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Euro trio boosts animation

Countries mix talent and incentives for pics

France, Belgium and Luxembourg are rapidly emerging as Europe’s golden triangle for artier animated pic production, and attracting projects from elsewhere as well.

Amid the global toon boom, Belgium and Luxembourg have emerged as France’s favorite co-production partners for animated features — and not just for the attractive tax incentives. A growing number of outfits staffed with highly skilled crews have made the two countries home.

Among the nine animated films produced in France in 2010, four were co-produced with Belgium and Luxembourg. In contrast, there were no three-way co-productions in 2009, per a spokesperson for France’s Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC), which will release an animation study at June’s Annecy Festival (June 6-11).

French director-producer Pascal Herold, who founded Herold and Family and Delacave Studios, teamed with Belgium’s Nexus Factory on features “The True Story of Puss ‘n’ Boots” and “Cinderella 3D,” now in post-production, and will work with Nexus again on “Baba Yaga,” a 3D animated fairytale based on Slavic folklore.

“Nexus found us a fantastic team of Belgian painters and illustrators,” Herold says. “It’s a win-win collaboration with Belgium, because the country needs French productions to boost its film industry; for French producers, Belgium is attractive because it boasts talented artists, a great tax rebate and there are no language or cultural barriers.”

Per Thierry de Segonzac, prexy of Ficam, France’s technicians’ association, the tax incentives in Luxembourg and Belgium remain the major draw for Gaul’s animation producers. “Their tax rebates are not capped at €1 million, ($1.4 million) as in France, but can reach around €4 million ($5.6 million). … They take into account 25%-45% of expenditure in each country, compared with 20% in France.”

Stephan Roelants’ Luxembourg-based Melusine Prods. and sister company Studio 352 have been powering up the most projects from France for the past couple of years.

Melusine’s animated co-production slate includes:

n”Ernest and Celestine,” produced by Didier Brunner’s Les Armateurs (“Kirikou”). Toon marks Melusine’s ninth collaboration with Les Armateurs.

n”Le Jour des corneilles” (The Day of the Crows) produced by France’s Finalement, and co-produced by Canada’s Max Films and Belgium’s Walking the Dog and the Big Farm, the latter co-owned by Roelants and Serge and Marc Ume. Toon will be presented at Annecy in the Work-in-Progress sidebar.

nRoelants is also leading the production on Raul Garcia’s 3D toon anthology “Extraordinary Tales,” based on five Edgar Allan Poe short stories, co-produced by Les Armateurs.

nStudio 352 will co-produce “Tante Hilda” with French shingle Folimage (“A Cat in Paris”); and “The Song of the Sea,” Tomm Moore’s follow-up to “The Secret of Kells” with Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon. Toon is being set up as an Ireland-Denmark-Luxembourg-Belgium-France co-production.

Roelants says he brings 15% to 20% of financing on most films and works on animated pics budgeted at €5 million to €9 million ($7 million-$12.6 million).

“The animation market has become so competitive that producers need to find partners early on to raise financing,” Roelants explains. “Apart from the majors or companies like EuropaCorp, the vast majority of indie producers can’t afford to work alone on animated films.”

French-Belgium-Luxembourg co-productions are most popular for 2D auteur film toons. They also draw a few higher-bracket 3D features.

One of them is “Prodigies,” a $50 million 3D animated thriller produced by France’s Fidelite Films, Onyx Films and co-produced by Belgium’s Scope Pictures and Luxembourg’s Luxanimation.

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