Aardman Animations, so well known for its exceptional stop-motion animation and clever scripts, including the 2005 Oscar-winner Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, today launched its first TV series aimed at preschoolers, Timmy Time.

According to Miles Bullough, head of broadcast/executive producer at Aardman Animations, the animation company has sold the 52-episode Timmy Time to the Disney Channel, which has acquired it for global distribution on Playhouse Disney and other pay channels. Disney has packaged the show as two 10-minute episodes, for 26 half-hours. Aardman Animation is already at work on an additional 26 episodes. Aardman also sold the show to the BBC’s preschool channel.

Miles Bullough

“We were very happy about the Disney Channel acquiring Timmy Time,” says Bullough. “They’re a fantastic partner. Nancy Kanter [senior vp, Playhouse Disney Worldwide] is truly passionate about preschool programming and we love her and her team.”

Creating a first show for preschoolers was different than Aardman’s usual fare. “Most of our work addresses a family audience, and we’re always thinking about keeping the adults entertained,” he says. “With preeschoolers, you absolutely have to put the preschooler first in terms of story, to make sure they’ll understand everything. So it’s very simple stories, clearly told, with a primary color palette. We still try to keep the same charm, warmth and love of character we feel we excel at. But we don’t have any parodies or ‘knowing’ jokes or the many references to movies that we have in Shaun the Sheep [a children’s show that Disney Channel also acquired].”

Timmy Time focuses on Timmy, a little lamb who enters preschool where he does everything preschoolers do–paints, builds with blocks, naps, as well as get into adventures with other sheep.  Of course, he also learns life lessons along the way, about playing nicely with others, for example.

The production is entirely stop-motion. “There are a few special effects, but there is very, very little CG,” says Bullough. “The things you normally do in CG are smoke, water and fire, but water we’ve done in-camera, stop-frame. And I can’t think of any smoke or dust.”

Stop-motion is “a little more expensive than doing 2D or simple CGI,” notes Bullough, but it is also Aardman’s unique selling point. “We’re very committed to stop-frame animation,” he says. The production also had the services of a very experienced stop-motion producer, creator/producer/supervising director Jackie Cockle, BAFTA winner and producer on  Bob the Builder.  “We shot it very quickly and efficiently,” says Bullough. “It’s a very contained series, all in the nursery school. It’s cleverly devised to be done very efficiently.” The production will also make up any gaps between the costs of production and price of acquisition via DVD sales and licensing fees. (The first Timmy Time DVD release is scheduled for early 2011 from Lionsgate and HIT Entertainment, as will Timmy toys, from JAKKS Pacific.)

“We still believe quality sells and have achieved good prices for the series because people recognize that quality,” he concludes. “There is so much rubbish out there, that when something comes around that looks great, they appreciate it.”