Aardman/Sony Pics Announced

As Sony Pictures struggles to compete in the fierce CG feature field, the studio is banking on Aardman Features to deliver a string of hits under their three-year first-look deal. Aardman has unveiled plans to make a stop-motion heist pic titled The Cat Burglars, an adaptation of Gideon Defoe’s The Pirates! book series and a Christmas toon dubbed Operation Rudolph.

Steve Box, who co-directed the Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit with Nick Park, will helm Cat Burglars. Scribes Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah (Life on Mars) have been tapped to script the story about stray cats pulling off an elaborate milk heist in Ocean’s Eleven style. Box says the animated family film will bring a Quentin Tarantino twist to the talking animal genre.

The Pirates! Pic will be Aardman co-founder Peter Lord’s first directorial effort since the 2000 clay-animated DreamWorks release Chicken Run. Defoe, whose novels chronicle the absurd adventures of Pirate Captain and crew as they encounter such historical and literary figures as Charles Darwin and Captain Ahab, is collaborating on the film’s script with Lord and writers Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil (Hyperdrive, Slacker Cats).

Operation Rudolph will depict Santa’s North Pole as a high-tech military-like installation that relies on precision timing and a highly skilled army of elves to get presents to boys and girls around the world on Chirstmas night. Oscar-nominated Borat scribe Peter Baynham is developing the action-adventure-comedy while Nick Park works on a fourth project, details of which are being kept under wraps. All Aardman is saying at this point is that it’s not a Wallace and Gromit sequel.

Aardman Features creative director Sarah Smith was recently promoted from head of development to supervise the slate of new projects. Best known for its signature style of clay animation the toon shop ended its partnership with DreamWorks Animation last year after the plasticine Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit and the CG-animated Flushed Away failed to make a splash with North American moviegoers. Likewie, Sony Pictures Animation’s first two digital animation pics, Open Season and Surf’s Up, have missed the bully box office waves ridden by such recent hits as Pixar’s Cars, Warner Bros.’ Happy Feet and DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek the Third.