UK-based animation powerhouse Aardman Features has announced a slate of six films in development, including a Christmas project written by Borat co-writer Peter Baynham, new non-Wallace and Gromit film from Nick Park and company founder Peter Lord's return to directing.

These are the first new projects to be announced since April, when Aardman unveiled its exclusive three-year, first-look deal with Sony.

The slate of six have been championed by Sarah Smith, who joined Aardman in 2006 and has now been promoted to Creative Director at Aardman Features. In her new role, she will continue to supervise these projects throughout production.

The projects Smith has already been working on include:

The Cat Burglars, a stop-frame clay animation project about stray cats stealing milk. Steve Box will direct based on a script from Emmy-winning writers Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah (Life On Mars). Box described that project as combining the comedy action of Wallace and Gromit with the coolness of Ocean's 11, in other words, 'family friendly Tarantino.'

Peter Baynham, one of the writers of Borat, is developing an original Christmas movie, Operation Rudolph. The action comedy likens the North Pole operation as a military procedure, revealing how Santa and his army of elves deliver presents around the world during one night.

Aardman co-founder Peter Lord, who hasn't served as a hands-on director since 2000's Chicken Run, will direct a comedy adventure project based on two books from Gideon Defoe's cult series The Pirates!. Lord is writing the screenplay with Defoe and TV writers Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil. The story follows the loveable but incompetent Pirate Captain, his arch-rival Black Bellamy, Charles Darwin and the Elephant Man as they try to save the last dodo from being eaten by Queen Victoria.

Futher details weren't announced on the other films in development, including Park's latest screenplay.

'We very much want Aardman to be a home for the British creative community and welcome the very best writers and artists to work with us to create original, vibrant and diverse animation projects, Sarah has already started this process,' said Stephen Moore, Aardman's COO.

Smith, a BBC and Channel 4 veteran, added: 'I'm passionate about matching the brilliance of Aardman's film-makers with the very best talent in British comedy screen-writing. This is an interesting time in the animation industry - while there is clearly still a big appetite among cinema goers for great animated films, there is a feeling of sameness about much of the product coming out of the industry at present, in terms of their stories. I think there's a great opportunity to excite audiences by raising the stakes in terms of the quality, intelligence and variety of the stories our animated films tell and the gen-res they inhabit. I'd like to help put Aardman at the forefront of this.'