ANNECY— Gregoire Melin’s Kinology has closed a raft of territories on “Mune,” one of Europe’s most anticipated toon features slated for 2015.
“Mune,” which was presented by co-director Benoit Philippon and producer Aton Soumache (via Onyx) during a jam-packed work-in-progress session in Annecy, was picked up by Notorious Pictures (Italy), Smile Entertainment (South Korea), Gulf Films (Middle East), Domo Media (China), Zoom Entertainment (India), Volga Films (CIS), Monolith Films (Poland) and Blitz (Former Yugoslavia).
Deals were closed after showing a promo in Cannes. Melin, who is co-producing the movie with Onyx and Orange Studio, is in negotiations in remaining territories. Animation houses Norman Studios and Mikros Image will deliver “Mune” in November, said Melin, who added he and Soumache will debut a road show in early July to present the movie in territories that are still open, such as the U.S. and the U.K..
Based on an original concept by Philippon, who directed with Alexandre Heboyan, the feature is set in an imaginary universe where the sun and the moon must be protected by guardians. Mune, a small and candid forest faun who’s a free-spirited dreamer, is unexpectedly selected to be the new guardian of the moon, a heavy responsibility that lead him to discover his supernatural power. As the sun gets captured by the lord of the underworld, Mune embarks on an epic journey with Sohone, his guardian counterpart, and Glim, a young girl made of wax, to rescue the sun and save the planet from chaos and darkness.
Philippon, who comes from live action and made his English-language debut with Forrest Whitaker starrer “Lullaby for Pi,” started developing the project with Heboyan, a talented young animator who graduated from the prestigious Gobelins school in France and went on to work on “Kung Fu Panda” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.”
The footage unveiled in Annecy showed that Philippon, his co-director and Soumache had delivered on their premise. Although “Mune” is tightly-budgeted at 18 million Euros, it’s highly-polished with an animation style and an aesthetic reminiscent of Disney or Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki’s features. Like “Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants,” the hit toon that grossed over 8.3 million Euros in France, “Mune” is not franchise-based but is clearly positioned as a family movie.
“We wanted to make a mainstream movie and we also strived to create a truly original story with unique characters,” Philippon told Variety. “We respected the codes of family-oriented animated features: it’s a fairly classic fairy tale in the tradition of Disney movies with a mythology, a new universe, similar in some ways to Miyazaki films.’”
The movie has lured a top-notched key crew including character designer Nicolas Marlet (“Kung Fu Panda”), animation supervisor Sebastien Bruneau (“Hotel Transylvania”), character technical supervisor Hidekata Yosumi (“Tangled”), storyboard artists David Berthier (“Despicable Me”), Antoine Antin (“The Illusionist”) and Ouassama Bouacheria (“The Lorax”).
Philippon said the inspiration for Mune’s personality and look was a mix of Spiderman (a teenager who discovers his superpowers and learns how to use them), and Bambi.
The film is also backed creatively by Disney’s vet animator Glen Keane.
Soumache’s Method Animation is one of Europe’s top TV toon producers, which the exec says gives him an insight into children-skewed animation. At the same time, Soumache is also lead-producing, with his partner Dimitri Rassam, the 58 million Euros’ “The Little Prince,” directed by “Kung Fu Panda”’s helmer Mark Osbourne.
“Developping ‘Mune’ and ‘The Little Prince’ at the same time has been tremendously beneficial to both creative teams, as they emulate each others and provide great feedback and synergies,’ Soumache told Variety.
Soumache added he and Rassam’s goal is to produce both franchise-based animated tentpoles like ‘The Little Prince’ and totally original movies from young talents like ‘Mune.'”
Paramount will release “Mune” in France during the first semester of 2015.