Minuscule - Valley of the Lost

Distribution panel looks set to stress importance of building early audience awareness

MADRID – Homing in on one of the biggest challenges for indie toon production worldwide, Europa Distribution will organize a three-day workshop at next week’s Annecy Animation Festival to analyze the distribution of European animated features.

An E.U.-backed network, think-tank and lobby grouping 142 distributors in 29 countries across Europe, Europa Distribution has emerged as a significant source of in-the-trenches analysis from a market perspective of the triumphs, trends and challenges of Europe’s film industries.

This year, it will take one bull by the horns, at a centerpiece panel on Wednesday June 11, which asks the rhetorical question: “Building a relationship with the audience since the production stage: a key for successful release?”

Organized with Annecy’s MIFA market, the panel comes in a year when only two French toon pics – Helene Giraud and Thomas Szabo’s “Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants” (pictured, which notched up a $12.5 million French B.O. result) and the Ben Stassen co-helmed “The House of Magic” ($9.0 million) – have sold more than one million tickets in France.

Discussions will shed light on how an early cooperation between producers, sales agents and distributors on promotion issues can strengthen animation films’ releases, Europa Distribution announced Wednesday.

Panelists include Lionel Curt from the Paris-based digital marketing agency MNSTR, Annemie Degryse at Ghent-based the Lumiere Group, a highly active distributor and producer of animation films for Belgium and the Netherlands, and French comic book creator and movie director Arthur de Pins, who has 3D “Zombillenium” set up at France’s Maybe Movies, which in turn was a producer on the Oscar-nommed “Ernest and Celestine,” one of France’s most recent toon pic B.O. hits with a €6.3 million ($8.6 million) gross at Gallic theaters.

Another panelist is Anne Sanchez at Agence Mercredi, an animation marketing specialist who has handled the “Kirikou” franchise movie and 2012’s “Zarafa,” which grossed $12.8 million in France.

Peter Debruge, Variety’s chief international film critic, will moderate the panel. Europa Distribution members attending the workshop – 16 by mid-week and counting – will also share recent and innovative experiences on animation in a session on Wednesday morning. They will also attend MIFA’s feature film pitching session on Tuesday and Annecy’s Works in Progress presentations.

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