Dygra hangs growth on ‘Dream’

Hill, Richardson among thesps boarding toon studio's project

Brian Blessed, Bernard Hill, Rhys Ifans and Miranda Richardson are voicing the English-lingo of “Midsummer Dream,” the second animation pic from Spanish toon animation house Dygra Films.

Excepts from the English version of “Midsummer,” a CGI adaptation of the Shakespeare play which Lumina Films has sold to 61 countries, will showcase at Cannes Monday.

The U.K. thesps’ presence on “Midsummer,” an attempt to break into the English-lingo market, the least receptive for mainland Euro animators, is just one of the latest steps being taken by Dygra to morph into one of Europe’s most prominent toon studios.

Since 1997, when the 18-year-old company went into production on its first toon pic, “The Living Forest,” Dygra’s come a long way.

A tale of woodland creatures battling human greed, the pioneering, fully CGI-tooned “Forest” was dubbed into 21 languages and took in about 1 million admissions in Europe.

But it also underscored the large challenge facing a Euro indie toon pic producer: It was 4½ years in the making, has been released piecemeal around the world, didn’t receive U.S. distribution, and faced (though won) an uphill battle to snag merchandising from local companies.

So Dygra is biting some bullets.

In March, it announced three 3-D animated feature projects: “The Spirit of the Forest,” “Holy Night!” and “The Golden Ass,” bowing one a year from 2006.

“Spirit” in itself reps another strategy, being a sequel of “The Animated Forest,” reprising many of its characters. That sits comfortable with merchandisers, said Dygra director Manolo Gomez, who helmed “Midsummer” with Angel de la Cruz.

To energize cash-flow, Gomez continued, it has pre-sold “Midsummer” aggressively, and production will be slashed to 3½ months for “Midsummer” and shorter timeframes for later pics.

Dygra will launch a capital increase this fall, bringing in new investors, and restructure as a group.

It will merge its strung-out studios — six alone in Galicia — into a major new complex, hiring out its facilities to third parties.

For “Midsummer,” it has more than a dozen merchandisers on board, with over 400 products.

The bottom-line is that the films have to deliver.

In France, EuropaCorp will start sales on Luc Besson’s “Arthur and the Minimoys.” Cannes will preview 20 minutes from Michel Ocelot “Kirikou and the Wild Beasts.”

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