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Aardman Begins Production On PIRATES! And ARTHUR CHRISTMAS

CULVER CITY, Calif., April 27, 2009 – Aardman, the world's leading stop-frame animation studio, has begun production on their next two animated feature length motion-pictures, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS and PIRATES!, it was jointly announced today by Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of the studio, and David Sproxton and Peter Lord, co-founders of Aardman. Both films are to be released worldwide by Sony Pictures.

Commenting on the announcement, Lord said, "It's incredibly exciting to be moving forward on these two movies, and I'm thrilled to be back in the director's chair for Pirates! We love to work in different animation styles ands techniques, so we're producing ARTHUR CHRISTMAS in state-of-the-art CGI while for PIRATES! we're returning to our house style of hand-crafted modelling clay. The most important elements of any animated film are story and character, and we believe that in these films, we have characters to charm and stories to delight and engage."

PIRATES! - a swashbuckling adventure with a rich vein of surreal and broad comedy - is based upon The Pirates! (in an Adventure with Scientists), from the bestselling series of books by Gideon Defoe. The movie will be created with the same beautiful hand-crafted technique that Aardman brought to the feature films Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Chicken Run. The story follows the fortunes of a cheerful but hapless pirate band as they cross the seven seas in search of the thing pirates love best: adventure. And what greater adventure can there be than battling Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz in an attempt to win the coveted Pirate of the Year trophy? From the Caribbean, their journey takes them to Victorian London, where they encounter Charles Darwin, an articulate ‘man-panzee' named Mister Bobo, and an all-powerful enemy determined to wipe out pirates forever. The pirates find that their quest is a victory for good-natured optimism over the boring forces of common sense.

PIRATES! is directed by Peter Lord, a founding partner of Aardman, director of CHICKEN RUN (with Nick Park), and a two-time Academy Award® nominee for his short films at the company. The film is co-directed by Jeff Newitt. The screenplay is by Gideon Defoe, based upon his books. Producer is Julie Lockhart. Production Designer is Norman Garwood. Executive Producers are Carla Shelley, Peter Lord, and David Sproxton.

Production has also started on Aardman's highly ambitious computer-animated feature film, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. Set on Christmas night, the story at last reveals the incredible, never-before seen answer to every child's question: ‘So how does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?' Santa's exhilarating, ultra-high-tech operation revealed by the movie is on a massive scale that requires the creation of a huge CGI world. But the heart of the film is a story with the ingredients of a Christmas classic – a family at seasonal loggerheads and an unlikely hero with an urgent mission that must be completed before Christmas morning dawns. Aardman is working closely with Sony Pictures Imageworks on the animation for this CGI motion picture.

Directors of ARTHUR CHRISTMAS are Sarah Smith and Barry Cook. The screenplay is by Peter Baynham (an Academy Award® nominee for Borat) and Sarah Smith. Producer is Cheryl Abood. Co-Producer Steve Pegram. Production Designer is Evgeni Tomov. Executive Producers are Carla Shelley, Peter Lord and David Sproxton.

Smith said, "This is a very exciting animation venture. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS is an epic comedy action adventure, with a cast of a million elves and the whole world as its location! The ambition we share with Sony is to make a CG movie with world-class production values, but also a comedy heart and charm that could only come from Aardman. It's the first time we've set up a feature length CGI film creatively here in Bristol and we are attracting a fantastic team of CG artists from around the world to add to the talent we already have within the company. What's attracting them is not only the reputation of the studio, but also our magic ingredient – a wholly original but "classic" Christmas story for the whole family.'

In 2007, Sony Pictures entered into a three-year, first-look deal with Aardman Features. The Aardman pact complements the strong slate of programming being created by Sony Pictures Animation, which debuted with OPEN SEASON and SURF'S UP and will next release the highly anticipated 3-D adventure CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS.

Aardman's highly creative stop-motion style and creative sensibilities have proven popular with critics and audiences around the world. In 2000, CHICKEN RUN, their debut feature, took in nearly $225 million worldwide; since then, WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT grossed nearly $200 million and FLUSHED AWAY, their first CG feature, earned $176 million. All three films have achieved enormous critical acclaim, with the three films earning a total of 27 Annie Award nominations (the animation community's highest honor). In addition, WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT was honored with the Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature.

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Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group
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