Aardman Animations is teaming up with creative technology experts in Liverpool in a £1 million project to develop research for an immersive Shaun the Sheep experience in China.
The award-winning creator of Wallace and Gromit will work with Pete Woodbridge, programme lead MA Immersive Arts at LJMU and Co-Director of the Experimental Technologies Lab, and project lead Richard Koeck at the University of Liverpool.
With 150 episodes, 2 movies and a massive social media fanbase, Shaun the Sheep is a global phenomenon having been broadcast in 180 countries.
This new project will mean that people of all ages will be able to interact with the much-loved stories in a completely new way. During the experience, they will be immersed into a classic Shaun the Sheep adventure with Chinese cultural values, without needing any equipment such as headsets, gloves or mobile devices.
The Liverpool project is one of eight in the UK funded by the UK Research and Innovation Fund for International Collaboration and intended to strengthen ties between the UK and China in the creative industries.
Stephanie Owen, senior producer, said: “At Aardman, finding new and innovative ways to tell stories is at the forefront, so we’re delighted to enable family audiences in Shanghai to experience Shaun the Sheep through AI. We’re keen to see how these developments might lead to new opportunities in family entertainment centres, theme parks and visitor attractions throughout China.”
“It’s really novel. We’ll be looking at how we can take Aardman’s stories and turn them into immersive, participatory and highly interactive experiences using sensors, immersive technology and machine learning,” explains Pete Woodbridge, who has a background in digital technology development, and is based in the Liverpool Screen School.
“The research involves looking at how we'll need to develop new technical and workflow processes to enable content to work in dynamic and responsive ways with audiences, so that means lots of creative prototyping and testing. It is very exciting to work in the space between technology, storytelling and creativity at the moment, and to be able to draw on cutting edge expertise from the UK and China”
The 18-month project also involves the Shanghai Media Industry Association and the Shanghai Theatre Academy and seeks to build new creative and business ties between the UK and China. It is also expected to receive additional combined cash and in-kind contribution of around £580,000 from partners in both countries, bringing the total project value to more than £1 million.
Pete will be working across the arts and sciences, in the School’s Experimental Technology Lab in John Lennon and with LiveLab in the Department of Computer Science at Byrom City Campus.
Professor Rachel McLean, Director of Liverpool Screen School said: “We are delighted that this project has been funded and that Peter will be working at the cutting edge of a technical and creative research partnership. It is evidence of the expertise within Liverpool Screen School that both students and the wider national and international public will benefit from. The partnership with Aardman is exemplary as an academic / industry collaboration.”