Animators have 'Trouble' in mind

After their bigscreen outing in “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” Aardman Animation’s clay man and dog duo return to the smallscreen for their next escapade.

Nick Park’s “Trouble at’ Mill”starts production at Aardman’s base in Bristol, southwest England, in January and will air on BBC1 at Christmas in 2008.

“Mill” will run 30 minutes, the same length as previous “Wallace & Gromit” TV favorites “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Close Shave.”

Writer-director Park reunites with Bob Baker, with whom he co-wrote “Trousers” and “Shave.”

In “Mill,” Wallace and Gromit open a bakery but Wallace becomes sidetracked by a love interest, Piella Bakewell. With his master distracted, Gromit is left to solve a murder.

“I love making films for the cinema, but the production of ‘Chicken Run’ and ‘Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ were virtually back to back, and each film took five years to complete. ‘Trouble at’ Mill’ will be so much quicker to make, and I can’t wait to get back into production,” Park said.

“It’s nice to be out of that feature film pressure now,” Park told the BBC. “I’m making this for myself again and the people who love Wallace and Gromit.”

Aardman announced an exclusive, three-year, first-look deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment in April. That deal followed the dissolution of Aardman’s deal with DreamWorks in January.

Park released an interview-style short film on Wednesday at Wallaceandgromit.com to help build early buzz. Fans can keep up to speed with the progress of “Mill” via regular video blogs from the Aardman crew, to be posted throughout production.

“Curse of the Were-Rabbit” won the 2005 animation Oscar.

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