Shaun the Sheep in Shanghai: A Location-based, Mixed Reality Cinema Experience

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Architecture


This project proposes as new partnership between the Centre of Architecture and the Visual Arts (CAVA), Aardman Animations, China Media Capital (CMC) and the Shanghai Theatre Academy (STA) that is the basis for a new alliance between the UK and CCI/Media organisations in the Shanghai region. The aim of this a research/industry partnership is to collaborate on a unique, location-based, mixed reality cinema experience in a specially designed theatre in Shanghai.

Shaun the Sheep is already a global entertainment brand known principally for its linear, animated, non-dialogue content (movies; TV series). We therefore will focus on technical, creative and business innovation rather than on audience acquisition. It will also put Aardman Animations at the forefront of developing innovation, new methods, new knowledge and, through creating new audiences, access to a new market.

Technological innovation will be co-created with partners in the UK and China. By using mixed reality technology (e.g. holograms tracked by computer vision), we will be blurring the traditional boundaries between the screen and cinema space, creating a new "narrative space" in which audiences are part of and feel fully immersed.

Imagine sitting in a cinema where a new Shaun the Sheep short is playing; yet the audience will be sitting in an auditorium that is digitally enhanced and art directed to look like it is part of the film. Characters will leave the two-dimensional canvas to continue their story in the auditorium space. We plan to take cinema experience and immersive storytelling to a new level.

Planned Impact

This is a network grant application. I will answer this questions by referring to "How will the proposed activities lead to long-term collaboration, including substantive new joint research-industry collaborations?"

1. Experience refresh/repackage: It will be possible to refresh the content in the auditorium using the same technology on a regular basis at suitable intervals. This will require the development and production of new shows which could potentially involve all the parties, depending on the scope. It may also be possible to package up new content with other Shaun the Sheep content. This will encourage repeat visits from consumers as well as drawing fans who may otherwise not have visited the experience.

2. Installation at other venues: It is expected that the Shanghai theatre would be the first of many venues that the experience could be based at either permanently or semi permanently in multiple venues simultaneously across China. This could include other multiplexes, theme parks or visitor attractions.

3. Touring Version: There could also be the option for a 2D touring version of the film which could be part of a bigger show with other Shaun the Sheep content which could tour festivals and family events.

4. Brand new stories and experiences: With the cinemas kitted out with new technology there is an opportunity to create brand new shows with brand new characters and stories offering the opportunity to produce new content at a lower cost.

5. Brand new research-industry collaborations: With the new knowledge, experience and reputation for innovation and having built strong working relationships and business models, there is the opportunity for the partners to reconvene to move the technology and immersive storytelling forward yet again to the next generation.

6. Financing: We aim to develop a business model based on licensing either directly to venues or to a distributor to sell on where they provide an advance and take a commission, also including a program of ancillary activity and branded merchandise to be displayed and sold within the venue. The development of new shows and experiences would be funded out of the net receipts from ticket sales and merchandise together with pre-sales with future key global partners.

7. International potential: It should be possible to take our concept and technology to other theme parks and attractions around the world with films and experiences that potentially appeal to global audiences. Both CMC and Aardman have the reach to grow this opportunity beyond China and consider this to be the basis for a new collaboration with commercial outcomes.


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Description Shaun the Sheep is a global entertainment brand known principally for its linear animated 'non-dialogue'
content principally movies and TV series. It is produced by Aardman, a leading Animation company in the UK.

In this network grant, we set out to identify a new approach to understand the market and to build and diversify
Aardman's brand into new areas in China. Our aim was to define and develop multidisciplinary approach with
research and industry partners (in the UK and China) to work collaboratively, to create a 'first
of its kind', location based, mixed reality cinema experience in a specially designed theatre in Shanghai.

Key findings:
1) Understanding the Market: Our research revealed that in the Chinese market values family entertainment and the the them 'countryside' is of particular importance.
2) Partnerships: We identified key partners in the following eras: distribution of creative and cultural content;
technology and creative industry networks; and external investment.
3) Technology Research: We found that our initial approach using hologram headset would be inappropriate for an all-family entertainment purposes and began to look at alternatives for the creation of immersive experiences.
4) Venue & Location: We found out that audiences would consume location-based family entertainment not just be visiting theme parks, but potentially also so-called urban entertainment centres; outlets in shopping malls.
6) Implementation: In terms of realistic implementation, we learned that a considerable amount of external investment will be necessary for our ideas to be developed.
Exploitation Route See above findings, which I hope will be helpful to other researchers and entrepreneurs.
Sectors Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description This project facilitated a deeper dialogue between Aardman and CMC; on of the leading investor/operator in media and entertainment, internet, technology, lifestyle and consumer sectors in China and global markets. It also opened up doors to potential other commercial investors in the cultural sector.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism
Impact Types Cultural,Economic