Bravo, L’Europe!

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Lyon’s Cartoon Movie cuts the ribbon for 50 eclectic titles created for both young and mature audiences worldwide next month.

While the big American studios save their potential animated blockbusters for the summer season, the wise traveler can get a good idea of what the rest of the world is up to at the 14th edition of the Cartoon Movie event, which takes place in Lyon, France March 7 to 9 this year. Among the hot new Euro toons unspooling this year in their entirety are the acclaimed Wrinkles, directed by Ignacio Ferreras, Rémi Bezançon and Jean-Christophe Lie’s beautiful 2D-animated feature Zarafa, Oskar Jonasson and Toby Genkel’s tongue-in-cheek epic CG pic Legends of Valhalla: Thor and Pascal Herold’s unusual Cinderella 3D, which centers on a mistreated deer-faced heroine in the Wild, Wild West.

According to the event’s spokesperson Gerardo Michelin, this year’s movie selection confirms France as the driving force behind the European animation scene. There’s also a sense of consolidation of the Nordic countries’ animation, which show up with more than 10 solid projects for the third year in a row. Belgium is also increasing its production input, offering four new features, compared to only one in 2011. A trend that is not unique to Europe, but can be detected all over the world, is the growth of stereoscopic 3-D features: This year, there are 18 3-D movies in various stages of development and production—that’s six more than the last edition of Cartoon Movie.

In recent years, the event, which is attended by buyers, producers, directors, creative teams and financing companies, has become a key force in promoting artistic and risk-taking ventures made for European audiences. According to the latest report, adult-skewing projects make up 22 percent of the projects. Young Perez, a biopic of boxing champion Victor Perez, who was sent to Auschwitz during WWII; and Another Day of Life, directed by Damian Nenow (Paths of Hate), which takes place during the Angolan civil war, are two of the buzzworthy pics for more mature audiences.

Cartoon Movie

Cartoon Movie

In addition to the features in development, the event will also showcase several films that are already in production. They include the U.K./Irish co-pro Deep by Brown Bag Films and Space Age Films, Knight Rusty (Caligari Film, Fernsehproduktions, GmbH), Le Jour des corneilles: Day of the Crows (Finalement, Melusine, Walking the Dog, Max Films), Niko 2: Family Affairs (Animaker, Ulysses, A.Film, Magma), Marco Macaco (Nice Ninja ApS) and Phantom Boy (Folimage, Lunanime BVBA, Rhone-Alpes Cinema).

Knight Rusty

Knight Rusty

Le Jour des corneilles: Day of the Crows

Le Jour des corneilles: Day of the Crows

Phantom Boy

Phantom Boy

Literature and comics continue to inspire animated projects in Europe, with some of this year’s projects based on adaptations and screenplays from writers such as Ryszard Kapuściński, Jacques Prévert, Gilles Paris, Jean-François Beauchemin, Leena Krohn, Gunilla Bergström and Kjell Aukrust, and award-winning graphic novels by authors like Enki Bilal (Animal’Z), Arthur de Pins (Zombillenium) and Paco Roca (Wrinkles).

It’s interesting to note that the average budget for the movies is down to €5.7 million ($7.3 million) from last year’s $9 million. The 2012 edition’s biggest-budget feature, which is at concept stage, is $16.8 million for the Ages of Madness from Spanish writer/director Helio Mira (Rocío Dúrcal, Muchachada nui).

Ages of Madness

Ages of Madness

You can learn more about the event and all the feature projects at www.cartoon-media.eu/movie.

A Cartoon Movie Sampler

Here is the 411 on four of the completed features presented at Cartoon Movie this year; let’s hope we all get to see them at a theater (or a big TV screen) near us real soon!

Le Tableau

Le Tableau

Feature Film: Le Tableau (The Painting)
Director: Jean-François Laguionie
Production Companies: Blue Spirit Animation, Be Films
Synopsis: Unfinished subjects in a series of paintings go in search of their artists in this interesting, artistic venture, which uses a variety of lush animation styles and techniques.
Points of Interest: According to producer Armelle Glorennec, the development took several years, but pre-production for the film was under 15 months long and production was about one year. The budget for the film was about 4 million euros ($5.2 million). Blue Spirit in Angoulême and Sinematic in Brussels collaborated on the animation.

“We did many tests on the animation, but because our studio specializes in 3D and because we wanted to keep the work in France and Belgium, we decided to use CG technologies rather than 2D,” says Glorennec. “Throughout the production, the technical and artistic demands challenged each other, raising questions and providing solutions in a back-and-forth process that pushed the movie forward. The thrilling process worked like a living organism, as each aspect of the production was fueling the others with new ideas and possibilities. This was made possible thanks to the chemistry between the director and his teams and their constant, fluid communication.”

The producer says he and his team are quite proud of the fact that they were able to succeed in delivering this beautiful project, which is their first feature. “The European animation scene is very interesting today,” he adds. “We hope that an unusual film like Le Tableau could meet with success throughout the world.”

Release Date: Opened in France in November 2011
Website: www.spirit-prod.com/site/le_tableau.html
Cinderella 3D

Cinderella 3D

Feature Film: Cinderella 3D
Director: Pascal Herold
Production Companies: Herold & Family, Nexus, Delacave Studio
Synopsis: Set in the American Wild West, this unusual take on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale uses main characters with animal-like features: Cinderella is a deer-faced heroine who loses a tooth in a brawl when pirates crash Prince Charming’s ball!
Points of Interest: “Our intention wasn’t really to make something completely different, but at the end of the day, we did end up with something quite unique,” says Herold, who also directed the 2009 pic The True Story of Puss ‘n Boots. “There are over 500 versions of the Cinderella story and we tried to tell a new one—quite different, that’s for sure!”

Herold tells us that it took about a year for the design and pre-production, and one year for the actual production. The 3-D film had a $13 million budget.

“We used a composite animation that we call ‘key-motion,’” explains Herold. “First, we use performance capture for bodies, and then, we animate faces and hands with key framing. This cost-effective technique allows the director to be able to direct mo-cap actors in real time and therefore obtaining really what he wants much faster. On the other hand, animators can focus on expressions and eyes.”

He adds that he’s quite proud of being the first French producer/director to have completed a stereoscopic 3-D animated movie. On the subject of the European animation scene, he notes, “In France we have very good animation schools and a good movie organization known as CNC (National Body for Cinema). Herold & Family is very excited because we just signed a deal with a major Russian producer for our next 3-D animated film, which is called Babayaga. And on the European scene, the cherry on the cake is Cartoon Movie!”

Release Date: Feb. 8, 2012 in France
Website: www.heroldfamily.biz/Productions_Cendrillon.htm
Legends of Valhalla: Thor

Legends of Valhalla: Thor

Feature Film: Legends of Valhalla: Thor
Director: Oskar Jonasson, Toby Genkel, Gunnar Karlsson
Production Companies: CAOZ, Ulysses, Studio Rakete, Magma Films
Synopsis: In this tongue-in-cheek take on the Norse myth, a teenager with a magical hammer has to save his best friend Edda from the evil forces of the Underworld led by Queen Hel and her giants.
Points of Interest: “Our film has a great story and concept and offers an amazing spectrum of exciting characters,” says Hilmar Sigurdsson, CEO of CAOZ Studio and the film’s producer. “The film is also extraordinary on a technical level and since it’s made in stereoscopic 3-D, it offers an extra layer of depth and visual experience.”

While it’s been over seven years since the early development stages, the project took only about two years to produce. The budget for the epic adventure was about 8.5 million euros (about $11 million). The producer points out that over 85 people collaborated on the film in four studios spread out in three countries.

“From the get go, it was clear that we wanted to create a character-driven animated film, using our past experience in 3D animation,” adds Sigurdsoon. “That is and continues to be our strength and main objective for future projects. One of the biggest challenges of the production was to co-ordinate all the studios and keep everyone in the same mindset. Along the way there were countless pitfalls, ranging from itty-bitty details on the most minor props to the biggest sets in the production, and everything in-between.”

The producer says he’s quite proud of the fact that the movie has been a big success in his homeland of Iceland and has been sold to over 50 countries “When our film was released locally, we were delighted to see articles in newspapers with headlines that read ‘Congratulations, Iceland.’ We had full houses and great reviews from both audiences and critics. It all gave us comfort that we have at least done our best and managed to give the audiences an entertaining film that they appreciated.”

Release Date: Oct. 14, 2011 in Iceland, spring and summer of 2012 in Northern territories.
Website: www.legendsofvalhalla.com
Zarafa

Zarafa

Feature Film: Zarafa
Director: Rémi Bezançon, Jean-Christophe Lie
Production Companies: Prima Linea, Chaocorp, Pathe
Synopsis: In 1826, a young African boy’s friendship with a beautiful giraffe complicates matters when the wild animal is taken from its natural habitat and sent to France.
Points of Interest: “This is a story that is both an adventure and a historic voyage to Africa and France,” says the film’s seasoned producer Christophe Jankovic, who also worked on acclaimed features such as U and Fear[s] of the Dark. The film, which took about two and a half years to complete, was produced mainly at Prima Linea’s studios in Paris and Angoulême, and La Parti in Brussels, with some service work done by overseas studios. “We came up with the specific style of the film after perfecting it in Jean-Christophe Lie’s short The Man in the Blue Gordini,” he adds. “He had developed a more realistic graphic style that meshed well with the landscape and atmosphere that we wanted create in the film.
Release Date: Feb. 8, 2012 in France
Website: www.primalinea.com/zarafa