Animal docus are all the rage

BERLIN — After penguins, is the next big animal thing going to be foxes? Termites? Or whales?

In the wake of international hit “March of the Penguins,” which grossed $78 million in the U.S. alone, courtship rituals are in full swing here between distribbers and sales agents handling animal docus, many of them French.

Just before the mart opened Paramount Classics and National Geographic made a bid to earn their own polar moolah by taking U.S. rights to the Arctic-set “The White Planet.”

It’s only one of a number of docus out there.

Top of a few wish lists is “The Fox and the Child,” helmer Luc Jacquet’s follow up to “Penguins.” Pic being sold by Wild Bunch tells is a more personal story than “Penguins,” but will be the same blend of docu and fiction, seen through the perspective of an animal protagonist.

“Jacquet tamed a fox when he was a boy and the story is about a fox who gets adopted by a little girl,” says Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval. The movie will take two camera teams a full year to shoot, but major distributors are already on the scent.

TF1 Intl.’s “The Beseiged Fortress” gets the prize for most original offering.

Going wholeheartedly down the fictional route, pic is a new twist on the disaster movie –think Towering Inferno” — set inside a six-meter tall termite hill. When tropical rain floods the structure mayhem breaks out, including an invasion of carnivorous ants.

Celluloid Dreams is also hoping to persuade distribbers small is beautiful with Nicholas de Pencier’s “Four Wings and a Prayer,” about the mysterious migration from Canada to Mexico of the Monarch butterfly.

Vet filmmaker Jacques Perrin prefers nature writ large. He is prepping his ambitious Euros 40 million “Ocean,” an aquatic follow up to his hit docu “Winged Migration,” this time using fiction to deliver its message about man’s abuse of the planet. Lensing at various locations around the world begins in June but pic won’t be ready for delivery before 2008.

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