Aardman, the Oscar-winning animation studio behind “Chicken Run” and “Early Man,” has appointed Sean Clarke as its new managing director, replacing co-founder David Sproxton, who is stepping down after 43 years. Clarke has worked at the British studio for more than 20 years, including heading the international rights and marketing department for over a decade.
Sproxton and fellow co-founder Peter Lord announced last November that they would be transferring ownership of Aardman to its staff to ensure that the studio would retain its independence and to secure its creative and cultural legacy. At that time, Sproxton announced that he would stay on as managing director but would look for a successor and move into a consultancy role. He will sit on the studio’s board of trustees.
Sproxton said Clarke had “cut through very strong competition” to take his place. Clarke “has a deep understanding of the creative culture at Aardman – which will ensure continuity – in addition to a very strong, clear and exciting strategy to take the company forward, so it will certainly not be resting on its laurels,” Sproxton said. “There are wonderful projects on the slate with new creative talent behind them, and the future looks very bright. I am more than confident that, with Sean leading the executive board, the company will thrive.”
Clarke originally joined Aardman in 1998 as its head of consumer products. In 2008, he became head of rights and brand development, with responsibility for global brand development across all platforms. He was instrumental in the launch of Aardman’s YouTube channels, which attract more than 1.2 billion views every year, and in the development of themed attractions with immersive storytelling, including Shaun the Sheep Land in Sweden, which opened in 2015.
“The studio’s strength has always been in its visionary creativity and storytelling expertise which, combined, mean that we are able to adapt to new platforms and changes in the way we consume entertainment whilst delivering consistently inspiring, funny and engaging animation,” said Clarke. “Ensuring that our independent spirit and our unique blend of innovation and integrity remain at the heart of everything we do – while nurturing and supporting sensational new creatives alongside our existing roster of incredible talent – will be a guiding principle.”
Lord remains creative director, focusing on Aardman’s film output, which includes the upcoming “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” and next year’s “Chicken Run 2.” “Farmageddon” launches internationally later this month before opening in the U.K. on Oct. 18 and in the U.S. on Dec. 13.
“Chicken Run 2,” a sequel to Aardman’s first and most successful feature, is scheduled for release next summer. “Chicken Run 2” is directed by Sam Fell, who handled the studio’s 2006 feature “Flushed Away.” The original “Chicken Run,” released in 2000, was directed by multi-Oscar-winner Nick Park, whose last feature was 2018 Aardman title “Early Man.”
Aardman’s seven features to date have collectively grossed $1.03 billion at the global box office. The studio is also set to launch its first major piece of original content for the theme park market with a 4D immersive experience at Efteling: World of Wonders in the Netherlands, which will open in November.