Aardman Animations, the UK company behind Wallace & Gromit, may be forced to make its next TV cartoon series in either Ireland or Germany. Miles Bullough, head of broadcast of Bristol-based Aardman, tells me he may have no option but to produce Ploo, Aardman’s latest $3 million-$5 million pre-school animation series, outside of Britain. This is because unlike Canada, France and other countries, there are no UK tax breaks for animated TV. It hopes Chancellor George Osborne, the politician in charge of UK finances, will announce a tax break later this month. Aardman is lobbying for the UK film tax credit — worth 15%-20% of the cost of production — to be extended to children’s animation. The company must decide whether to make Ploo overseas by the end of March. For a company as British as Wensleydale cheese and afternoon tea, it is a decision Bullough hates having to make. “For us to consider moving overseas is wrong, but unless we get a level playing field we will have to consider going,” he said. “Prime Minister David Cameron and arts minister Ed Vaizey both came to visit and gave us a sympathetic hearing, but you never know with politicians.”
Animation UK, the lobbyist organizing the campaign, estimates that extending the film tax credit to kids animation would cost $29 million a year. Aardman says it could cut around 25% off its production costs if it does move to Ireland, while Germany is offering between 15%-20%. The BBC has commissioned an initial 52 five-minute episodes of Ploo, based on books by children’s author Mick Inkpen. Other TV shows produced by Aardman include Chop Socky Chooks for Cartoon Network and Shaun The Sheep, which is now seen in more than 180 countries.
Aardman’s feature film division — which on average employs 250 people per film — will be staying put, though. Sony Pictures Animation will release Arthur Christmas, the first pic to see the light under a three-year deal with Aardman, on November 23.