April 2, 2007
Least surprising rebound ever. When DreamWorks and Aardman Features went their separate ways, right-thinking people realized that it was only a matter of time before someone inked a deal with the Bristol, UK studio. While it isn't a done deal as yet, it's looking like Aardman is inking a three-year first-look deal with Sony Pictures.
For my money, if you're Aardman and you've got to pair with someone for features, Sony is the place to go. While it would have been interesting to see Disney enter into a deal (thus covering their bases with hand-drawn, CGI, motion capture and stop-motion), the two companies' styles are so different I'd have howled if the two had even looked at each other coyly. Warner? They can't even promote the films they make themselves properly. And if we're looking at their Cartoon Network/Adult Swim division, then Aardman's relatively quiet British humour seems even more out of place. Same with Viacom—when it comes to features, if it doesn't feature boogers, obnoxious teens or lots of MTV-style editing, I don't think they'd care.
Sony, however, has spent years releasing foreign animated films (most of it their own anime like Steamboy and Metropolis, with the occasional Triplets of Belleville thrown in for good measure), and getting them into decent cinemas. They may not quite dominate the local kajillion-screen megaplex, but they get the movies out there more consistently than DreamWorks did with their anime releases. (Speaking of which, whatever happened to GoFish?)
I'm fixating on smaller releases because, as wonderful as Curse of the Were-Rabbit was, the fact is that it didn't pull the blockbuster numbers that DreamWorks wanted (or, given their investment, needed). Yet Chicken Run has shown that Aardman's got blockbuster chops. What Aardman needs is a distributor that understands that their material isn't necessarily created for an American audience, and while they can sometimes pull in $100 million-plus, that isn't always going to be the case. In short, a distributor who can be flexible. Sony's shown that they can do that.
This rebound relationship just might work out best for everyone.