Aardman ups Smith, announces pic slate

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Aardman Animations COO Stephen Moore unveiled details of the company's new slate Monday following the promotion of development head Sarah Smith to Aardman features creative director.

Smith, who joined Aardman as head of development in 2006, has led the development of a portfolio of feature film projects for both stop-frame and CG animation.

In her new role, Smith will continue to supervise these projects, the first slate announcement since Aardman unveiled a three-year, first-look deal with Sony in April.

Titles in development include "The Cat Burglars," a comedy-action caper billed as "family-friendly Tarantino," combining the cool of "Ocean's Eleven" with the comedy action of Wallace and Gromit.

The stop-frame clay animation follows a gang of milk-pilfering stray cats as they attempt to pull off their biggest heist and is scripted by Emmy-winning writers Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah.

"Borat" writer Peter Baynham is working on the quirky Christmas action-adventure "Operation Rudolph," about the ultra-high-tech military planning required by Santa's elves to make sure Christmas gets off without a hitch.

Aardman co-founder Peter Lord, meanwhile, will return to hands-on directing for the first time since "Chicken Run" with "Pirates," a comedy adventure based on two books by writer Gideon Defoe.

Lord will work on the screenplay with Defoe as well as writers Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil. A new, non-"Wallace and Gromit" feature from director Nick Park also is in the pipeline.
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