San Francisco, California – 15th April 2012 — Sir Billi, the first full length animated feature to be produced entirely in Scotland, had it’s first international screening at the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival in San Francisco last night, with Dame Shirley Bassey wearing a bespoke ‘Sir Billi’ tartan gown and Swarovski jewels on the red carpet.Dame Shirley joined Director Sascha Hartmann with his wife Tessa who wrote the screenplay at the event with a host of other Hollywood stars including Christopher Lloyd (Back the Future) and Tallia Storm (singer) who performed in the theatre before the screening to an audience of 500 VIP guests. British singing legend Dame Shirley Bassey who performed the title track “Guardian of the Highlands,” wore a bespoke Sir Billi tartan dress and then changed for the VIP Scottish gala dinner into a cocktail dress by Scottish designer Brian Rennie who is Creative Managing Director for global fashion brand Basler.

I’ve come here especially for this screening and just love the film – it’s the second time I’ve seen it. I think Sascha did a wonderful job and I am thrilled to be part of it. It has a very distinctive look, which is great and Sean’s voice is just magnificent – I especially love all the subtle Bond nuances. I get very emotional at the end of the film – there was a tear in my eye again this evening. – Dame Shirley

The audience were raving about Dame Shirley’s performance in the title track ‘Guardian of the Highlands’, composed by Sascha Hartmann, with many saying that they felt if was one of her best performances to date, giving the film a real ‘Bond’ feel. Indeed it was the first time Bassey and Connery have been reunited in a project since the Bond era!

Director Sascha Hartmann said: “It’s great to be here and share this film with a wonderful Californian audience. It was great to see the excitement and emotions that filled the Sebastiani Theatre, because this is what filmmaking is all about – conveying emotion and engaging the audience. The incredible reaction was testament that our journey was all worth it!

Teenagers were out in force on the red carpet in the shape of the Hartmann sisters – Tessie Hartmann and Tallia Storm, both of whom have voiceover roles in the film and support 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, Jamie Still, Larry Sullivan, Chris Jai Alex and NYC night queen Amy Sacco.

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.”

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, in his first ever voice over role. 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 was inspired 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,” said Sir Sean.

Sir Sean who is not travelling at the moment called the Hartmann’s to wish them good luck on the films international screening.

“We have two very important octogenarians who couldn’t make the long trip this evening. Sir Sean who has been like a father figure to us throughout this whole process and my own father John Fortune-Fraser who served as Producer on the project and been a guiding light and mentor throughout these 7 years – we are eternally grateful for their support. I must say, despite their ages, both men have a wicked sense humour which didn’t fail when they called to wish us good luck,” said Tessa Hartmann.


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