Ben Stassen’s ‘House of Magic 3D’ Preps Christmas Launch-pad

nWave, Studiocanal team on latest indie toon bet

Ben Stassen’s ‘House of Magic 3D’

MADRID – Sold by Studiocanal, Ben Stassen’s adventure comedy “The House of Magic 3D,” the latest movie from one of continental Europe’s biggest animation players, Stassen’s Brussels-based nWave Pictures, has its own special Christmas present: A near day-and-date multi-market release in key territories.

Studiocanal is also now discussing a U.S. release for “Magic.”

Budgeted at $34 million, “Magic” will bow Dec. 24 in South Korea, courtesy of CJ Entertainment.

Studiocanal itself, which teamed with nWave to produce “Magic,” releases the family-targeted toon pic in France on Christmas Day, as does Belga Films in Belgium.  “Magic” hits cinema theaters in Singapore Dec. 26, via Shaw Organization. Notorious Pictures bows “Magic” New Year’s Day in Italy, Medyavizyon follows suit in Turkey.

Studiocanal will release ‘Magic” in Germany May 22, in the U.K. around April-May, and in Australia-New Zealand, dates to be firmed up.

Estars will distribute in China, Russia’s Volga Film bow it April 10.

Where the world’s independent animation industry – sometimes by its own admission – often still falls down when facing off with Hollywood is in the depth of its screenwriting pool and distribution/marketing muscle.

“During the first twelve of the thirty months we spent in production, we devoted our entire energy to fine-tuning our script and the design of our fifty different characters, always keeping in mind our ambition to deliver the best 3D cinematic experience ever, with the most spectacular ‘in your face’ 3D effects,” Stassen said.

Co-directed by Jeremie Degruson, art director on “Sammy’s Adventures,” with an original score by Ramin Djawadi (“Pacific Rim,” “Game of Thrones”), “Magic” was penned by actor James Flynn (“Vikings”), Dominic Paris and Stassen. In 2014, nWave Pictures will launch two 4D attraction 12-minute movies based on animated characters from the feature– “The House of Magic: The 4D Experience” and “The Haunted Mansion 4D” – both designed for theme park and attraction exhibitors. They will be available this spring and Halloween respectively.

Also incorporating the characters, NWave has also developed an interactive vidgame compatible with iOS and Android devices and available on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

Following 2008’s “Fly Me To The Moon,” a breakout early 3D hit for Stassen, one of Europe’s 3D pioneers, nWave pacted witb Studiocanal a wide-ranging co-production, co-financing, distribution and sales pact.  Studiocanal is nWave’s main shareholder.

One of Europe’s biggest film-TV groups, under chairman-CEO Olivier Courson, Studiocanal has grown a muscular international sales operation and a direct distribution network in now four major territories – U.K., France, Germany, Australia/New Zealand. It has driven harder into family entertainment than any other major movie company in Europe, also partnering with Harry Potter producer David Heyman on “Paddington,” starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, and with “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” producer Aardman on “Shaun the Sheep.”

Such have been the technological advances in animation that independents can now turn out films with a finish and detail that only more discriminating audiences will still call sub-par vs. Hollywood fare.

That high-tech build has prompted a rush into – often highly artistic – family-skewed fare, up 20% to 35 of the 56 European toon movies pitched at March’s Cartoon Movie in Lyon.

Stassen’s movies have targeted broad tyke/family demos, while pushing the envelope on 3D visuals. The “Sammy” franchise turns on a winsome turtle, “Magic” on a young cat who stumbles on a magical old mansion, befriending its whacky inhabitants.

Drawing on Studiocanal’s sales and distribution muscle, Stassen’s 2010 “Sammy’s Adventures” and 2012 sequel “Sammy’s Adventures 2” have grossed a combined $120.85 million worldwide.

Those are exceptional figures. Indie animation production still leaves a lot of corpses in its wake. But a growing, if still highly select, number of non-studio toon pics – think Spain’s “Tad, the Lost Explorer,” with just north of a $57 million worldwide gross – are now punching exceptional results.

“The House of Magic 3D” boasts some heavyweight indie distribs: CJ Ent., Medyavizyon, Studiocanal. Its Christmas roll-out will decide whether this distinguished bevy of indie toon hits now adds another title.