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Animaker preps ‘Niko 2’

Talent, partners reteam on reindeer toon franchise

LYON, France — Helsinki’s Animaker is re-teaming with Hamburg’s Ulysses Filmproduktion, Copenhagen’s A. Film Production and Galway’s Magma Prods. to produce 3D “Niko 2 — Family Affairs,” part of a budding Euro toon pic franchise.

The original 2D “Niko and the Way to the Stars,” which was released in 2008, centered on a tyke reindeer learning to fly so as to save Santa. It took 3.1 million admissions worldwide and Weinstein Co. gave it a DVD release as “The Flight Before Christmas” in the U.S. It was nommed in 2009 by the European Film Academy.

Having handled “Niko,” Germany’s Telepool has acquired international rights to “Niko 2.”

Nordisk Film, which has taken Scandinavian distrib rights, has skedded a world premiere in Finland for Oct. 12, 2012.

Animaker once more lead produces, with the same partners.

Pic is budgeted at Euros 7.3 million ($10 million), said Animaker co-owner and “Niko 2” producer Hannu Tuomainen.

“Niko 2 — Family Affairs” turns on boy reindeer Niko’s discomfit when his mother re-marries and Niko is forced to look after a cute little stepbrother. Events happen a day or two before Christmas.

“This is mainstream adventure but we’re also dealing in the complexity of the modern family. That may be why Niko stood out in the market: It had serious content but it was easy to follow and like,” Tuomainen said.

Screenplay is written by “Niko” scribes Tuomainen and Ireland-based Marteinn Thorisson. Kari Juusonen returns to direct, this time with Dane Jorgen Lerdam (“Olsen Gang Gets Polished”).

Studio animation will be provided by Finland’s Anima Vitae, which co-owns Animaker with Tuomainen’s Cinemaker, Hamburg’s Pictorion Magma Animation and A. Film Production.

“Niko 2” is in pre-production, awaiting completion finance in the next month, Tuomainen said. It will be presented at this week’s Cartoon Movie, which runs March 2-4 in Lyon.

“Stars” launched the careers of several collaborators. Editor and production supervisor Antti Haikala has gone on to direct the TF1-sold “Santa’s Magic Crystal,” skedded for Christmas release.

In Lyon, Juusonen will also pitch “The Sampo,” a Scandinavian fantasy adventure toon feature, now in development.