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Studios roll out movies at Annecy

Fest, mart underscores globalization of biz

PARIS

The 52nd Annecy Animation Film Festival kicks off Monday with a varied U.S. major presence plus strong signs that animation, once the preserve of studios, is now a global enterprise.

Opening Annecy are Patrice Leconte’s stereoscopic 2D musical comedy “The Suicide Shop,” plus the world premiere of Walt Disney Animation Studio’s “Paperman,” a black and white, minimalist short melding CG and hand-drawn animation.

Annecy will unspool a sneak preview of DreamWorks Animation’s “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” which plays Tuesday, one day before its French release, rolling off strong Cannes buzz.

Still to open in France, the Universal-distributed “Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax,” the first movie delivered by U’s Paris-based Illumination Mac Guff, also gets a sneak peek.

Director Genndy Tartakovsky and Sony Pictures Animation prexy Bob Osher will present monster resort comedy “Hotel Transylvania,” which bows in Annecy’s Work in Progress strand.

“Shrek the Third” scribe-director Chris Miller plus Joe Aguilar and Tom Wheeler, producer and writer of “Puss in Boots,” kick off a two-day family animation screenwriting seminar on Monday.

Fox TV Animation’s Shannon Smith and Peter Shin are taking part in a production and asset management panel.

The studios are a traditional presence at Annecy. What’s newer are the hordes of toon companies hailing from outside the world’s established toon production hubs.

There are 2,040 accredited participants at Annecy’s Mifa mart, which starts Wednesday,

up 7% on 2011. Exhibition/meeting space is 18% up on 2011.

Mifa director Mickael Marin said one explanation of hiked attendance levels is market globalization. “For the past three-or-four years, there have been new national delegations, which then come back with more companies.”

New delegations this year include Russia — with a big booth and 20 companies — Taiwan and South Africa.

Mifa is honoring Ireland with a tribute, including a panel on Wednesday.

“The size of Ireland’s animation industry is really surprising, and it’s achieved a good mix of commercial productions with strong artistic points of view,” Marin said.

To fast-track international mart networking, Mifa is launching two new initiatives: territory focuses — this year, Russia and the Rhone-Alps Imaginove cluster — and select market screenings, including Mexico’s “The Secret of the Jade Medallion” and China’s “Zeng He 1405.”

Globalization in production levels and financing runs through the fest and mart alike.

Annecy world preems include Spain’s “Tad, the Lost Explorer,” a pioneering Korean co-production with Europe; “Approved for Adoption,” using 3D animation with a 2D finish and documentary footage, and South Africa’s “Zambezia,” sold to 40-plus territories.

But TV toon markets remain tough. According to Animation Europe, 27 European animation films were released in Europe in 2011, up from 19 in both 2010 and 2009, and 24 in 2008.

Snagging financing for a toon pic is one thing, closing distribution another: All the more reason to attend Annecy.

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