Wallace and Gromit creator in £150m Spielberg deal

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The Independent Online

Award-winning British animator Nick Park, and his co-directors at Britain's leading animation studio, have signed a deal believed to be worth more than £150m, with Steven Spielberg's company DreamWorks.

Award-winning British animator Nick Park, and his co-directors at Britain's leading animation studio, have signed a deal believed to be worth more than £150m, with Steven Spielberg's company DreamWorks.

It will give the Bristol-based Aardman Animation access to multi-million pound distribution, marketing and merchandising deals, and allow Mr Park and studio founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton to create many more jobs. Their studio, which produced the clay animation Wallace and Gromit films The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave , directed by Park, are already collaborating with DreamWorks on Chicken Run , the latest film from the studios, due for release next summer.

Now the two companies have signed an exclusive deal for four new feature films - one of the biggest deals ever done by a British studio - allowing the outfit complete creative control. Chicken Run , Aardman's first full-length feature film, shot entirely at the Bristol studios, is an escape movie with chickens and is set in a prisoner of war-style chicken farm in the north of England. It features the voices of Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Jane Horrocks, Timothy Spall and Phil Daniels.

Jeffrey Katzenberg co-founder of DreamWorks, said: "I could not be more thrilled about this new creative partnership, and I am very excited about exploring the many story-telling possibilities of this unique art form."

The first new project planned under the deal is tentatively titled The Tortoise and the Hare , inspired by the Aesop fable

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