New partner collaboration is awarded £500k to develop immersive Shaun the Sheep experience for China

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The University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) is to support its fellow Centre for Architecture and Visual Arts (CAVA) who have secured more than £500,000 funding to develop an immersive Shaun the Sheep experience in China for an Aardman project.

After winning support from the AHRC Research-Industry Creative Partnership, the second stage of a new international programme seeking to build creative industry links between the UK and China. The project is funded through the UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) Fund for International Collaboration (FIC).

In addition to the research and entertainment outputs, the project will enable a new collaboration between three academic partners; the University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), the Shanghai Theatre Academy (STA) and industry partners (Aardman, Media Industry Association and Digital Fun).

The Virtual Engineering Centre will support the project by providing expertise in advanced visualisation and AI. Techniques that can be applied across sector to reap many benefits, including enhanced communication and storytelling through a commissioned immersive experience.

Visitors of all ages will be able to interact directly with a Shaun the Sheep story in real-time without the need for headsets, gloves or personal devices.  The story will be a true Shaun the Sheep adventure whilst recognising China’s cultural context and values.

Director of CAVA and principle investigator Professor Richard Koeck said: “We are pleased to be working with Aardman – the UK’s leading, BAFTA and Oscar-winning animation studio – and the prestigious Shanghai Theatre Academy to develop a genuinely new cinematic, AI-driven, spatially immersive way of  storytelling that will have the potential to transform family entertainment experiences in China and globally.”

Senior Producer at Aardman, Stephanie Owen said: “At Aardman, finding new and innovative ways to tell stories is at the forefront, so we’re delighted to enable family audiences in Shanghai to experience Shaun the Sheep through AI.

“We’re keen to see how these developments might lead to new opportunities in family entertainment centres, theme parks and visitor attractions throughout China.”

The funding programme intends to enable a rapid scaling-up of engagements between the UK and China, with a specific focus on Shanghai as China’s cultural and creative industries powerhouse, in order to facilitate new collaborations that deliver sustained economic, cultural and intellectual benefits in both countries.

This project will receive £500,000 from the UKRI/AHRC, with an expected combined cash and in-kind contribution of around £580,000 additional from partners in the UK and China, making it a combined total project value £1.08 million.

The winning project, entitled Shaun the Sheep: Immersive Experience, is led by Professor Richard Koeck, alongside Pete Woodbridge (Liverpool John Moores University), Dr Shan Luo (University of Liverpool) and Stephanie Owen (Senior Producer, Aardman).

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