×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

French animators choose Provence

New companies open in sunny South

PARIS — With its sunny weather, scenic coastline and sumptuous villas, Provence could almost be California.

The similarity hasn’t escaped a growing number of French animators who have ankled well-paying jobs in Hollywood to return home — but can’t face the idea of life back in cold, gray Paris.

“It’s about quality of life,” says Erwan Maigret, a former R&D technical lead at DreamWorks Animation, who spent 10 years Stateside working on films such as “Shrek 2,” “Madagascar,” “Over the Hedge” and “Shrek the Third” before returning to his native land.

Last September, Maigret, fellow DreamWorks transplant Arnauld Lamorlette and a group of like-minded animation colleagues came to the region to found the Bakery Animation, a studio aiming to be a European challenger to Pixar and DreamWorks. Backed by Turkish entrepreneur Yalcin Cevikel, the Bakery is developing its own proprietary software and says it will begin production on its first feature-length toon two years from now.

Company is hoping to woo U.S.-based talent at this year’s Siggraph with promises of the good life in the picture-postcard village of Gemenos, pop. 5,000.

“To motivate professionals to come back home to Europe, as well as having ambitious projects to work on, you have to offer them a lifestyle as good as the one they had in California,” Maigret says.

Eighteen months ago, another Hollywood-based Gaul, Eric “Bibo” Bergeron, made the same move, setting up an animation facility in nearby Nice to make the EuropaCorp-backed CGI feature “Un monstre a Paris.”

But one company in the region that has already beaten both newcomers in the CGI feature-film stakes is Action Synthese.

The Marseilles-based studio produced France’s first entirely homemade CG animation feature, the 2005 Pathe-backed kidpic “The Magic Roundabout.”

A sequel is in the works, and Action Synthese recently put the finishing touches to a “Magic Roundabout” TV series for French web M6 and Nickelodeon UK.

The company’s next project will be a CGI “Wizard of Oz” to be directed by John Boorman, which is slated to enter pre-production shortly.

The Paris region remains France’s biggest media industry hub by far, but for Action Synthese’s Paris-raised founder, Pascal Rodon, there’s no question that the south’s the right place to be.

“There is a pool of trained talent in the region, and you aren’t in competition with lots of other companies to hire them,” says Rodon.

Just up the road, in Arles, the Supinfocom is a top-rated computer graphics school whose students are frequently among festival prizewinners.

So far, the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region hasn’t been the quickest off the mark in offering financial incentives to the animation industry — the Paris region already has a system up and running — but that is set to evolve.

Lydie Fenech, director of Cinema au Soleil, an org representing the region’s film and television industries, believes the future’s rosy for CG animation a la Provencal.

“When you are recruiting for an animation studio, you’re hiring people who are 25-30 years old, and they want sun, sea, good living. That’s what they get here.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS:

    Disney and Tencent to Put Out New Chinese ‘Star Wars’ Story

    Disney and China’s biggest online publisher, Tencent’s China Literature, have teamed up to develop a new Chinese “Star Wars” online novel and release 40 older e-books in Chinese for the first time. In an attempt to cultivate grass-roots enthusiasm for a franchise that has not yet managed to find a strong foothold in the world’s [...]

  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

    Film Review: 'A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon'

    No asteroids are hurtling toward Earth in “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon,” though a flying frozen pizza does softly slice the top off an elderly shopper’s hairdo: That’s roughly the level of quirky peril we’re talking about in the latest outing from Aardman Animations, and as usual, the British stop-motion masters cheerfully prove that [...]

  • Slam

    Film Review: ‘Slam’

    The disappearance of a fearless female Palestinian-Australian slam poet triggers suspense and powerful social and political commentary in “Slam,” an outstanding slow-burn thriller by expat Indian filmmaker Partho Sen-Gupta (“Sunrise”). Starring Palestinian actor Adam Bakri (“Omar,” “Official Secrets”) as the missing woman’s conflicted brother, and leading Aussie performer Rachael Blake as a troubled cop, Opening [...]

  • Igo Kantor

    Igo Kantor, Producer and Post-Production Executive, Dies at 89

    Igo Kantor, whose Hollywood career took him from Howard Hughes’ projection room to supervising post-production on “Easy Rider” and producing B-movies like “Kingdom of the Spiders” and “Mutant,” died Oct. 15. He was 89. Kantor, who was born in Vienna and raised in Lisbon, met “Dillinger” director Max Nosseck on the ship to New York. [...]

  • The Lion King

    Average Movie Ticket Price Falls 4% in Third Quarter of 2019

    Average ticket prices for the third quarter have dropped 4% to $8.93, down from Q2’s $9.26, the National Association of Theatre Owners announced today. However, compared with the third quarter of 2018, ticket price has risen 1.1% from $8.83. The summer box office is down 2.13% from 2018, though the third quarter box office is [...]

  • Tilda Swinton to Preside Over The

    Tilda Swinton to Preside Over Marrakech Film Festival

    Tilda Swinton, the iconoclastic British actress and producer, is set to preside over the 18th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival, succeeding to American director James Gray. Swinton, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA award for best supporting actress for “Michael Clayton,” has been leading an eclectic acting career. She has collaborated with [...]

  • The King Netflix

    Middleburg Film Festival Brings Hollywood to Virginia

    For the last seven years, audiences have flocked to the Middleburg Film Festival. Running October 17th – 21st, and situated in the wine-country hills of historic Middleburg, Virg., the festival usually highlights some of the year’s buzziest titles, and 2019 is no exception. “We’re a smaller festival with fewer overall screenings than other events, so we [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content