StudioCanal named best distrib; France 3 Cinema is top producer

“Despicable Me” co-helmer Pierre Coffin, Euro giant StudioCanal and France 3 Cinema won tributes for director, distributor and producer of the year, respectively, at the Cartoon Movie event in Lyon on Friday.

France’s clean sweep partially reflects the large contingent of local animators at the meet, but it also underscores the achievements of all three over 2010, plus the importance of France in European feature animation.

“Despicable Me,” co-helmed by American Chris Renaud, earned $251 million at the U.S. box office, besting “Shrek Forever After” and “How to Train Your Dragon” and $527.2 million worldwide, sparking a working alliance between producer Illumination Entertainment and Paris’ Mac Guff, which provided character animation and production design. It also launched a franchise.

European production-distribution-sales house StudioCanal saw one of its best hits in 2010, taking U.K., French and German distrib rights plus international sales to Ben Stassen’s “Sammy’s Adventures: The Secret Passage.” Estimated worldwide gross is $68.3 million.

StudioCanal also has distribution and sales rights to a swathe of toon pics, including “Sammy’s Adventures 2″; Michel Ocelot’s Berlin Competition player “Tales of the Night”; his new Kirikou project, “Kirikou and Men and Women”; and Vincent Patar and Stephane Aubier’s “Ernest and Celestine,” which was produced by Les Armateurs.

France 3 Cinema, the pubcaster’s film investment arm, is a traditional bulwark of feature animation production. It co-produced “The Illusionist,” “Sammy’s Adventures 2″ and “A Cat in Paris,” among 14 French toons in 2010.

“Animation is a film type that we didn’t do before. But we’ve realized it has real commercial appeal and travels very well,” said Julien France Cinema 3 development head Colombani. Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli won the Rhone-Alpes Personality of the Year Award for their co-direction of “A Cat in Paris,” produced by Lyon animation studio Folimage.

Released Dec.15, “Cat” has earned around $3 million. New York-based GKids, a specialty distributor of independent and foreign animation films, acquired U.S. distribution rights to “Cat” before the Berlin Film Festival, where “Cat” screened in Generation Kplus.

At Cartoon Movie, Gagnol and Felicioli presented their next directorial collaboration, “Phantom Boy,” also set up at Folimage and Belgian “Cat” co-producer Lunanime.

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