PARIS — Boarding an as-yet-unmade, black-and-white, 3-D animated pic by a European director and producer tackling their first full-length feature seems an unlikely move for a Hollywood major.
But that’s just what Disney did, egged on by exec producer Jake Eberts, when it pre-bought the Gallic pic “Renaissance” on the basis of a script and a four-minute pilot in May 2003.
Miramax will release it Stateside, and Pathe in the U.K., probably in the fall.
The film had a relatively modest release March 15 in Gaul on 90 prints. Distrib Pathe had been planning to bring the film out on 200 copies, but the release coincided with France’s student-led nationwide strikes over an unpopular labor reform that would have made it easier to hire and fire young people.
Producer Aton Soumache recalls: “The day the film came out our target audience, students and high school kids, were preparing for the next day’s national strike. Going to the movies was the last thing on their minds.”
Bolstered by mostly glowing reviews, pic nonetheless notched up the best per-screen average in its first two weeks, and had achieved a respectable ticket sales by April 11. Some 70% of its audience has been over the age of 26.
“It should have been the reverse,” Soumache says.
A thriller set in Paris in the near future, visually “Renaissance” looks like the animated parts of “Sin City” — only it’s 100% animated.
Behind it are young, upstart Gallic talents, including ubiquitous writing duo Alexandre de la Patelliere and Mathieu de la Porte, director Christian Volkman — an Oscar winner for his short “Maas” — 3-D whiz Marc Miance, who designed the visuals and whose animation studio Attitude made the film, and Soumache.
Although this is the big test for his feature film unit Onyx, Soumache’s TV production shingle Method Films is an established producer of kids animation, behind international bestsellers such as series “Skyland,” the hot show at last autumn’s Mipcom Jr.
Soumache now is looking to the future and “Renaissance’s” international rollout.
The pic’s E15 million ($18.2 million) budget was covered even before it opened, with 70% of the money coming from foreign pre-sales to some 40 territories. The rest came from French backers including paybox Canal Plus and France 2.
“The timing of the French release was just a bit of bad luck,” Soumache says philosophically.
“We can’t wait to see how ‘Renaissance’ does in the U.S. and the rest of the world.”