'Shaun the Sheep' Drives Theme Park, Live Performance Profits for Aardman

Shaun the Sheep - H 2015
Courtesy of Lionsgate

“We haven’t made that much money from the film as of yet from the box office,” said co-founder David Sproxton at the Annecy Animation Film Festival.

David Sproxton and Peter Lord, co-founders of Aardman Animations, say that the company’s $106 million-grossing Shaun the Sheep Movie has served more as a marketing tool for the company as it expands into amusement parks and family entertainment centers in the Middle East and Asia. 

“We haven’t made that much money from the film as of yet from the box office,” Sproxton said of the Studiocanal-backed film, adding that television rights and internet downloads bring in more income for the company than movie ticket sales.  

The Ardman pair discussed their small studio's business strategy Tuesday during their keynote speech at the Annecy Animation Film Festival in France.

“One of the reasons we made the Shaun the Sheep Movie was to increase awareness and keep that franchise going and make it part of Aardman’s business approach,” said Lord. That followed the success of the Wallace and Gromit property, which vastly grew the merchandising rights side of the business, he added.

The Shaun the Sheep property is now being licensed for what is called “family entertainment” complexes in those regions and is the company’s most successful character — outshining the ever-popular Wallace and Gromit characters.

“Shaun as a character has been taken on worldwide and that drives income,” said Sproxton. It’s particularly strong in the Middle East and Asia, where the shopping mall has been crowned entertainment’s king and theaters with live shows are the complexes' hidden gems. They have created a 15-minute live show for Asia that has been a hit in China and Indonesia, and drew 30,000 people in five days in Japan alone.

“We’ve also done a 50-minute live singing show with Shaun” that has launched in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, said Sproxton. He joked that a "Shaun on Ice" production might be in the works. 

Shaun has traveled particularly well as nothing is lost in translation — the title character doesn’t speak. “There was nothing cynical about that decision,” said Lord. “[The story] was never human-centric. That’s just how it developed.”

He added the company is fully diversified across its feature films, series, digital works and commercials. “It extends to all of that now. When we started it was only TV series, but we’ve evolved,” said Lord.