Spanish locals toon up features

Screen 21 to make animated pics on smaller budgets, profit

MADRID — Top Spanish toon maker BRB Internacional has launched Screen 21, a division dedicated to theatrical feature film production.

The move comes as more European companies get into filmmaking, hoping to compete, if not at the same scale, at least in the same league as top U.S. players.

Following the success in 1998 of “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” a French-Belgian co-production, and Italy’s “Zorba & Lucky,” “Some European production companies have realized that we can turn out animated movies on budgets way below these in the U.S., but with a quality that will stand up to comparison, and get our money back in the European market,” says Carolina Godayol, BRB’s director of co-prods and new development. She’ll oversee the launch of Screen 21.

Two Euro toons have animated a slow Spanish B.O. this August. Local click “The Living Forest” and Denmark’s “Help I’m a Fish” have grossed $1.06 million and $480,000, respectively, after 10 days.

“That’s of course no way near ‘Shrek’, but the success of these European titles will give some confidence to European animated feature makers,” Godayol says.

Screen 21 aims to produce two animated features in the next three years:

  • The $6.2 million “Romeo & Juliet,” with cats and dogs starring in Shakespeare’s tale. BRB has hired American scribe Jymn Magon (“The Book of Pooh,” “Casper: A Spirited Beginning”) to write the screenplay and aims to close co-prod pacts with local and international partners.

  • “Zip & Zap,” a $4.5 million feature turning on a pair of Spanish cartoon-strip twins. The movie spins off a BRB TV series currently in production.

As a mid-term objective, Screen 21 also plans to distrib third-party toon pics in Spain.