‘Despicable,’ ‘Adventures’ bow at Annecy

Attendance up 10% at animation festival

PARIS — Two key upcoming stereoscopic 3D movies — Universal’s “Despicable Me” and “Sammy’s Adventures” from Euro S3D pioneer Ben Stassen — will play for the first time to audiences at next week’s 50th Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival.

The first movie for Universal from Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Ent., “Despicable Me” bows commercially in the U.S. July 9. Voiced by Steve Carell, “Me” was animated at Paris’ Mac Guff and is helmed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, both from France.

Produced by Stassen’s Brussels-based NWave, and his second S3D fiction feature after “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Adventures” was sold worldwide at 2009’s Cannes fest by StudioCanal.

Rather than the films’ French connections, however, it’s Annecy’s status that explains these world preems.

Running June 7-12 this year, Annecy is the world’s highest-profile animation fest, and one of the fastest-growing sprocket operas around.

Fest is embraced by European and U.S. industries alike. U.S. luminaries expected at France’s Annecy include Jeffrey Katzenberg, Matt Groening, Nick Park and Peter Lord from England’s Aardman Animations, Israel’s Ari Folman and France’s Patrice Leconte, both jury members.

Both Gala screenings, “Despicable Me” bows on June 9 and “Adventures” on June 11. Pixar stereoscopic supervisor Bob Whitehill will unveil its latest short, “Day & Night,” on June 12. Annecy opens with Sylvain Chomet’s “The Illusionist” and also features, June 8, the European premiere of “Shrek Forever After.”

According to Mickael Marin, head of Annecy’s Intl. Market of Animation Film (MIFA), other Annecy world preems include “Allez Raconte!” car race actioner “Redline,” from Japan’s Takeshi Koike, and CGI/live action “Duga” (The Rainbow), from Croatia’s Josko Marusic.

Directed by Jean-Christophe Roger and playing in Competition, “Allez Raconte!” turns on a fathers’ TV contest for storytelling. Toonpic marks the latest offering from prestige Gallic toon house Les Armateurs (“The Secret of Kells,” “Kirikou and the Wild Beasts”), which is currently producing Ari Folman’s “The Futurological Congress.”

“We do have premieres. But the point of Annecy isn’t to have the most world premieres; it’s to take in young talent — the small Competition short from Slovenia — to successful films, projects, a market, schools, and computer software designers such as Hewlett Packard,” said fest director Serge Bromberg.

Featuring pics that have already seen commercial release, Annecy’s Competition ranges from “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to dystopia-set “Metropia,” a Venice Critics’ Week player, and “Eleanor’s Secret,” the flagship toon feature from France’s Gaumont Alphanim.

Other Competition titles are 2D-drawn “Piercing 1,” from China’s Liu Jian, “Summer Wars,” helmed by Japan’s Mamoru Hosoda, which won Sitges’ Animat Gertie Award last October, and Japanese blockbuster “One Piece Film: Strong World.”

From early buzz, highlights at Work in Progress look set to include Chun Zhang and Xuan Liang’s “Da Hai,” an ambitious Chinese animation feature, one of South Africa’s first S3D pics, “Jock of the Bushveld,” and Leconte’s presentation of his first toonpic as a director, “The Suicide Shop,” made in pioneering Stereoscopic 2D and currently moving into production.

Attendance at MIFA, which runs June 9-11, will be the best ever, and has doubled in a half-decade, said Marin.

Current accredited participants are up 10% vs. 2009 to 1,850 just prior fest; exhibiting companies have risen more than10% to 450, up from 200 in 2005.

Some 200 international buyers — both TV acquisition execs and foreign distributors — have registered to date, up from 80 in 2004, Marin said.

Annecy’s Chinese Pavilion, hosting 30 companies, will be the biggest booth ever at MIFA. Exhibiting companies at France’s Ile de France Film Comission stand have doubled to 21 in one year, said exec director Olivier-Rene Veillon.

An increased number of feature films in Competition, plus the launch of a Work in Progress showcase, has helped drive a MIFA attendance hike, said Marin.

For Veillon, “Digital 3D is also presenting new opportunites for animation, in France and beyond.”

Annecy fest also features a tribute to Argentinean animation, including works by Juan Pablo Zaramella and Oscar Grillo.

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