‘Funan,’ ‘Extraordinary Tales’ Lead Annecy MIFA Biz Reveals (EXCLUSIVE)

Myriad negotiations to be followed up in next weeks

‘Funan,’ ‘Extraordinary Tales’ Lead Annecy MIFA

ANNECY — In an edition galvanized by spectacular first glimpse presentations — Pixar’s “Inside Out,” Sony’s “The Smurfs Movie,” Pathe’s “Evolution Man” — the premiere of Disney’s “Feast,” a new trailer of “Boxtrolls” and North America deals for Gotham’s GKids, new deal reveals were going down as Annecy’s MIFA market thinned late Friday morning.

In pacts announced on the last day of trading, Bac Films will sell internationally and distribute in France “Funan.”

Denis Do’s semi-autobiographical story “centers on the epic struggle of Do’s mother to find her other son, having been separated from him during the reign-of-terror of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. France’s Les Films d’Ici (“Waltz With Bashir”) produces. Pic was a MIFA Feature Film pitch last year at Annecy.

Meanwhile, Stephane Roelants at Luxembourg’s Melusine Productions confirmed he had signed at Annecy with a yet-to-be-disclosed international sales agent for Raul Garcia’s Edgsr Allen Poe big-screen toon transfer “Extraordinary Tales.”

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Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp has closed Spain with Vertice Cine on Mathias Malzieu and Stephane Berla’s “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart,” EuropaCorp’s latest animated feature which played at Annecy in an open air screening Friday night.

The Tim Burton-esque love-story between a boy born with a dicky heart and a feisty if very shortsighted femme Spanish singer has already closed pacts with heavyweights distribution houses such as Universum for Germany, Swan in Latin America and South Korea’s JoynContents Group.

In further trading:

*Oscar-winner Laurent Witz who won the Best Animated Short Academy Award this year with “Mr. Hublot” confirmed that he was negotiating theatrical play for “Hublot” in the U.S. and Europe while advancing on his next production, “Wilfred,” a feature film.

*Vilnis Kalnaellis at Latvia’s Rija Films announced he had sold Renis Kalnaellis’ 2D fairy tale-themed “The Golden Horse” to Champs-Lys Intl. for China.

*Thomas Kornfeld at Paris-based Nomad Films confirmed he had closed financing on “The Don Jon,” a Canal Plus animation series, pacting co-production with animation studio 2D3D in Angouleme, a rising force on France’s cartoon production scene.

*”12 Minutes About Peace” – 12 one-minute shorts comissioned by the Flanders Audiovisual Fund to mark the World War 1’s centenary, including a piece by prized short filmmakers Marc James Roels and Emma de Swaef, has received an international sales rights offer, Flanders Image’s Christian de Schutter confirmed. Short has already played in Kinepolis theaters in Belgium, he added.

Awash with films, often, if shorts, on the cutting edge of contempo toon direction, and young animation talent from Europe and, unlike Cartoon, beyond, Annecy is really a meet-for-mart, where meetings can lead to deals going down months afterwards.

“Annecy is immensely useful. You meet a huge amount of people, including people you can’t imagine ever meeting,” said Witz.

Deals actually inked at Annecy are the result of months of work and talks, Melusine’s Roelants said. “Annecy is like a window, to see movies and especially shorts,” he added.

Within this context, big deals were, however, announced. Nickelodeon revealed to Variety that it had renewed “Sanjay and Craig” for a third season. Les Armateurs and Folimage will, for the first time ever, co-produce an animation, TV series “Cheeky Ana.” Luc Besson is moving back into animation, producing a TV series version of “Arthur and the Invisibles” for French kids channel owner Lagardere. Sylvain Chomet has a new movie, “The Thousand Miles,” “Sharks Tale’s” Bibo Bergeron a new company, Baboon Animation.

But it was New York-based indie distributor GKids that made the running in acquisitions.

In a flurry of deals which may or may not have finished, it announced at Annecy it had closed North America on “Boy and the World,” a competition frontrunner at Annecy, and pacting at Annecy with Studio Ghibli for “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness,” a docu feature portrait of the legendary Japanese animation studio.

GKids bullishness underscores the contradictory state of the international indie toon biz.

At Cannes, the big live action movie biz suffered from a lack of strong fully-financed titles being brought on to the market. Equally, prices paid for live action art pics have plunged. Sales agents, in contrast, sang the joys of selling animation films, distributors pointed to their market potential, especially in Latin America and Russia.

At Annecy, a panel organized by France’s CNC, UniFrance and TV France International (TVFI) suggested box office for animated features dropped in 2012 20%. French producers suggest financing films out of France is getting tougher and tougher.

Yet top titles – “Boy and the World,” “Song of the Sea,” “Phantom Boy,” “Funan,” “Extraordinary Tales”  – are clinching sales or pushing out pre-sales.

The indie animation business has built for a decade. Final attendance at MIFA this year was 2% up at 2,450 participants – an all time record, with 513 exhibiting companies, 13% up on 2013., said MIFA head Mickael Marin.

Sector may be reaching a stage where, given vastly greater competition, only top films and TV productions do really well. That is a problem for the industry overall. At least, however, it is a sign of maturity.

Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report