The first full-length animated feature to be produced entirely in Scotland. Expanded to a feature-length CGI film from a 2006 short concept.
Budgeted at an estimated $5.2 million.
Release date is that of first international screening at the Sonoma International Film Festival.
Sascha Hartmann directed Sir Billi from a screenplay written by his wife Tessa, based on an original story they developed together.
Heavily involved in the making of the film since its inception, Sean Connery eagerly agreed to take on the lead role of Sir Billi after being contacted by the husband-and wife-producing team.
Academy Award-nominated Scottish composer Patrick Doyle created the film's music score and also lent his voice as a key character in the film.
"Being a part of Sir Billi meant so much because animation has always been a fascination of mine especially because I am from Scotland and know all of the areas where the film is based," said Doyle. "The fresh look of Sir Billi and its original storyline gave me all the inspiration needed to create some of the best composition work I feel I've done."
British singing legend Shirley Bassey joined the project to perform the title track "Guardian of the Highlands," marking the first time that Connery and Bassey worked together since the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. Bassey was also seen in the summer of 2011 on the red carpet at the Scottish Fashion Awards escorted by the film's director, Sascha Hartmann. She was wearing a couture gown in the Sir Billi tartan, which was designed by Scots designer Graeme Black.
Said Sascha Hartmann: "To get this film made and completed has really been a true labor of love. We received a good studio offer to go to Los Angeles about three years ago with a deal that was pretty exciting, but we decided to remain in Scotland, keep creative control and produce a truly Scottish product! Granted it's taken longer than we expected and we had to raise more finance, which was challenging, but this is an expensive business and it has to be done right. Fortunately, animation stories are timeless, and so there are no restrictions on them. Thanks to the support of our producer and mentor John (Fraser), we made it.
"Sir Sean has been incredible, too. We have worked hand in hand with him for over six years. From day one, we knew Sir Sean was perfect for the role of Sir Billi -- being a true Scottish hero and also a grandfather himself. No matter how many times I hear his legendary voice on the film, it still gives me a thrill!" said Hartmann.
Said Fraser, a Scottish industrialist: "We're well aware how competitive this market sector is with the heavyweight animation studios out there -- I guess you could call it a 'David and Goliath' adventure, but we believe we have produced an end product that is something to be proud of as independent filmmakers. At the end of the day, this film was produced and made in Scotland, because that's what we believe in. Investing in local creative talent, jobs and ultimately investing in a Scottish film industry. Sascha and his team couldn't have worked any harder, so the rest is in the hands of the gods, as they say."
Said Cumming: "I think it is amazing that they have persevered so long and hard to get this project made in Scotland, when there was absolutely no precedent for anything like this there. Their enthusiasm was so great, and I'm very predisposed to doing Scottish things. Though neither [Sir Sean nor I] live in our home country, we feel very connected to it."
Soundtrack: "Guardian of the Highlands," Performed by Shirley Bassey (as Dame Shirley Bassey).
Sir Billi Production Information
Alternate Titles: "Guardian Of The Highlands" and "Sir Billi the Vet"" (Working Title).
- Apr 13, 2012- Scottish Release
- Apr 8, 2014- U.S. DVD Release as Guardian Of The Highlands
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