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Interview: Miles Bullough on Aardman’s Future

// Interviews, News

Last weekend the UK animation scene was dealt another blow with the possible threat of Aardman animations future TV series being developed overseas. To all those worried about the effect of the UK governments lack of tax subsidies it was another blow to think that the flagship of the UK animation scene was considering upping sticks and moving to one of the many countries worldwide that has a thriving animation industry thanks to their own governments tax subsidies. Interviewed on BBC Radio Four, Miles Bullough, the head of broadcast for the Bristol studios, gave a rather damning assessment at the state of the industry which we summarised here.

Skwigly caught up with Miles Bullough to ask him more questions with regards to the worrying situation and to see what can be done to support UK animation.

How many current staff would Aardman loose if you had no choice but to go abroad to replace them?

An ‘average’ stop frame TV series employs between 30 to 60 people – most of these jobs would be at risk if we had to put the work overseas. In addition there are companies who supply Aardman – like set-builders – who would be affected and we also employ model makers, storyboard artists, designers etc all of whose jobs could be at risk if we are forced to do work overseas.

What effect would it have on Bristol and the community Aardman has developed over its History?

We won’t move Wallace and Gromit or Shaun the Sheep anywhere – but when we look at new shows, without government support its very hard to see how we can raise enough money to produce them in the UK or make money from them if we do manage to cover the budgets.

On the set of Shaun the Sheep. Copyright Aardman

Would Aardman ever consider switching some of its series, such as Shaun the Sheep to CGI like Bob the Builder or Fireman Sam to save costs?

No, we wouldn’t switch. We don’t have a problem with CGI and have made and are developing CGI shows – but we wouldn’t switch from one to the other.

What are the benefits of moving to a foreign country is it simply cost?

Yes, there is no reason to shift animation overseas other than to be able to produce it for a price that the market can bear. Subsidies for foreign producers have driven prices down to the extent that it has made UK production uneconomic. For us it’s the option of last resort – we would much prefer to do everything in Bristol but we are worried that no-one will be able to afford to buy our shows assuming we could afford to make them in the first place.

Do you think that the Aardmans style and spirit is at risk if you were to go abroad?

Absolutely – part of what makes us unique is the britishness of what we do, the understated humour, the subtext and background jokes that we add, the clever adult references that we add, the brilliant performances created by the animators trained here in Bristol.

People outside the world of animation who do not understand the situation may say that with a 15-20% tax credit for feature films, why don’t you just make more feature films?

What, and stop making TV series like Shaun the Sheep and Timmy Time? Aardman’s business is founded on success on TV– it’s how we find and develop our talent and train our crews.

How soon would we see a difference in terms of Jobs if the tax incentives were to be introduced?

A difference would be made in year 1 of the credit being introduced.

If the move were to go ahead what future do you see for UK animation as a whole?

If no government support is introduced for UK animation the shift overseas will continue, and the business in the UK will dwindle into nothing but a few ideas people making their ideas into series in Canada, Ireland, France and elsewhere.

What can people do to support the save UK animation cause?

Please sign the e-petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/21834

And if you see fatuous, ill-informed comments or miss-information, if you think the website it worthy, please consider posting a link to somewhere that has the facts straight, e.g. http://www.aardman.com/about-us/news-events/animation-tax-credits-in-the-media/

 

Have your say in the debate. Add your comments below and spread the word about both the government petition and the save UK animation cause.

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  • Really good article – nice to read to-the-point answers to these kind of questions

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