ITS animators have won Academy Awards for series including Wallace and Gromit and Creature Comforts, producing films such as Chicken Run and even Tony Hart's Plasticine character Morph. But the latest Aardman Animations film will be produced by some less well-known artists: thousands of primary school children.
The British animation company is working with the Tate Gallery to produce the first Tate movie – a 20-minute animated film drawn entirely by children aged between five and 11.
Aardman said it wanted to encourage creativity in children by helping them to design characters and backgrounds, record sounds and voices and contribute individually.
"In this age of the creative economy where ideas are the driving force, discovering and nurturing creative ideas in children is of vital importance," said David Sproxton, the company's co-founder. "We want children to be involved at every level, and believe that the spontaneity and creativity of the children combined with our professional film-making team will create a film that is as inspiring as it is entertaining."
The film, which Aardman is producing alongside the independent charity Legacy Trust UK and the creative agency Fallon, will be showcased at the Tate Modern. Organisers hope to see it in around 50 cinemas nationwide.
A Tate spokesman said: "This is about giving children the tools they need to produce something fantastic. We hope this will be an award-winning work."
The Aardman production team will hold seven workshops with primary school children across the country in a bid to decide a storyline for the film. After the storyline sessions, a team of professional animators will continue to hold about 35 workshops on animation with 6,000 children. Organisers will set up a website, fronted by an animated director who will invite children to send in their drawings and vote on which ideas they prefer.
The movie, to be directed by Sarah Cox and produced by Helen Argo, will be filmed as a 3D animation, and it is hoped that as many as one million children will contribute. A test animation was completed recently, featuring schoolchildren from Bristol.
"The children will write the storyline and draw all of the D pictures for the film, which our animators will then copy exactly, cut out and set in 3D space for filming," said the executive producer, Heather Wright. "The cut-outs will be built up like a 3D stage with foreground and background, and the camera will be in among it, giving it real depth. We want lots of colourful backgrounds, which should give as many of the children as possible a chance to feature," she added.
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In addition, the team will be distributing digital teaching packs to all primary schools, in a bid to get children interested in animation. Other Aardman names, though not on board, are supportive, Ms Wright said.
Peter Lord, an Aardman co-founder, is working on The Pirates!, his first film since Chicken Run. Nick Park, the creator of Wallace and Gromit, is busy writing new material for the studio.
The partners are looking for additional funding to help with the running costs of the film, which they hope will be completed by autumn 2011.
Aardman Animations: Oscar nominations
n Creature Comforts (1989). Nominated for Best Animated Short.
*Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers (1993). Won Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.
n Adam (1993). Nominated for Best Animated Short Film.
*Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave (1995). Won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.
n Wat's Pig (1996). Nominated for Best Animated Short Film.
n Humdrum (1998). Won Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.
n Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005). Won Best Animated Feature Oscar.
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