***This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 298)***
We know the first few months of the year are brutal times for movie lovers. After all, that’s when studios unload all their post-Oscar season duds. If you need to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we suggest a visit to the annual Cartoon Movie event, which is held in Bordeaux, France, March 3-5. This year, the show will spotlight 66 excellent animated projects in different stages of development and production to over 900 participants from 40 countries. We caught up with program director Annick Maes to find out the scoop on this year’s high-profile program.
“The movies are always the stars of the event,” says Maes. “It’s quite a great display of creativity, as European producers dare to innovate in terms of modern and unusual graphic styles, and targeting new audiences such as young adults. This year we noticed that 14 projects out of the 66 are aimed at adults, but of course, we still have a wide range of family entertainment.”
According to Maes, one of the most obvious trends is the rapid growth of animation throughout Europe, beyond France. “Spain doubled the number of projects selected, Denmark remains dynamic (Nordic countries together [are presenting] seven projects) and Germany’s presence is strong with projects from well-known studios such as Ulysses Filmproduktion,” she notes. “For the past four years, we have also put the spotlight on one country for each edition, and this year we are focusing on animation produced in Luxembourg.”
Bridging Publishing, Gaming and Transmedia
At press time, Cartoon Movie was also planning two major keynotes: “Producing Animated Films with Games’ Technology,” presented by Unity Technologies’ Mathieu Miller and “Hilda: From Comic Book to Animated Series to Video Game: A Transmedia Success Story,” presented by Sam Arthur of Nobrow.
The organizers also point out that there is a large diversity of visual styles and content this year. “We also noticed that producers are experimenting with new distribution strategies as well,” says Maes. “Not only via YouTube, but also Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram (see Copenhagen Bombay’s upcoming feature I’m Helena, for example).” She also mentions the abundance of book and graphic novel adaptations in the mix in 2020: The Unspeakable: A Lovecraftian Fragment, The Hermit and the Bear, The Character of Rain, Tafiti, The Shrew of Destiny, Molesworth and The Legendaries are some of this year’s prominent adaptations.
“The European studios are working a lot,” concludes Maes. “They are even experiencing a shortage of animators. The sector has great potential: The producers co-produce easily with other countries, they can adapt quickly to new technological developments, and they sell their feature films all over the world. The animation industry is undergoing a disruptive transformation, but this development is also providing a great opportunity for new formats and content from new players and streaming platforms.”
For more info, visit cartoon-media.eu.
Twelve Movies to Track at Cartoon Movie 2020
If you want to get a special sneak peek of what the European feature animation community is working on, you won’t get a better opportunity than Cartoon Movie. Here are 12 of the more intriguing titles that caught our attention this year.
Adam and the Magic Cloud
A handicapped young boy discovers that his differences can be his greatest strengths when he’s magically swept into a mysterious vortex by small creatures called Dreamos, who are fighting the evil forces of Darkos. Produced by Aissam Bourak and Florent Mounier (Iqbal, Tale of a Fearless Child, 1884: Yesterday’s Future) and produced by 2d3D Animations (France).
The Amazing Maurice
Ulysses Filmproduktion (German) and Cantilever Media (Ireland) are producing this CG-animated feature based on Sir Terry Pratchett’s popular Discworld novels. A streetwise cat named Maurice finds a a stupid-looking kid who plays a pipe, and has his very own horde of rats – rats who are strangely educated and literate, so Maurice can no longer think of them as “lunch.” But things take a sinister turn when someone begins to play a sinister tune. Directed by Toby Genkel (Yakari, A Stork’s Journey) and Florian Westermann, written by Terry Rossio (Shrek, Aladdin, Pirates of the Caribbean), with character designs by Carter Goodrich (Ratatouille, The Croods, Brave).
Even Mice Belong in Heaven
Whizzy the Mouse and Whitebelly the Fox become good friends after they die and meet in animal heaven. The plot thickens when they return to Earth and are reborn into opposite roles in this charming pic, which combines stop-motion and CG animation. Directed by Jan Bubeníček (The Pirate, The Nutcracker in 3D) & Denisa Grimmová (Fimfarum: The Third Time Lucky). Produced by Fresh Films (Czech Republic), Cinemart (Slovakia), Les Films du Cygne (France), Animoon (Poland).
This CG-animated fantasy adventure centers on Lauri, a 12-year-old boy who loses his ability to walk, but gains a friendly creature from another dimension – and together they have to save both their worlds from a shadow monster. Produced by Finland’s Anima Vitae (Niko and the Way to the Stars), Anima Vitae Point (Malaysia), Poland’s Animoon (Acid Rain) and Godo Films (France).
Girl and Wolf
A brave young girl will have to face dark childhood traumas, soulless hunters, magical wild spirits and an ancient pack of wolves in a medieval village in this adaptation of Spanish artist and animator Roc Espinet’s popular graphic novel. Produced by Spain’s Hampa Studio (Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles, The Shadownsters).
Directed by Pixar veteran Jim Capobianco, this mixed-media project centers on a chapter in Leonardo da Vinci’s life where he seeks to find the meaning of life while he flees Italy to work in the court of Francis I and build the “ideal city.” Produced by Folioscope (France) and Leo and the King (U.S.)
This imaginative, surreal new take on the classic Robinson Crusoe story centers on a doctor whose solitude on an island in the Mediterranean is voluntary, while Friday is the only survivor of a lost boat from Africa. According to the film’s synopsis, the island becomes a surreal augmented reality reflection of our modern existence. The 2D/CG/cut-out musical comedy is directed by Anca Damian (Marona’s Fantastic Tale). Produced by Aparte Film (Romania), Take Five (Belgium).
The Last Whale Singer
Directed by Reza Memari (A Stork’s Journey), this 3D stereoscopic movie centers on Vincent, the timid son of the last whale singer, who will have to save the oceans after he accidentally frees a deep sea monster from its ice prison. Produced by Telescope Animation (Germany), PFX (Czech Republic) and Big Bad Boo (Canada).
I Am Helena
Karla Von Bengtson (Next Door Spy) directs this highly original 2D-animated movie which centers on a 13-year-old girl’s difficulties as she transitions from being a child to a young teen. During a school trip, she is dared to climb the local volcano. It’s either that or admit to having feelings for her best friend, Andy. Produced by Denmark’s Copenhagen Bombay (The Great Bear, Beyond Beyond).
A young, resourceful student at St. Custard’s School for Boys suspects that one of the staff has been stealing school funds to pay off shady gangsters in this hilarious homage to 1950s London bank heist movies. Directed by veteran 2D animator and character designer Uli Meyer (Space Jam, Pocahontas, Dolittle). Produced by Lupus Films (U.K.), Uli Meyer Studios (U.K.), Melusine Productions (Luxembourg).
Panda Bear in Africa
Karsten Kiilerich (Raggie, Terkel in Trouble) and Richard Claus (The Little Vampire) direct this charming CG-animated adventure which follows a young Panda as he travels from China to Africa to rescue his kidnapped friend, Jielong the Dragon. Produced by Cool Beans (Netherlands) and A.Film Productions (Denmark).
They Shot the Piano Player
Chico & Rita helmers Fernando Trueba and Javier Marsical are directing this musical journey into the origins of the world-renowned Bossa Nova musical movement. The story finds a New York music journalist (voiced by Jeff Goldblum) embarking on a quest to uncover the truth behind the tragic disappearance of a young Brazilian piano virtuoso, Tenoria Jr. Featuring the music of João Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Vinicius de Moraes. Produced by They Shot the Piano Player (Spain), Film Constellation (U.K.), Fernando Trueba Producciones (Spain) and Prima Linea Productions (France).