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Sir Sean Connery's Animated Feature Film "Sir Billi" Premieres at Sonoma International Film Festival, April 13th, 2012

(March 19, 2012)

SONOMA, Calif., March 19, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Sir Billi, the first full-length animated feature to be produced entirely in Scotland, will get its first international screening at the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, April 11th-15th, 2012.

"We are thrilled to host the U.S. Premiere of SIR BILLI featuring the powerfully dynamic voice of Sir Sean Connery. Tessa and Sascha Hartmann have produced a highly entertaining, family-oriented film that sizzles with fun, non-stop action and an awesome title track sung by Dame Shirley Bassey, which was composed by Sascha. Bring on the Scots...!" said Festival Director Kevin McNeely.

SIR BILLI producers, husband and wife duo Tessa and Sascha Hartmann, will arrive in the US for the film's premiere. "We chose the Sonoma International Film Festival because it's a festival with a difference, where the personal approach by the organizers gives one a feeling of passion and consideration, where every independent film they select is important," said Tessa Hartmann. The film, which has been an entrepreneurial cliffhanger of ideas and custom coding since its inception in 2006, will finally make its well-earned debut.

"We are honored to host Scotland's first animated film! Sir Billi will love Sonoma!" says McNeely.

Screened in the Festival's marquee theatre – the 1930s Renaissance-style Sebastiani Theatre – the film will screen at 5 p.m on April 13th, 2012. Festival passes are available now and individual film tickets will be available for purchase after April 2nd. Tickets and passes can be purchased by visiting or calling the box office at (707) 206-4484.

Sascha Hartmann directed SIR BILLI from a screenplay written by his wife Tessa Hartmann, based on an original story they developed together. John Fraser is producer, with Sir Sean Connery serving as executive producer.

Interviews about the making of SIR BILLI – including interviews with Sir Sean Connery, Patrick Doyle and Dame Shirley Bassey – can be seen at:

"Ours could be perceived as a 'David and Goliath' adventure in market terms but where else is one to start if venturing into animation? Shoot for the top with the talent and simply deliver something that the audience responds to. We are the epitome of the underdog! The underdog that with firm resolve, persistence and tenacity created something that is close to being called miraculous - a finished film,' said Sascha Hartmann.

Expanded to a feature length CGI film from a 2006 short concept, this is a roller coaster adventure about the race to save the last beaver in Scotland, led by Sir Billi and voiced by Academy Award® winner Sir Sean Connery. Sir Billi is a vet by profession, skateboarder by passion and grandfather by love. He is joined by Tony Award® winner Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) who voices Gordon, a goat and Sir Billi's confidante.

Sir Sean Connery has been heavily involved in the making of the film since its inception and eagerly agreed to take on the lead role of "Sir Billi" after being contacted by the husband and wife producing team.

"I'm excited to be a part of this incredible film and Scotland's first animated feature," said Connery. "SIR BILLI is truly a first-class film, with an exceptional cast, and is sure to delight audiences of all ages. There's an incredible amount of work that goes into animated productions and I am delighted that Sascha and his team have completed what has been a labour of love. I am thrilled with the final cut!"

Academy Award® nominated Scottish composer Patrick Doyle, ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," "Sense and Sensibility"), created the film's music score and also lends his voice as a key character in the film.

"Sir Billi's endearing multi-generational family story and cliff-hanger action spikes in the storyline provided me with just the right elements to compose a score I'm proud to say is among my best work to date," said Doyle. "My goal was to shine a light on the soul of this colorful cast of loveable characters through the power of music."

"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 Dame Shirley Bassey also joined the project to perform the title track "Guardian of the Highlands," marking the first time Connery and Bassey have worked together since the 1971 James Bond film "Diamonds Are Forever." Dame Shirley Bassey was also seen last summer 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.

Scotland's first full-length animated feature also showcases the voice acting talents of Miriam Margolyes ("Harry Potter," "Romeo & Juliet"), Alex Norton ("Pirates of the Caribbean," "Taggart"), Ford Kiernan ("Chewin' the Fat," "The Last Great Wilderness"), Barbara Rafferty ("The Wicker Man," "River City"), Greg Hemphill ("Still Game," "Chewin the Fat"), Kieron Elliot ("How to Train Your Dragon"), Ruby Wax, John Amabile, Larry Sullivan, Chris Jai Alex and NYC night queen Amy Sacco.

Sascha said: "To get this film made and completed has really been a true labour 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 6 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.

Producer and Scottish industrialist John Fraser said: "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 film makers. 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."

There is no doubt that the entire project took relentless determination and perseverance from the husband and wife team. Alan Cumming said: "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."

On April 13th, audiences in the San Francisco Bay Area will have the first look at SIR BILLI at the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival in Sonoma, California (April 11-15, 2012). But if the enthusiasm from legendary voices and talent attached to the project is anything to go by, perhaps the Hartmann's are indeed in for a big adventure!

Production notes attached.

About the Sonoma International Film Festival

A destination film festival located in the heart of wine country, the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) is uniquely positioned to be a lively celebration of film, food and wine. An annual gathering for film industry insiders, cinema enthusiasts and independent filmmakers, Sonoma is one of the most scenic and epicurean places to experience the art of film. Founded in 1997 as the Sonoma Valley Film Festival, SIFF is now a five-day international event that takes pride in showcasing independent films.

SIFF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The Festival supports the Sonoma Valley High School Media Arts Program established over a decade ago by the Sonoma Film Society.

The 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival will take place from April 11 to 15, 2012. For more information, contact:

(707) 933-2600

Media Contact (SIFF)

Brooke Conner Sevenau

Studio Seven PR



Media Contact (SIR BILLI)

Karla Andrews E.

T. + 44 (1) 236 826666 / 826 555 CELL. + 44 (0) 7785 28 52 42

Key animation art images are available upon request.



When tragedy strikes in the Scottish Highlands, there can be only one man for the job - Sir William Sedgewick, aka Sir Billi (Sir Sean Connery)! An adventure story about an inimitable Highland hero – a grandpa and skateboarding veterinarian who goes above and beyond the call of duty fighting villainous policemen and powerful lairds in a battle to save an illegal fugitive – Bessie Boo the beaver!

A roller coaster adventure, "Sir Billi" braves treacherous ravines and hazardous gullies with his sidekick Gordon, (Alan Cumming) to save Bessie Boo and Wee Dave the rabbit as they hurtle down a yet perilous river.

A heart-warming and hilarious action packed family movie, where thrilling car chases, heroic skydiving and daring stunts from this octogenarian, fueled with encounters with a hostile submarine, will keep you at the edge of your seat! In this race against time, will Sir Billi get to Bessie Boo first?

Explore the powerful force of this international Highland community, with its unrivalled Scottish landscapes, breathtaking scenery and hidden secrets. Discover the power of the local people when they unite as one against evil and embark on an expedition unlike any other.


All animation has been created in-house by the Glasgow Animation team of 60 creative professionals including fellow Scot Kevin McCormack, Sascha's right hand who is Creative Technical Director. Having developed a short film teaser using Maya software in 2005, the company then developed and created a unique proprietary production pipeline in order to complete a full-length feature. What began as a budgetary constraint proved to be advantageous as the film now has a very distinctive look, which has been very well received by test audiences.


Weisberg is one of Hollywood's leading editors and has edited many box office hits. His CV includes an impressive array of work including the critically acclaimed 'Albert Nobbs' starring the Oscar nominated Glen Close. His credits also included Morning Glory, Mr.Magorium's Wonder Emporium, Man of the Year, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Men in Black II amongst others).


Sound design was led by Simon Chase, (Quantum of Solace, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Casino Royal and United 93), bringing an edgy live action feel to the animation.


Sascha Hartmann created a "Sir Billi" tartan for the film that was exclusively manufactured by Lochcarron of Scotland, based in Hawick. The SIR BILLI tartan fabric was woven over a period of ten weeks, then registered as a member of the Scottish Tartans Authority, proving its authenticity for the hero's real-life and film wardrobes.


Sascha and Tessa Hartmann, the husband and wife creative team at the helm on "Sir Billi" have also signed a deal with Universal Music Publishing for the five original songs that will be featured in the animated feature film that is nearing completion.   Sascha Hartmann composed the music, and Tessa Hartmann wrote the lyrics for the five-featured original songs.

Simon Mortimer, Vice President of Business Development & Media at Universal Music Publishing Ltd said, "It's great to be working with Tessa and Sascha who have created a real fun animation film. The songs we are publishing are great commercial songs in their own right and fit perfectly with the film. We wish them all the success they deserve with this terrific project."


When asked how the collaboration with Dame Shirley came about Director Sascha Hartmann, who also composed the original song said: "My wife Tessa and I agreed that Dame Shirley was the ultimate artist to perform the title track for this film, especially given the 'Bond' connection of Sir Sean and Dame Shirley. So I sat down and wrote a song for her! Tessa approached her management and thankfully she fell in love with the song. It really was a dream come true for us as she is an absolute icon, consummate professional and a pleasure to work with."

Dame Shirley was thrilled with the outcome. When asked how the producers persuaded her to join the project, Dame Shirley said: "There was no persuading needed here, I loved the song from the moment I heard it. Sascha and Tessa made the process incredibly fun and easy for me and we got a great result."

This information was brought to you by Cision,c9233744

The following pictures are available for download:




SIFF Masthead



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