Aardman, British Film Institute to Help Develop Animated Films

The 'Shaun of the Sheep' studio and the film organization will help develop up to three feature-length animated projects

Aardman Animations, the Academy Award-winning U.K. animation studio behind Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, has partnered with the British Film Institute to help develop new feature films and creative talent.

In an announcement made Friday, the partners said the new scheme would be backed by $1.61 million of support from the U.K.'s National Lottery funding and would help three filmmakers or filmmaking teams work on their projects through a new BFI Aardman Animation Development Lab.

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"Feature animation is the ideal medium for filmmakers," said Aardman co-founder Peter Lord. "It allows us to reach the widest possible cinema audience, in terms of age and demographic, without compromising our standard or patronizing our viewers. It offers magnificent scope for the fundamental film skills of cinematography, design, editing and performance."

Ben Roberts, director of the BFI Film Fund, added that animated features came at a cost that sometimes limited opportunities.

"Tapping into that Aardman brain to work in depth on a small number of carefully chosen projects from promising filmmakers is a great opportunity for us to move some exciting and commercially appealing work closer to reality," he said.

Animation has become a dominant force at the U.K. box office. The Boxtrolls recently held onto the top spot for two weeks, while The Lego Movie is 2014's biggest film in Britain to-date. Last year, animated features represented more than 20 percent of total U.K. box-office receipts, earning $419 million.

The closing date for applications to the BFI Aardman Animation Development Lab is Nov. 28.