Gaumont-Alphanim preps ‘Santa’s Apprentice 2’

Vinciguerra, Reverend repeat on sequel

French toon studio Gaumont-Alphanim is prepping “Santa’s Apprentice 2,” a sequel to its successful 2010 feature that plays in competition at the Annecy Animated Film Festival this week.

The sequel, which reunites helmer Luc Vinciguerra and scribe Alexandre Reverend, is skedded for delivery at Christmas 2012.

The original centered on Nicholas, an Australian boy chosen by Santa Claus to be his successor. “Santa’s Apprentice 2” sees Nicholas in charge of Santa’s toy factory. But he learns there’s a whole lot more responsibilities than he imagined.

” ‘Santa’s Apprentice 2’ is really about learning to be yourself and dealing with things in your own way and rediscovering the magic of Christmas,” Heath Kenny, Gaumont-Alphanim creative director, said at Annecy.

Kenny added that Gaumont-Alphanim aims for Nicholas’ emotional voyage to be slightly more complex, so that the film entertains the whole family.

Gaumont-Alphanim is also exploring the possibility of feature film spin offs for “Calimero” and “Lanfuest Quest,” said managing director Pierre Belaisch.

The first “Santa’s Apprentice” was co-produced by Gaumont-Alphanim with Jim Ballantine’s Australian studio Flying Bark and Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon, lead producers on Tomm Moore’s “The Secret of Kells.” Gaumont-Alphanim is in discussions for Flying Bark to board “Santa’s Apprentice 2.”

Released in France by Gaumont, “Santa’s Apprentice” grossed €.7 million ($5.4 million) in late 2010.

Sold by Gaumont abroad, it was picked up by the Weinstein Co. for North America and the U.K., HBO in Latin America and Universum in Germany, among major territories.The greenlight for “Santa’s Apprentice 2” comes after Gaumont-Alphanim signed up rights this February to produce a CGI series based on Italian/Japanese cartoon chick Calimero.

Belaisch said Gaumont-Alphanim was driving into developing global brands, which are more valuable for broadcasters in terms of ratings — key given a serious decline in international pre-sales for French toon TV shows.

“Ten years ago, they represented 45% of a French production’s finance, now it’s 25%,” Belaisch said.

According to Kenny, another core strategy is to bring in network or channel partners and other investors very early in the development of a property. This is what it did with “The Green Squad,” which it developed with pubcaster France Televisions, and “Dude, Where’s My Ghost?” set up with Disney XD and Orange in France.

“The ability to listen and work with a network is really key to ensure that everyone is working toward the same goal. If you’re not capable of doing that, it’s really difficult to get something made,” Kenny said.

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