Aardman Animation, the stop-motion studio behind the Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit shorts and Chicken Run, has brokered a new deal that puts ownership of the studio in the hands of its devoted team of employees. Founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton, who started the company in 1972, has ordered 75% of shares placed into a trust, where they will be held for Aardman’s workers.
Lord and Sproxton have no plans for retiring anytime soon, but they wanted to shift their priorities at the company. Lord said, “We’ve spent so much time building this company up and being so profoundly attached to it. It’s not a business to us, it’s everything, it’s our statement to the world. Having done that for so many years, the last thing we wanted to do was to just flog it off to someone.”
Sproxton added, “And we wanted to make sure they are all engaged in this employee ownership as well,” assuring their team that they won’t be in danger of a big studio buyout. Both men are committed to keeping Aardman’s uniquely close-knit culture. “There’s no real concern about the culture of the people, it’s just an asset that can be sold on in years to come,” he said of a corporate acquisition.
The studio is located in Bristol, U.K., where a team of 130 staffers run the beloved stop-motion animation company. During production, that number can swell to nearly three times that size for a feature-length film. Aardman is currently in production on Farmageddon: A Shaun the Sheep Movie, which will be followed by the long-awaited Chicken Run 2.
Sproxton and Lord will join director Nick Park on Aardman’s new executive board of directors. Park, who has been with the company since its early days, directed the Oscar winning Wallace & Gromit shorts, which include The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave and the film The Curse of The Were-Rabbit, which won Best Animated Feature in 2005. Park and Lord co-directed 2000’s Chicken Run, which remains the highest-grossing stop motion animated film of all time.
Lord said of his and Sproxton’s future with the company, “We’re not quitting yet, we are doing this because we love the company and because we love it we think this will be the best things for it. This is not about David and I leaving. It is a continuity deal. We always believed that independence was our strong suit. We didn’t have to dance to anybody else’s tune and could make our own decisions.”
This move towards continued independence and self reliance follows Aardman’s carefully hand-made approach their projects. Their films are beloved for their handcrafted aesthetic and their commitment to British humor and culture. Their latest move to share ownership ensures that Aardman will remain as charming and unique as they always have been.
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