Peter Lord, a founder of Aardman Animations, is in optimistic mood following the company's recent divorce from DreamWorks.
"We just feel liberated in an incredibly delightful way," says Lord. "Many other people are interested in doing business with us, both within Europe and in the US. What it means creatively is that there is more chance for us making feature films now than ever before."
Despite glowing reviews and a huge international gross, Aardman's Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit was deemed a failure by DreamWorks after making less than $60m in the US and winning the best animated feature Oscar last year. Flushed Away was also deemed to have underperformed. Now, though, Lord expects the company will enjoy greater creative freedom.
"With no disrespect to DreamWorks, their business model slowly crystallised over the years. The downside, from our point of view, was that most of the films we were interested in, they weren't." Over the last five years, the relationship clearly soured. "Jeffrey (Katzenberg) was quite frank and said he didn't want stop-frame film. Well, that's quite fundamental." While Lord says there is "mutual respect" between the former partners, it is clear the Aardman principals were frustrated by DreamWorks' blockbuster-oriented business plan.
"Wallace & Gromit was a massive critical success, but not a blockbuster in their terms. They concluded it wasn't going to work. At the same time, we were getting increasing pressure to make films that fitted their model rather than ours. Neither of us were particularly happy with the way it was going."
The aim now is "to re-set the clock". Aardman has a slate of five projects. "It's all kind of family fare but wider-range," says Lord. "It feels like the most exciting time ever." Lord does not envisage that Aardman will ever again make a film on the scale of Flushed Away, which he describes as "outrageously expensive".
"I don't want to go there because if you go there, expectations get to be absolutely astronomical and that is not a comfortable place to be."
The company is likely to make some films on the level of Were-Rabbit as well as smaller-budget fare possibly aimed at an adult audience.
For the 30 or so years of its existence, Aardman has almost always followed its instincts. "And the world came round to it. The only areas where that wasn't entirely true was the feature-film business, because it's such a big deal."