Studiocanal toons up pics

Slates 'French Riviera' with Les Armateurs

Building on their strong partnership, Studiocanal has boarded Les Armateurs’ “French Riviera,” one of Europe’s most ambitious feature toon projects.

The pair currently share development costs with a view to Studiocanal co-producing and taking international sales and distribution rights to France, U.K., Germany and Australia, where the European film and TV company distributes.

Graphic artist Richard Zielenkiewicz, better known as Monsieur Z, created “French Riviera.” “Toy Story” co-writers Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen have completed a first draft of the screenplay.

“An American screenwriting style is more appropriate for an action-adventure film such as ‘French Riviera’ to capture its thriller narrative, humor, sensuality, glamour, and past-paced energy,” Brunner said.

Zielenkiewicz, who’s in line to direct, will handle art direction and is prepping a trailer.

Set on the French Riviera in the 1950s, with animals as characters, the animated feature follows a cat who’s a burglar who steals a stash of diamonds.

Les Armateurs and Studiocanal aim to combine CGI characters, 2D backgrounds and a look reminiscent of 1950s airline posters, Brunner said.

“I love ‘Riviera.’ It has a classy Lubitsch touch. We are really looking to continuing our relationship with Didier Brunner’s Les Armateurs,” Courson said.

Les Armateurs and Studiocanal co-produced Michel Ocelot’s third Kirikou toon pic, “Kirikou and the Men and the Women” plus the 2D “Ernest and Celestine.”

Released in France by Studiocanal last year, both films have shown sturdy legs. “Kirikou” chalked up $9.1 million and “Ernest and Celestine” has grossed $6.9 million.

“Ernest” has sold to more than 25 countries, including a U.S. pickup from GKids, Courson said.

On further Studiocanal animation projects, Arte Cinema will co-produce steam-punk adventure thriller “Le Monde truque,” from Jacques Tardi, which will soon begin production, Courson said.

Meantime, Ben Stassen’s $34 million “The House of Magic” is one of Studiocanal’s biggest draws at Berlin.

“We have great animation talents in France, Belgium, Spain, the U.K. There’s an appetite among audiences for quality animation. It’s just a matter of finding the right projects with strong subjects and European brands and being reasonable with budgets,” Courson added.