MARRAKECH– Gaumont is venturing into Japanese animation with Mamoru Hosoda’s ambitious new project,”The Boy and The Beast.”
The project is being produced by Studio Chizu and Nippon TV. Gaumont, which will celebrate its 120th anniversary next year, will distribute the film in France and handle international sales.
“Beast” is a coming-of-age tale about Kyuta, a lonely Japanese boy living in Shibuya and Kumatetsu, a lonesome beast inhabiting Jutengai, an imaginary world. One day, Kyuta forays into the imaginary world and, as he’s looking for his way back, meets Kumatetsu who becomes his guide and friend. That chance encounter leads them to many adventures filled with fantasy and action.
Hosoda, who is regarded as Miyazaki’s disciple and a leading light of Japanese animation, previously directed “Wolf Children”. The movie was a critical and commercial success and traveled to more than 90 countries. France was the movie’s biggest foreign market in terms of box office.
“France has always been extremely sensitive and receptive to Japanese animated films in general and to the work of Marmoru Hosoda in particular, especially after the public and critical success of ‘Wolf Children,'” said Gaumont’s CEO Sidonie Dumas. “I am thrilled that Gaumont is associated, in France and internationally, to the latest work by this master of Japanese animation and his partners Studio Chizu and Nippon TV”, said Gaumont’s CEO Sidonie Dumas.
Hosoda, meanwhile, said he discovered “Le grand bleu,” Luc Besson’s film, thanks to Gaumont and is honored that Gaumont has given him the opportunity to work together.
Yohann Comte, Gaumont’s deputy head of sales, said the deal was the “happy conclusion to a year-and-a-half of discussions with the producers of Mamoru Hosada, whose ‘The Boy and the Beast’ (working title) is the most ambitious film.
Gaumont and Studio Chizu will likely partner up on other projects, forging a long-term collaboration similar to the one Wild Bunch has created with Studio Ghibli.
Toho is expected to roll out the film in Japan on July 11; Gaumont is planning a release in late 2015 or early 2016.
Gaumont’s ambition with “Beast” is to reach audiences beyond arthouse moviegoers and enable it to have a successful commercial career outside of festivals’ circuit — following Disney’s strategy with Miyazaki’s “Princesse Mononoké.”
“Beast” marks the second production – after “Wolf Children”– undertaken by Studio Chizu, which was created in 2011 by Hosoda and Yuichiro Saito.
The production was recently in Morocco to scout for decors. Comte revealed the visual style of the parallel world depicted in “Beast” is greatly inspired by the look of Moroccan flee markets.
This partnership with Studio Chizu illustrates Gaumont’s endeavor to broaden its scope with strong, original projects of different genre and nationalities. In the past, Gaumont was mainly involved in distributing in-house French co-productions; but in the last few years it has ramped up its financing and distribution activities, opened up to third-party projects such as “When Animals Dream” and partnered up with Wild Bunch on Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” and his latest “The Neon Demon.”