Country resumes leading role in Annecy's eyes

BERLIN — In the infancy of animation, Germany led the way, producing the first toon feature in 1926 (Lotte Reiniger’s “The Adventures of Prince Achmed”) before ceding the ground to other nations. Now, as the country celebrates its animation centennial, Annecy spotlights Germany’s return as a major toon player over the past few decades.

Among recent commercial successes is “Lilly the Witch,” a mix of animation and live action from Disney. Its story of a precocious girl who finds a book of sorcery and befriends a dragon is inspired by the books of German scribe Knister.

Munich-based co-producer Trixter Film has several more projects in the works, including “Lilly the Witch 2″ and “Seven Dwarfs,” an animated sequel to Universal’s hit live-action comedy franchise. Such projects are consistent with the German trend toward family-friendly adaptations of well-known properties.

Constantin Film enjoyed back-to-back hits with 2006′s “Hui Buh: The Castle Ghost,” based on the works of Eberhard Alexander-Burgh, and “Lissi and the Wild Emperor.” The latter, about a Bavarian princess, became one of Bavaria Film’s hottest sellers last year.

While much of the industry focuses on 3-D fare, Roland Junker’s Studio 88 has continued to produce traditional 2-D toons for tykes, including the upcoming “Der kleine Rabe Socke” from a children’s book series about a little raven, and 2007′s “Little King Macius,” adapted from Janusz Korczak’s beloved books.

Stop-motion animation is also alive and well in Scopas Medien’s bigscreen production “Der Sandmann und der verlorene Traumsand,” based on the beloved Sandman character featured in a hugely popular 50-year-old East German TV series.

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