Brizzis to helm Armateurs’ ‘L’automne a Pekin’

U.S. scribes Cohen, Sokolow work on 'Riviera'

ANNECY — Former Disney animators Paul and Gaetan Brizzi will direct toon feature “L’automne a Pekin,” an adaptation of Boris Vian’s novel set up at Didier Brunner’s Paris-based Les Armateurs, Europe’s leading art pic toon producer.

French-born, the Brizzi brothers wrote and directed the “Firebird Suite” segment of Disney’s “Fantasia 2000.” They were also storyboard artists on 1996’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and 2007’s “Enchanted.”

Mixing contempo satire, surrealism and a despairing take on love, Vian’s same-titled 1947 novel turns on the futile construction of a railway station in the desert of Expotamie.

The Brizzis, whose Brizzi Films Montreuil studio was purchased by Disney, becoming Walt Disney Television Animation France, have already made a 10-minute pilot, which establishes character design, said Les Armateurs’ Jean-Paul Commin.

Les Armateurs, whose “Ernest and Celestine” screens Friday at Annecy, has also signed up U.S. screenwriting duo Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (“Toy Story,” “Garfield,” “Garfield 2”) to pen the screenplay for toonpic “French Riviera.”

“A ‘vintage’ thriller,” in Brunner’s words, “Riviera” will be helmed by French graphic artist Richard Zielenkiewicz, better known as Monsieur Z.

“U.S. screenwriters can hone the thriller aspects and bring an international sense of humor to ‘Riviera,’ ” Commin said.

Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp will no longer co-produce the toon feature, whose budget is in the €10 million-€15 million ($12.4 million-$18.6 million) range.

Armateurs’ “Kirikou and the Men and the Women,” helmed by Michel Ocelot, bows in France Oct. 3, while “Ernest and Celestine” opens on Dec. 12.

Both movies are co-produced, distributed and sold internationally by Studiocanal. One episode of “Kirikou,” “Le Monstre bleu,” will screen before “Ernest’s” Annecy screening.