Wallace and Gromit maker warns UK animators may have to move abroad


The director of Aardman, the Oscar-winning British studio after Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, has cautioned that the nation’s animation productions for children’s television will have to make overseas because critical challenges are bringing their toll on the UK sector.
Sean Clarke, Aardman’s control director, said the company struggles with everything from heavy matches from other countries on tax reserves to bad skills need.

“Children’s television is suffering, and what’s created in this country will go off the rim of a cliff in the next two years unless something is done,” he said. The ideas will still be conceived there, but they’ll make elsewhere.
Animation tax replacement has become less competitive in the UK. Ireland, France, Canada, and Spain’s Canary Islands offer comfort between 37% and 50%, compared with only 25% in Britain.
Clarke said he had the Spanish calling him all the time, saying: Why don’t he reach the Canaries, where it’s up to 50%? They had to consider it.

Aardman could not have completed its television classics if it had met today’s acute challenges. He said they created Shaun the Sheep 15 years ago and produced 150 episodes. The terrain is now very different, and if Aardman were beginning today, it would be tough to make Shaun the Sheep in this land.
“It’s a continuous battle of how you raise money. It’s intensified at the moment because many countries are more competitive with tax credits and are building infrastructure in both studios and training. Training books in this country, and there is no infrastructure to train and encourage the next generation of talent for film and television.

“We’ve had to set up our academy over the last ten years to train people because graduates from colleges and colleges are not production-ready.”
He expressed as the government was conducting a talk on audio-visual tax reserves, due to finish on 9 February.
Aardman was based on kitchen flats in Bristol better than 40 years ago by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, who found Nick Park while he was a student. Their collaborations, including A Grand Day Out, the first of their Wallace and Gromit hits utilizing stop-motion plasticine and CGI productions, have won over 100 awards, including four Oscars.

Forthcoming outs retain the Chicken Run sequel and the first Wallace and Gromit immersive knowledge, enabling digital symbols to appear in front of viewers wearing headsets.
While Aardman’s name opens doors and has financial reserves, it fears that other characters will have to move shows overseas, leading to a dwindling pool of UK animators.
Clarke blamed Brexit for making it more difficult to bring over European animators and losing access to vital European media budget. He also complained about the UK government’s determination to prevent the Young Audiences Content Fund, despite its victory in promoting homegrown display.

He said that if you don’t have access to funding, you have to make your budgets smaller or sell rights in your task. What you’d likely lose is the creation of an individual like Aardman that said: ‘We’re going to create a children’s TV sequel about Shaun the Sheep, and we’re going to create the barriers about doing a series where no one talks.’ When we did that, we told, ‘You can’t do that,’ but we did, and it’s become incredibly successful.”
Recalling a rambling 2021 speech in which Boris Johnson, the then prime minister, spoke of Peppa Pig, Clarke said: “Look at the animation characters that we’ve created in this country – Peppa Pig, Teletubbies, Bob the Builder. None of them are owned by British companies now.

Peppa Pig owns by [US toy company] Hasbro and is one of the most successful preschool characters of all time. So you have tens of millions of pounds of value leaving the UK.”
Acknowledging that hospitals and schools are among the clear priorities for the nation, he added: “I’m talking about an investment that has a clear, tangible return on it. The Young Audience Fund was £40m over three years and, in terms of the economic value to the UK, it forecast to create £320m by 2027, not to mention jobs and the cultural benefit of UK-produced shows.”

Kate O’Connor, the director of Animation UK, representing the industry, said: “Business challenges affecting the animation sector have changed dramatically. Other countries have put some eye-catching tax reliefs in place. We’re not asking for handouts but to be competitive in the global marketplace.
“Tax relief is a handy fiscal lever, but the UK rate is wrong for animation. There’s huge investment going into animation globally, while there’s been declining investment in UK-originated content and diminishing program hours on public service broadcasting channels … we’re just going to lose out.”

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Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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