For weeks I’d been hearing that Universal was going to make this deal. Instead, Sony Pictures today announced it’s in final negotiations for a three-year run with Aardman Features, the claymation toon shop (Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run). The pact further expands Sony’s so far successful foray into the animation and family feature biz. Sony’s Open Season was a gutty little toon in 2006, and the studio has the CG feature Surf’s Up coming soon. Aardman used to work closely with DreamWorks. Stephen Moore, COO of Aardman and Head of Aardman Features said in the press release that, over the past 18 months, Aardman has been looking to create a “new vision” with an expanded development slate, increased production and plans to introduce new technical capabilities at its facility in Bristol, England. In 2000, Chicken Run, Aardman’s debut feature, took in nearly $225 million worldwide for DreamWorks. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit grossed nearly $200 million and won the Best Animated Picture Oscar. But Flushed Away, Aardman’s first CG feature may have earned $176 million but the pic cost a lot, lot, more than the others — in the neighborhood of $130+ mil compared to the previous $50+ mil. It’s a good deal for Sony if, and only if, Aardman can hold down the costs of its toons.