Animation studio axes 90 jobs after delaying movie

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An Oscar-winning animation studio axed 90 jobs last night after revealing that production of its latest project will be delayed for six months.

The Bristol-based Aardman Animation, which won Oscars for its two Wallace and Gromit films, said extra script work was needed on its new film Tortoise vs Hare, which is based on an Aesop's fable.

Some 172 people have been employed on the film, thought to have cost around £25m, and the job cuts are to be made across the board, including animators and camera staff.

The cast includes the British film stars Bob Hoskins and Brenda Blethyn, as well as the comedian Lee Evans.

An Aardman spokesman, Arthur Sheriff, said that the company was "devastated" at having to make the job cuts and stressed that this was simply a hiatus.

"We would rather put the film on hold for six months and sort it out than produce an average film," Mr Sheriff said.

"Aardman have such high quality control that they will not allow a film to go forward that's not as good as our last movie, if not better. The problem is with the script; it's not developed enough.

"We believe we can make Tortoise vs Hare into a superb film; we just need a little more time. So far we don't feel we have got it 100 per cent."

On smaller projects the workers would be used on other productions and the job losses absorbed, but it was impossible to have 90 people sitting around without using up the entire film budget, he said.

"We hope that in less than six months every one of those people will be back employed."

The announcement came two days after a visit by the Prince of Wales to the animation studios, after several fund-raising initiatives for the new Bristol's children's hospital.

Aardman's Wallace and Gromit films The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave won Oscars for the animation artist and director Nick Park, who also had huge success with Chicken Run last year.