When Bristol-based Aardman ended its deal with DreamWorks in late January 2007, the early dissolution of the pact did not come as a surprise - there had long been talk of culture clashes between the UK animation company and its publicly traded Hollywood partner.

Aardman remained quiet at the time because it was busy plotting its next move, which came earlier this month with the news it had struck a three-year exclusive first-look deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and its heads Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal for all its features in development.

With Sony, Aardman believes it has found a creative partner that will encourage Aardman to do what it does best, no matter how quirky its ideas.

"Sony understands what's at the heart of Aardman," believes Aardman co-founder David Sproxton. "It recognises our slightly eclectic nature. Absurdity is a word that we use a lot at Aardman, and Sony likes that."

Aardman has five features in development, all closely under wraps at the moment. They include three stop-frame animation projects and two CG-animated projects. One of the projects is written by Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park and the others are by writers Aardman has not worked with previously, something the company is clearly excited about.

Peter Lord, Aardman co-founder and creative director, has revealed that all five features have been discussed with Sony.

"We've talked in some detail about the five projects and they were behind the whole slate," he said.

The Sony deal will help Aardman bring out a feature every 18 months, it hopes.

"We want to attract talent from across the world and also build the UK animation business," says Aardman COO and head of features Stephen Moore, who joined the company about a year ago from his post in Los Angeles as head of international for 20th Century Fox.

Lord says Sony offered a better fit than DreamWorks, which had pushed for animation work on joint projects such as Flushed Away to be done in the US and not in Bristol.

"We've got a way of film-making that we've used with stop-frame that we'd love to apply to a CG feature," says Lord.

Sony will encourage Aardman to bring its own sensibilities and unusual characters to the CG world, not expecting any Shrek clones.

"The challenge on the CG side is what can Aardman offer that's different," Park says. "DreamWorks is losing interest in stop-frame but Sony is very excited to develop both stop-frame and CG projects."

The animation legend adds he does not plan to move into the CG world himself, nor with his prized creations Wallace and Gromit.

"I'm a Plasticine man myself. That's where my ambitions are still," says Park. "Aardman is still very committed to clay."