In the week when UK-based Aardman Animations announced it was postponing production on its $40m Tortoise vs. Hare, Barcelona-based Filmax has unveiled details of an ambitious animation project: El Cid, The Legend (El Cid, La Leyenda) The film, one of the biggest animated features ever produced in Spain, is to be made out of the company's start-up division Filmax Animation.

El Cid will take more than a year to put together using state-of-the-art 2D and 3D animation software housed in Galicia-based Bren Entertainment, the studio Filmax launched last year with post-production lab Filmtel and capital risk fund Xes Galicia.

Loosely based on the medieval literary character, El Cid narrates the heroic adventures of a nobleman's son. The film, written and directed by Josep Pozo, is a co-production with Toon Factory. Pre-sales have already been closed in much of Europe and Asia. Via Digital has pay-TV rights in Spain thanks to an existing output deal.

Headed by Julio Fernandez, mini-studio Filmax gave its fledgling animation branch a make-over last March, hiring former PPM Multimedia head Francisco Rodriguez to direct three main divisions: production services; development and production of TV and feature film animation projects; and international sales and co-productions.

Meanwhile, Aardman has laid off 90 of its Tortoise vs. Hare crew, citing script problems due to a short development schedule. The delay in production is expected to take up to six months, with the film's release now likely to be pushed back from 2003 to 2004. It is not yet clear whether the delay will have any impact on the schedule for production of a feature version of Wallace & Grommit, which had been set as Aardman's next picture after Tortoise vs. Hare.

Additional reporting by London staff.