Aardman Animations founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton have decided to transfer ownership to their employees. The studio behind stop-motion classics Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run, wants it to stay independent, instead of an "asset" that can be sold down the line. Aardman Animations was founded in 1972 and currently has 130 fulltime employees, which balloons up to around 320 employees when it comes time to work on a large project. The studio is currently working on Farmageddon: A Shaun the Sheep Movie, which will be quickly followed by Chicken Run 2.
Peter Lord and David Sproxton admit that they're not retiring at the moment, but they wanted to make sure that Aardman Animations was ready, and in good shape, when the time comes. The duo say that they have been discussing turning the studio over to its employees for the last seven years. Lord had this to say about the trailblazing decision.
"We've spent so much time building this company up and being so profoundly attached to it. It's not a business to us, it's everything, it's our statement to the world. Having done that for so many years, the last thing we wanted to do was to just flog it off to someone."
The idea to turn Aardman Animations over to its employees is a great way to keep the studio moving into the future, while holding the same ideals that have been in place since the early 1970s. Additionally, Peter Lord and David Sproxton wanted to make sure that the employees are invested in the idea. The change will see nearly all of company shares transferred into a trust, which will then hold the shares on behalf of the employees.
In addition to the employee ownership of Aardman Animations, Nick Park, Wallace & Gromit creator and the four-time Oscar-winning filmmaker who has been part of Aardman's team for over 30 years, will serve on the new executive board of directors. Peter Lord and David Sproxton are also on the board of directors. Though they're not retiring, Sproxton reveals that he will spend the next year looking for his replacement. And when he finds the right person, he'll get into consultancy role and get back behind the camera.
While Aardman Animations turning the studio over to its employees is an amazing idea, Peter Lord and David Sproxton admit that they haven't had too many offers in the past by major studios trying to purchase them. DreamWorks inquired about it during the making of Chicken Run, but Lord and Sproxton turned them down, and have zero regrets about doing so. Instead of going the major studio route, Aardman Animations will continue to run as independent as it can, much like it has since the early 1970s. The interview with Peter Lord and David Sproxton was originally conducted by The Hollywood Reporter.