ANNECY – Italy’s Cattleya and China’s Stellar Mega Media have boarded Pathe’s adventure comedy “Evolution Man,” which with an estimated budget of around €40 million ($54 million), is shaping up as one of the biggest French releases of 2015.
With Pathe International in advanced negotiations to close a rights deal for Russia, two of the biggest animation markets in the world – China, Russia- are now accounted for on the adventure comedy, starring, written and directed by preeminent French comic Jamel Debbouze, and set in pre-history two million years ago.
Further production and cast details emerged Wednesday at an extensive first glimpse presentation at France’s Annecy Animation Festival where Marc Miance at Let So Ya!, a French production house overseeing the production of “Evolution Man,” presented extensive work in progress footage, behind-the-scenes reportage and tests on an enormously complex shoot.
One of Italy’s foremost production houses, Cattleya, led by Marco Kimmel, will co-produce “Evolution Man,” with Cattleya partner Marco Chimenz handling the co-production.
Beijing-based, Stellar Mega Media is co-financing “Evolution Man.”
Beyond Let So Ya, another French producer is Boreales that originally brought the project to Pathe. Part – but far from all – of the animation has been out-housed to L.A.-based Prana Studios Mumbai production office, which handled coloring, lighting and compositing, among other tasks .
The movie posed huge challenges, Miance said.
Just two: Originally a livewire stand-up comic, Debbouze was originally brought in to voice Edouard, a young ape-man, living in the high big trees of a primeval forest. Rewriting the screenplay, and moulding its centrak character to his own comic talents, it soon became clear that Debbouze had to figure in front of the camera and behind. Motion capture was an obvious answer. Debbouze has an enormous gift for improvisation, spontaneous creativity. Mo-cap requires meticulous planning-ahead. Luckily, shot with 60 cameras in the case of “Evolution Man,”mo-cap shifts a lot of direction decisions to post-production, Miance said.
First glimpse sequences suggested the enormity of “Evolution Man’s” challenge. In a first, Edouard, just born and with a minute body, is about to be sacrificed to ensure a long life for his healthier brother. Dropped towards a ssbre-toothed wolf on the forest floor, he survives and is adopted by a well-intentioned ape-man, who takes him to his eerie flop-pad high in the trees.
In a second scene, high up on cliffs, Edouard is buffeted and thrown around in mid-air by a tornado, bumping into a beautiful young ape-woman.
The ape-men are highly hairy, the forest abundant foliage, making for huge production volume, said Miance.
To attract both an Italian co-producer and Chinese co-financier, four Italian actors, including Alessandro Gassman (“Transporter 2”) and Claudio Visio (“Mediterraneo”) have been cast in “Evolution Man.” Chinese actress-celebrity Wang Luodan plays Edouard’s love interest.
In an agreement with the De Funes family, which should broaden out the film’s core demos towards more mature auds, one of the ape-men, the feckless and fickle Vladimir, will look and talk like the great French comic actor Luois de Funes who died in 1983.
Pathe Distribution will release “Evolution Man” in France on April 8 2015 and in Switzerland. Alternative Films will distribute Belgium. A Middle East sale has also been closed.
Following years in the making, “Evolution Man” should be ready for delivery in early 2015, Miance said.