Your Cartoon Movie Sampler
There are so many amazing features being unveiled at this year’s Cartoon Movie (March 8-10, cartoon-media.eu/movie), and we wish we had the space to spotlight all of them. Here is a brief overview of some of the projects that grabbed our attention. Visit AnimationMagazine.net daily during the event for more in-depth coverage:
We know we can expect great things when acclaimed French director Rémi Chayé’s name is attached to a movie. The helmer behind such instant classics as Long Way North and Calamity is back with Fleur, another intriguing movie with a fascinating female central character. The script, which is penned by Chayé, Sandra Tosello and Fabrice de Costil, follows the life and times of a young woman who rebels against the awful conditions of working class life in a soap factory and gets a taste of the artistic life in Paris during the early days of the 20th century. The project is produced by Henri Magalon (Maybe Movies) We only have three words after seeing the early images from this movie: Sign us up!
Tony, Shelly and the Spirit
Directed by Czech graphic novelist Flip Pošivač, the stop-motion feature Tony, Shelly and the Spirit centers on two oddball characters (one glows, and the other has an odd way of expressing herself) and their encounter with a strange spirit that enjoys destroying the light bulbs in their house. As producer Jakub Vikortin (Nutprodukce) tells us, “I really like the topic of our characters’ unique otherness and how to cope with it and work with tolerance. We are trying to reach an audience that is nine-year-old plus, so it’s especially challenging to share this topic with this age group and try to entertain and inspire them.” He adds, “Our main characters are children with vivid imaginations and whimsical inner lives. We hope our audience will be entertained by the story of glowing Tony and the visual world created by our director and his team.”
A young girl has to replace her father as the town superhero in Just Super, a new Norwegian animated feature directed by Rasmus A. Sivertsen (Captain Sabertooth) and produced by Åshild Ramborg (Qvisten Animation). “This is one of those rare projects that you seldom come across — a gripping story that is truly entertaining and thought-provoking for the entire family,” says Ramborg. “I believe our core message, which is, ‘You don’t need to be a superhero to be super!’ cannot be repeated enough in our competitive and performance-driven society.”
The charming movie is based on an original idea by veteran director Siversten. “This added a layer of authenticity to this unconventional take on the superhero genre,” says Ramborg. “The irresistible characters are designed by the extraordinary Carter Goodrich (Ratatouille, Coco, Despicable Me). The overall design has a tactility to it that is inspired by Aardman’s stop-motion films as well as stylized CGI films like Trolls and The Willoughbys.” The film is slated to open in Norway in September, and an English-language version will be available in the fourth quarter through TrustNordisk.
Fans of highly original, quality animated shorts and movies have been looking forward to the release of Spanish auteur Alberto Vázquez’s Unicorn Wars for some time now. The imaginative film from the man behind Birdboy (Psiconautas) and award-winning shorts such as Decorado and Homeless Home will be spotlighted at Cartoon Movie and released globally later this year.
As Autour de Minuit producer Nicolas Schmerkin tells us, “We’ve producing Alberto’s successful shorts (Decorado, Homeless Home) and have been associate producers on his first feature film Birdboy, so I was excited to continue supporting such a great talent, especially on a crazy film like this one — a daring adult animation project mixing war film, mythological fable and playing with illustration and animation icons like unicorns and teddy bears!”
Schmerkin says he loves how Vázquez tells this ancestral war story with epic battles, interlaced with a more intimate story between two antagonist twin brothers linked by a family secret. “I love his unique way of using cute characters and perverting them to show the dark side of human society,” he notes. “The level of animation and backgrounds is very ambitious, especially for a low budget feature. The film is also quite innovative in terms of mixing 2D and 3D techniques for the first time in that way in Blender software. The animation was done in Spain (A Coruña and Bilbao) and in France (in our studios in Paris and Angoulême).”
Niko: Beyond the Northern Lights
Niko, the charming reindeer star of two successful European movies (Niko and the Way to the Stars and Niko 2: Little Brother, Big Trouble) is getting a third magical outing. The new feature, titled Niko: Beyond the Northern Lights, finds our flying reindeer competing with a female reindeer to join Santa’s special forces! Directed by Kari Juusonen and Jørgen Lerdam, the film is produced by Finland’s Animaker and is being prepared for a Cannes 2024 premiere.
Producer Hannu Tuomainen (Animaker) tells us that, after the first two movies shattered expectations in terms of audience response, he and his team began to play with the idea of a third outing for the beloved character. “We began to develop a story which fits the trilogy idea, but it’s also a stand-alone adventure, involving some familiar characters and some new ones,” he says. “It is a joy to work again with the same creative team as the first two movies, nationally in Finland with superb animation studio Anima Vitae and with co-producers Ulysses Films from Germany, A.Film Production from Denmark and Moetion Films from Ireland. We have been developing and creating the Niko-universe together over 15 years, which has been a wonderful creative and business pleasure.”
Tuomainen is especially proud of the movie’s Finnish environment and the local flora and fauna used in Niko’s world. “We all know that Santa really lives up here, not in the North Pole as some people mistakenly believe. We hope we can offer families an exciting adventure set in a fresh new world — and most importantly, we hope they enjoy tagging along with Niko and have a rollercoaster emotional experience, and leave the theater with a happy feeling.”
Little Allan: The Human Antenna
The new Danish movie Little Allan The Human Antenna follows the adventures of a young boy named Allan who is talked into acting as a human antenna for his UFO-obsessed neighbor. Things get complicated when a friendly alien girl named Britney saves his life. Directed by Amalie Naesby Fick and produced by Trine Heidegaard and Thomas Heinesen, the Nordisk Film/Pop Up Production project is slated for a 2022 release.
“Amalie Naesby Fick had a passion and clear and strong vision for the adaptation of the children’s book our film is based on,” says Heinesen. “I like Amalie’s intention to pair the strong Scandinavian social-realistic children’s film tradition with the high joke-count in both dialogue and animation of the American animated comedies, into a mixture of a quirky, sensitive and fun film for the whole family. Although the film’s story contains some serious topics, I think we succeed in creating a heartwarming adventure film that uses humor and absurdity to touch the lives of both children and adults — and the animation itself is really good and quite cartoony, despite a low budget.”
Aline Ruby, the heroine of the new French sci-fi noir Mars Express, is the kind of cool private detective we love to see on the big screen. She and her digital partner Carlos Rivera are trying to protect a cybernetics student from nefarious assassins on their way to the Red Planet.
The movie is directed by Jérémie Périn and produced by Didier Creste (Everybody On Deck) and co-produced by Je Suis Bien Content, EV.L Prod, Plume Finance, France 3 Cinéma and Gébéka Films.
“We wanted to bring this dystopic vision of the world to animated life,” says Creste (Lastman, In a Rush). “Making a film on Mars could only be possible through animation. You can describe our movie as a cross between Chinatown and Blade Runner, since it focuses on an investigation conducted by two detectives: a woman and an android. I would say Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and great filmmakers like Brian De Palma, David Cronenberg and John Carpenter are sources of inspiration. Our big challenge is fine-tuning our 2D/3D pipeline between five different studios — and to produce the film for about 7 million euros during COVID! We’re still hoping to deliver the film by the end of 2022, if all goes well!”
We’ll keep our fingers crossed, Didier.