Animated film is set on Noah's Ark

PARIS — Gaumont is getting into 3-D animation with the $35 million feature “Rock the Boat,” a two-minute clip of which will preem at next week’s American Film Market.

The Gallic major is bidding to secure a U.S. deal before casting English language thesps to voice the film early next year.

Tale, being pitched as “Some Like it Hot” set on Noah’s Ark, is about a cheetah and a porcupine forced to disguise themselves as other creatures to qualify for a place on the Ark.

Gaumont’s Franck Chorot is producing, with Fabien Suarez and Andre Bessy, first-time helmers, co-directing from an original script by Suarez.

The entirely French-made film has been in production for the past 10 months and is slated for delivery by September 2009, ahead of a Christmas release in France. The French f/x company MacGuff Ligne will handle physical production of the film.

Project reps Gaumont’s first foray into animation since “Asterix and the Big Fight” 18 years ago.

Producer Chorot said: “We have world-class animation talent in France, but we can keep production costs at much lower levels than the Hollywood studios.”

To date, French animation pics have targeted small children, such as “Franklin and the Turtle Lake Treasure” or “Raining Cats and Frogs,” or adult auds, like “Triplets of Belleville” and “Persepolis,” but “Rock the Boat” is intended to be a “mainstream family film for the international market,” Chorot said.

Interest in Gallic animation has been driven up by the success last year of Luc Besson’s mega-budget 3-D and live animation “Arthur and the Invisibles,” the holiday season box office smash that racked up more than 6.4 million admissions in France. Several other Gallic projects are in the works.

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