‘Monsters,’ ‘How To,’ ‘Despicable’ Fire Up at Annecy

Deals go down as indie industry faces cross-grained future

‘Monsters,’ ‘How ,’ ‘Despicable’ Fire Up

ANNECY — They came, they saw, they were conquered.

Annecy audiences clapped, cheered, even roared as Pixar, DreamWorks Animation and Universal unveiled respectively “Monsters University,” “How To Train Your Dragon 2” and “Despicable Me 2.”

In animation land, movies don’t get much bigger than these.

It is a mark of just how far Annecy has come as a promotion springboard for movies large and small, from box office barnstormers to high art-house, that this year’s 38th edition saw the first sneak preview ever of “Despicable Me 2,” an early sneak peek at “Monsters U,” and the first work in progress presentation of “How To…2.”

“It was an important symbol for this film, which is U.S.-produced and French-made, to hold its first international sneak preview in France and at Annecy, one of the world’s biggest animation festivals,” said Jacques Bled at “Despicable Me 2’s” Paris-based animation studio Illumination Mac Guff.

“It was also a way to acknowledge the creative and financial support that the film has received from France, notably from the CNC and Minister of Culture,” he added.

The Cinema-Con style buzz build, in “Monsters” and “Despicable’s” case just weeks before worldwide roll-outs, proved to be the biggest business going down at 2013’s fest.

Elsewhere, Annecy caught the French animation industry, which dominates film and TV toon production in Europe, debating a currently cross-grained state-of-play.

French animation has evolved dramatically in the last 20 years.

“The market for French animation grew in the ‘90s. It has not grown since,” said Christophe Vidal, at Paris-based bank Natixis Coficine, which co-finances animated features by nearly all Gaul’s top French toon studios.

He added: “Because of trouble with French broadcasters’ TV ad revenues, moreover, broadcaster investment in animation has decreased over the last two years, at the same time as animation players have increased both in number and quality, and live-action producers with better access to financing and broadcasters have stepped into animation.”

Vidal’s comments about France could apply to many other countries.

In terms of upside, however, the industry may now be bottoming out, said TV France Intl. exec director Mathieu Bejot.

“The crisis is still there in some countries, budget are still tight, but market fragmentation may have ended, new niche channels paying better prices and VOD systems now putting good money on the table,” he added.

Not all producers, who make up the bulk of attendance at Annecy’s Intl. Animation Film Market (MIFA), come for hard-dealing business. Many spend most of their time checking out the latest in films, artistic and technological trends, or simply to get a chance to see in the flesh the good and great, and the living legends of animation, such as Disney’s Eric Goldberg (pictured), who co-present a mock-classic Mickey Mouse short “Get Your Horse!” Goldberg’s reception as he walked on stage was worthy of a rock-star’s.

Nevertheless, deals did go down for the independent industry at Annecy as well.

Just some highlights:

— Scandi powerhouse sales co TrustNordisk announced a flurry of deals on Rasmus A. Sivertsen and Rune Spaans’ Norwegian toon crime comedy “Ploddy the Police Car on the Case,” among them, Benelux (Jekino Distributie), Russia (Voxell TV), Bulgaria (Pro Films), China (Manson Media), Korea and the Mid-East (FarFalla Films). Bowing May 3, ”Ploddy” clicked in Norway, selling 130,000-plus tickets in four weeks.

— The directorial debut of Christian De Vita, the lead storyboard artist on “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” 3D bird migration adventure-comedy “Gus” has been acquired for its first broadcast window in France by conglom Lagardere Active. “Gus” will air on kids channel Gulli. Co-written by Cory Edwards (“Hoodwinked”), “Gus’” voice-cast includes Dakota Fanning and Seth Green, along with Christine Baranski, Danny Glover, Elliot Gould and Richard Kind.

— Chile’s Zumbastico Studios, a fast-rising Latin American studio, has inked with Argentina’s kids state channel Pakapaka and Senal Colombia to produce half-hour stop-motion comedy series “Paper Port,” created by Alvaro Ceppi and Zumbastico. Brazil’s Gloob already co-produces. In a double-whammy for Zumbastico, a second comedy series, the Carlos Bleycher-created computer 2D “Cagemates,” co-produced with Bitls Estudios, about two pet-shop escapees, won the Disney Channel Award at MIFA’s TV Series Creative Focus.

— “Mimosa Mind’s Eye — Travels,” an interactive TV/web format, will be co-produced by Canadian distributor Pierre Pilotte at Avecom Distribution. Created and produced by Hanne Kilveri, “Mimosa” turns on a little girl who travels the world by blinking her third eye.

— Global Screen has closed Germany with Universum on 3D toon pic “Richard The Stork,” produced by Norway’s Den Siste Skilling, Luxembourg’s Melusine, Germany’s Ulysses and Belgium’s Walking the Dog. Now in production, “Stork” is set for a 2016 delivery.