Like the Scorpion King and Richard B. Riddick, only about 6000 per cent fluffier, Aardman's knitwear icon Shaun the Sheep is getting his own spin-off movie. Shaun The Sheep - for that is what it's called - pools the Bristol animation house's skills with the considerable financial muscle of StudioCanal in a deal that will see the Close Shave's star joining Wallace and Gromit in the stop-motion movie pantheon.
The story, penned by Richard Starzak and Madagascar writer Mark Burton, sees the mischief-making ruminant land his farmer in a world of trouble. With the old man led away from the farm, Shaun is forced to take on a rescue mission to the big city with his flock in tow. Before you can say "adopt motorbike display formation", the fluffy posse are in deep on a daredevil, lamb-chop-or-glory adventure.
StudioCanal will no doubt be keen to let Aardman get on with striking its trademark balance of helter-skelter exuberance and knowing wit. In partnering up with the Bristol-based animators, the studio has followed in the auspicious footsteps of DreamWorks Animation (Chicken Run, Flushed Away, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit) and Sony Animation (Arthur Christmas, Pirates! In An Adventured With Scientists). "We're really happy to work with Aardman", says StudioCanal CEO Olivier Courson, "and join the flock. Shaun is a character you love at first sight whatever your age."
With a Shaun franchise already in place thanks to a successful TV series, there's gold in them thar hills. The prospecting business starts with Cannes and hopefully international distribution deals juicy enough to keep Shaun in those baa-tinis. (Sorry.)