Monsters University

Emerging markets, hits drive toon biz growth

ANNECY — Boasting Disney world premiere “Get That Horse!,” sneak previews of Pixar’s “Monster University” and Universal/Illumination’s “Despicable Me 2,” plus a Work in Progress presentation of “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” France’s 37th Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival hit the ground running Monday with the largest market attendance in its history.

At 2,120 though Saturday, accreditations were tracking 4% up on last year, said Mickael Marin, head of Annecy’s Intl. Animation Film Market (MIFA).

TV buyers and foreign distributor attendance rose 20% to 330 through Friday. Never has the MIFA video library housed more movies and projects: 257.

A quaint country town nestling by a placid lake in the lap of a steep-buffed valley, the mountains above glistening with snow, Annecy looks like a Disney take on a European film festival setting.

But, with 7,000-plus accredited professionals in 2012, the French Alps fest also marks the biggest global gathering of animation execs and talent anywhere in the world.

They don’t just come to take in the views.

Annecy’s all-time market attendee/product highs point up various global toon biz drivers: Nascent emerging market toon industry growth; double-digit million dollar box office for a clutch of international toon pics; Hollywood studios’ determination, matched by that of big international players, to source creative talent worldwide.

Take Nickelodeon. Like 21 other companies — among them Disney Channel, Universal’s Illumination MacGuff, Sony Pictures Animation, Turner Intl. Asia Pacific and Walt Disney Animation Studios — Nickelodeon will launch an animator recruitment session at Annecy, unveil a new global initiative, present its editorial line and priorities in a “Share With” session, and host a Nickelodeon Creators’ Party, which looks like one of the chic-est parties at the festival.

Nick execs will co-deliver two master-classes and talk on a round table (see Annecy Highlights, below).

“Our company is based on creatively driven product. We’re a global company, a big believer in that Hollywood does not own all the talent,” said Russell Hicks, president, Nickelodeon Group content development and production, citing Nickelodeon’s hit mystery series “House of Anubis,” based on a Dutch-Belgian TV drama.

Disney also pursues student outreach. One Annecy goal is “to reach out to young, talented artists from all around the world that come to this festival, to talk to these young people whose dream is to work at Disney one day,” said Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Dorothy McKim, producer of “Get a Horse!,” a mock-classic, sepia-toned Mickey Mouse short featuring Walt Disney’s voice.

Like Comic-Con, given its mass horde mix of toon fanboys and pros, much Annecy biz also turns on visibility, positioning and promoting movies, brands and technology.

Opening Annecy with “The Blue Umbrella” and “Monsters University,” Pixar will celebrate the 25th anniversary of RenderMan, used in 70% of vfx worldwide, with repeat-screenings of “Umbrella.”

RenderMan’s lighting/shading realism makes “animation artists more like photographers than they’ve been in the past and able to achieve effects which previously were too expensive,” said Pixar’s Dylan Sisson.

For Marin, it’s the presence of talent — from Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, Chris Wedge, Bill Plympton, Dean DeBlois, Tomm Moore, Dan Scanlon and Jacques-Remy Girerd to animation school students — which sets Annecy and MIFA apart from Mip and Mipcom.

But, for the indie sector, co-production, pre-sales and sales have been steadily growing, he added.

TV France Intl. CEO Mathieu Bejot agreed: “There’s a lot of co-production and pre-sales talks, people getting together on the artistic and production side, which you absolutely don’t get at MIP Junior and only for Europe at Cartoon.”

Full-on big company interest in foreign talent is matched by a growth in the overseas talent pool.

For the first time ever, Brazilian (“Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury”) and Indian (“Arjun, the Warrior Prince”) toonpics play in competition at Annecy; Argentina has a strong 29-exec delegation; South Africa receives a territory focus.

In Asia, companies that used to service U.S. or European toon pics are moving from outsourcing into production, Marin reported.

The emerging territory surge is thanks in part to state backing.

“South Africa’s government definitely sees animation as a key growth area, which is why we have so much support,” said Stuart Forrest, producer of Annecy competition player “Khumba,” which was co-financed by South Africa’s semi-state Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).

“In emerging markets, the child-to-parent ratio is much higher than in the developed markets,” he added.

From March 2012, Brazilian pay TV operators are obliged by law to air 3.5 hours of Brazilian content weekly. Local TV shows grew fourfold at Brazil’s 15 main paybox channels from about 60 first quarter 2012 to 270 in the last quarter, according to Brazil’s Ancine agency, said Rachel do Valle at the Brazilian Independent TV Producers Assn., which hosts a MIFA exhibition booth.

Meanwhile, select international toonpics — “Khumba,” “Pinocchio” and “Oggy and the Cockroaches” — are punching numerous sales. Others are running up noteworthy box office, especially outside the U.S.

Both 2012 Annecy competition contenders, “Adventures in Zambezia” has grossed $24.9 million (see separate news story), “Tad the Lost Explorer” $50 million-plus.  Screening out of competition this year, Toei Animation’s “One Piece Film Z” soared to $72.8 million in Japan, three times takings for “The Dark Knight Rises.” Russia’s “Three Warriors on Far Shores” fought to $32.1 million from a Christmas launch.

In an ideal world, Hollywood would be admired in Europe for its artistry; companies would reach out to others across the globe to collaborate on films; distinctiveness — in culture, setting, style, authorial voice — would be seen as a plus. All that can be said about Annecy, and the global animation industry.

Yet a Europa Distribution workshop Wednesday will focus on not only the opportunities, but the challenges facing European toonpic distribution as, per its preamble, a scarcity of production has turned to abundance, even excessive abundance.

It is still hellishly difficult for the vast majority of independent animation films to stand out in a crowded release field, or to be held to match up to Hollywood’s finest. Alternative art films garner critical plaudits, most don’t break out at the box office.

One inevitable debating point at Annecy will be why global talent often now seems more appreciated by Hollywood than local audiences.

The Annecy fest runs June 10-15; MIFA June 12-14.

ANNECY LINEUP 

FEATURE-LENGTH COMPETITION

“The Apostle,” (Fernando Cortizo, Spain)

“Arjun, The Warrior Prince,” (Arnab Chaudhuri, India)

“Berserk Golden Age Arc II: The Battle For Doldrey,” (Toshiyuki Kubooka, Japan)

“Jasmine,” (Alain Ughette, France)

“Khumba,” (Anthony Silverston, South Africa)

“Legends Of Oz: Dorothy’s Return,” (Daniel St. Pierre, William Finn, U.S.)

“My Mommy Is In America And She Met Buffalo Bill,” (Marc Boreal, Thibaut Chatel, France)

“Pinocchio,” (Enzo d’Alo, Italy)

“Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury,” (Luiz Bolognesi, Brazil)

OUT OF COMPETITION

“Aya De Yopougon,” (Marguerite Abouet, Clement Oubrerie, France)

“Blood-C: The Last Dark,” (Naoyoshi Shiotani, Japan)

“Buratino’s Return,” (Ekaterina Mikhailova, Russia)

“Consuming Elements,” (Christopher Sullivan, US)

“El Santos vs. La Tetona Mendoza,” (Alejandro Lozano, Mexico)

“It’s Such a Beautiful Day,” (Don Hertzfeldt, US)

“The Legend of Sarila,” (Nancy Savard, Canada)

“The Life of Guskou Budori,” (Gisaburo Sugii, Japan)

“One Piece Film Z,” (Tatsuya Nagamine, Japan)

“Patema Inverted,” (Yasuhiro Yoshiura, Japan)

“Persistence of Vision,” (Kevin Schreck, US)

“The Snow Queen,” (Maxim Sveshnikov, Vladlen Barbe, Russia)

“Tito on Ice,” (Max Andersson, Helena Ahonen, Sweden)

WORKS IN PROGRESS

“How to Train Your Dragon 2,” (Dean DeBlois, U.S.)

“Solan and Ludvig’s Christmas,” (Rasmus A. Sivertsen, Sweden)

“Mune,” (Alexandre Heboyan, Benoit Philippon, France)

“Another Day of Life,” (Raul de la Fuente, Damian Nenow, Poland, Spain)

“The Prince and the 108 Demons,” (Pascal Morelli, France, China, Belgium, Luxembourg)

“Loulou’s Secret,” (Eric Omond, Gregoire Solotareff, France, Belgium),

“Cheatin,” (Bill Plympton, US)

“Song of the Sea,” (Tomm Moore, Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Denmark)

SELECTED ANNECY HIGHLIGHTS

MONDAY, JUNE 10

10:00 am Bow of exhibition The Art of Monsters University.

6:00 pm Screening of “Cochemare, “ a new short from Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, Oscar-nommed for “Madame Tutli-Putli.” Produced by Montreal’s PHI Films, “Cochemare” inaugurates new Animation Off-Limits sidebar.

8:30 pm Annecy Festival opens with “The Blue Umbrella” and “Monsters University.”

TUESDAY JUNE 11

9:30 am – 10:45 am Work in Progress: “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” DreamWorks Animation Studios’ first WIP outing.

2:00 pm-3:30 pm Creative Focus feature film pitches.

4:00 pm World premiere of “Get a Horse!” Director Lauren Macmillan (“Avatar: The Last Airbender”), producer Dorothy McKim, vet animator Eric Goldberg (“Pocahontas”) and Adam Green to attend.

8:30 pm  Screening of Clement Oubrerie and Marguerite Abouet’s “Aya of Yop City” an African township soap opera, from “The Rabbi’s Cat” producer, Paris-based Autochenille Prod.

WEDNESDAY JUNE 12

9:30 am: MIFA opens.

9:30 am -12:30 pm: “Feature Films: 4 Case Studies” panel: Presented: “Oggy and the Cockroaches, the Movie,” “Cafard,” “The Congress” and “Khumba.”

10:00-7:00 pm Walt Disney Animation Studios presentations and portfolio critiques, repeated on Thursday.

10:00-11:30 Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin signing session.

10:00 BBC, TF1 and Nickelodeon execs talk on the panel, Channel Programming and the Impact on Editorial Choice.

11:00 First of six Pixar RenderMan showcases.

2:30 pm Polish Animation in Focus presentation.

2:30 pm-4:30 pm Europa Distribution backed round table on The Distribution of Animated Features.

2:30-4:30 Denmark’s Copenhagen Bombay (“The Great Bear”) comes under scrutiny in the Creative Focus session, Anatomy of a European Feature Studio: the Danish Example.

4:30 pm Introducing South Africa focus.

6:30 pm French pubcaster France Televisions’ traditional annual Annecy press conference. “For French animation producers, it’s the place to be,” said TV France Intl. CEO Mathieu Bejot.

8:30 pm Sneak preview of “Despicable Me 2,” with Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud and Chris Meledandri.

10:15 pm Sneak peek outdoor screening of the first episode from Gaumont Animation’s new 3D “Calimero” series, celebrating the black chicken’s 50th anni.

THURSDAY JUNE 13

10:00 am-12:30 pm Creative Focus TV series/specials pitches.

11:15 am French TV group Lagardere Active, owner of Gulli, and Canal J channels, announces new projects.

2:00 pm Making of “Epic,” talked through by director Chris Wedge.

2:30 pm Gallic broadcast network TF1 master-class and animation prize.

2:30 pm Focus on Japan.

4:00 pm Canada National Film Board presentation of Norman McLaren apps, focusing on three techniques made famous by the filmmaker.

5:00 pm From Russia With Co co-prod session.

8:30 pm Sneak preview of “Oggy and the Cockroaches, the Movie,” a slapstick big-screen spin-off of the Fox Kids fave, from Marc du Pontavice’s Paris-based shingle Xilam.

FRIDAY JUNE 14

10:00 am U.K. Animation — Open For Business: Explanation of new U.K. toon tax breaks

12 pm First-footage and trailer of “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart,” produced by Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, with helmer Mathias Malzieu offering a mini concert

8:30 pm Sneak preview screening of “Aunt Hilda!” French helmer Jacques-Remy Girerd’s follow up to “Mia and the Migoo,” the 2009 European Film Awards animated feature winner.

9:00 pm Dailymotion/Cartoon Network prize awards.

SATURDAY JUNE 15

8:00 pm Closing Awards Ceremony

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