March event gathers industryites from 17 countries

France’s “Zarafa,” Spain’s “Wrinkles” and Iceland’s “Legends of Valhalla: Thor” are among 50 toons and projects set to unspool at the 14th Cartoon Movie, one of Europe’s leading animation markets.

Running March 7-9 in Lyon, France, Cartoon Movie will gather producers, distributors and movies from 17 countries. France, Scandinavia and Belgium lead the pack.

“Zarafa,” co-helmed by Remi Bezancon and Jean-Christophe Lie, follows the adventures of a 10-year-old Egyptian boy and a baby giraffe travelling from Sudan to Paris. Repped by Pathe Intl., “Zarafa” will be distribbed in Gaul on Feb. 5. Bezancon’s credits include “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life.”

Based on Paco Roca’s popular comicbook, helmer Ignacio Ferreras’ hand-drawn “Wrinkles” centers on the friendship between two old men at a nursing home. “Wrinkles” is competing in Oscar’s animated feature race. Spanish rollout is skedded for Feb. 27.

Iceland’s first full-length animated feature, “Legends of Valhalla: Thor,” from helmers Oskar Jonasson and Toby Genkel, turns on a teen who must save his village from an invasion of giants. The 3D family adventure bowed in Iceland in October and will next open in Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.

The leading trend of this year’s Cartoon Movie is the sharp rise in Euro 3D productions, which have doubled compared with the 2011 edition, making up 40% of all the mart’s projects and completed films.

Among the 19 3D titles are Kari Juusonen and Jorgen Lerdam’s “Nico 2: Family Affairs” and Thomas Borch Nielsen’s “Lulu and His Friends From Outer Space.”

Meanwhile, the average budget for all Cartoon Movie titles is down to €5.7 million ($7.3 million) from last year’s $9 million. The mart’s biggest-budget feature — being pitched at concept stage — is $16.8 million “Ages of Madness,” from Spanish scribe-turned-helmer Helio Mira.

Adult-skewed toons make up 22% of projects. Among them: “Young Perez,” a biopic of boxing champion Victor Perez, who was sent to Auschwitz during WWII; and “Another Day of Life,” directed by Damian Nenow (“Paths of Hate”), which takes place during the Angolan civil war.

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