and a two-time Academy Award nominee for his short films at the company. The film is co-directed by Jeff Newitt. The screenplay is by Gideon Defoe, based upon his books. Producer is Julie Lockhart. Production Designer is Norman Garwood. Exec Producers are Carla Shelley, Lord, and David Sproxton.

Production has also started on Aardman's computer-animated feature film, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. Set on Christmas night, the story at last reveals the incredible, never-before seen answer to every child's question: "How does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?" Santa's exhilarating, ultra-high-tech operation revealed by the movie is on a massive scale that requires the creation of a huge CGI world.

Directors of ARTHUR CHRISTMAS are Sarah Smith and Barry Cook. The screenplay is by Peter Baynham (an Academy Award nominee for BORAT) and Smith. Producer is Cheryl Abood. Co-Producer Steve Pegram. Production Designer is Evgeni Tomov. Executive Producers are Shelley, Lord and Sproxton.

In 2007, Sony Pictures entered into a three-year, first-look deal with Aardman Features. The Aardman pact complements the strong slate of programming being created by Sony Pictures Animation, which debuted with OPEN SEASON and SURF'S UP and will next release the 3-D adventure CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS.

In 2000, CHICKEN RUN, Aardman's debut feature, took in nearly $225 million worldwide; since then, WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT grossed nearly $200 million and FLUSHED AWAY, their first CG feature, earned $176 million. All three films have achieved enormous critical acclaim, with the three films earning a total of 27 Annie Award nominations. In addition, WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT was honored with the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

-- By News Editor Annemarie Moody