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‘Zombillenium,’ ‘Song of the Sea,’ ‘The Ghosts of Pere Lachaise’ Among Cartoon Movie Highlights

PARIS– “Zombillenium,” “Song of the Sea,” “The Ghosts of Pere Lachaise” and “Yellowbird” were among the highlights presented at Cartoon Movie’s animation co-production forum.

Based on Arthur  de Pins’ eponymous comicbooks, “Zombillenium” (in development) is a CGI 3D feature turning on a little girl, Lucy, adopted by monsters tired of working in an amusement terror park. De Pins will direct, Henri Magalon’s Maybe Movies is producing with two other French shingles: 2 Minutes and Dupuis Edition & Audiovisuel. Toon has two assets: on top of having a strong concept, it taps into the current zombie-mania trend and is based on a popular franchise. Gebeka Films will release in France.

Repped by WestEnd, “Song of the Sea” (in production) is Tomm Moore’s follow up to Oscar-nominated “Brendan And The Secret of Kells.” Like “Kells,” “Sea” is hand-drawn, boasts bright colors and a rich, painterly visual style. It’s also based on Irish folklore. The feature follows the adventures of Ben and his little sister Saoirse who embark on a journey across a world of ancient legend and magic in an attempt to return to their home by the sea. Paul Young’s Irish shingle Cartoon Saloon is producing with Melusine (Luxembourg), Norlum (Denmark), The Big Farm (Belgium) and Superprod (France). GKids has North American rights, Studiocanal will release in the U.K. and Haut et Court will handle French distribution.

“The Ghosts of Pere Lachaise” (in development), helmed by Antoine Colomb and Guillaume Rio, was, along with Tomm Moore’s “Song of the Sea,” the highest-profile toon project presented at this year’s Cartoon Movie.  An original story, “Ghosts” follow the adventures of a lonely seven-year-old girl whose life brightens up after she meets the inhabitants of Pere Lachaise – the world’s most visited cemetary — who come out every night to sing, play and compose. The girl crosses paths with Oscar Wilde, Moliere, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison.  Carole Lambert and Carine Ruszniewski, founders of De Films en Aiguille, are producing with Alain Attal (“Blood Ties,” “Polisse”) at Les Productions du Tresor. Project marks Attal’s first venture into animation. Chez Eddy is creating the Pixar-style animation.  With its postcard-like rendition of Paris and iconic characters (such as Piaf, Wilde and Morrison), the toon could be pitched a mix of “Ratatouille” and “Midnight in Paris.”

Christian de Vita’s long-gestating “Yellowbird” (in production) is a 3D kidpic centering on an eccentric teenage bird leading a migration to Africa despite knowing nothing about migrating. It’s produced by TeamTO, repped by SC Films International and was recently acquired by Wrekin Hill for North American distribution and will release it in the Fall. The top-notched U.S. voice cast includes Seth Glover, Dakota Fanning, Danny Glover and Elliott Gould. Haut et Court is co-producing the children-skewed toon and will release in France. Belgium’s Panache Prods. and La Compagnie Cinematographique are also co-producing.

Cartoon Movie, which wrapped on Friday, showcased 68 projects at various stages of development and production, and attracted a record 750 participants — a 8% year-on increase.

“We’re attracting more and more participants and that’s a obvious sign that European animation is getting better,” said Cartoon topper Marc Vandeweyer. “We’re noticing the skyrocketing competition from Hollywood majors and European players have reacted in taking a different approach in terms of style and narration – often less mainstream — while at the same time paying much more attention to marketing, even if their P&A spending isn’t comparable.”

Added Vandeweyer: “Budgets are down, most projects have price tags ranging between €6 and €10 million, and many of them are budgeted between €3 and €6 million.”

Other standout projects included “Dofus, The Return of Julith,” based on Ankama’s popular online multi-player game,  Xavier Picard’s “Moomins On The Riviera” (sold by Indie Sales), a comedy adventure based on Tove Jansson’s comic strips, Remi Chaye’s period adventure “Longway North” (sold by Urban Distribution) and “Richard The Stork,” Toby Genkel and Reza Memari’s  3D CGI kidpic.

One of the many adult-skewed features pitched at the confab, Denis Do’s “Funan, The New People,” an autobiographical tale of a young mother’s struggle to reunite with her son during the Khmer Rouge revolution, was the most popular. It’s produced by Les Films d’Ici (“Waltz With Bashir”).

This year, Cartoon Movie welcomed Canadian and Australian buyers for the first time and will continue expanding its reach beyond Europe.

Although France confirmed its standing as Europe’s number one producer with a 36 % share of projects presented at Cartoon Movie, the Nordics demonstrated it was a fast-rising purveyor of quality animated features with a record 14 projects.

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