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Annecy: France’s Ankama Ups Toon Production, Diversifies

Gallic game-comicbook icon pushes into new formats, TV show types, targets new distrib platforms

ANNECY – France’s Ankama and France Televisions are moving into production on Ankama’s first TV comedy property “Abraca,” as the Gallic gaming-comic-book icon, best known in TV for its “Wakfu” and “Dofus” series, ups the ante on its animation ambitions. It is also branching out from its core young adult demo biz as it also explores new formats, program types and distribution platforms.

Dropping the flag on Ankama’s first pure comedy, Gallic pubcaster France Televisions announced at last week’s Annecy MIFA mart that it would co-finance and broadcast “Abraca,” a property that Ankama is also developing into an online role-play party game.

A zany half-hour comedy TV series for 6-11s about a geeky tween and impulsive vigilante girl who team to protect fairy tale creatures, the splashy colored “Abraca” will go into production later this year, Frederic Puech, Ankama audiovisual director and SVP animation, confirmed at a Annecy MIFA mart presentation of Ankama’s 2015-16 lineup.

“We’ve been focused on boy action or boy action with a comedy twist and we’d like to occupy a slapstick, wacky comedy space, which our community is eager about,” Puech said at France’s Annecy.

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Next up after “Abraca”in comedy production is “Muffin Jack & Jeremy,” which is scheduled for a 2016 production launch, Puech said.

A 13-minute series for 6-11s about a top spy trapped in the body of a chocolate muffin with a cherry at its top, the wacky “Muffin Jack,” which recreates typical action scenarios to near surreal effect, has Muffin Jack and his friend Jeremy, a bakery store employee, kicking ass as they face off with evil creatures in town. “Muffin Jack & Jeremy” is created by Steak Collective and produced by Ankama Animation.

Adding to Ankama’s TV production heft, Lagardere Active, the expanding film/TV division of the French conglom, confirmed at Annecy that it will co-develop “Krosmaster,” a animated TV series spin-off of Ankama’s figure-based board game of the same name featuring arena warrior fights. Board game is in turn a spinoff of Ankamas two most famous game brands, Dofus and Wakfu.

“’Krosmaster’ started as a physical board game concept and is moving into a boy action toy driven property. We’re looking at putting this TV series into production next year or early 2017,” Puech commented.

Founded in 2001, launching Ankama Games in 2003, Ankama Editions, a comicbook publishing house, in 2005, and Ankama Animations, a toon production house/studio, in 2007, “Ankama came from gaming. Early on we decided to be a trans-media company. Ankama Animations, our animation studio, started in 2007. We want to build the animation studio as part of our full strategy,” said Puech.

He added: We want to take Ankama into TV, onto digital platforms – whether it’s YouTube, Vine or others – build up partnerships with broadcast networks like France Televisions and Cartoon Network, explore SVOD with Netflix, and slowly grow in the digital space… which is where our community is looking for content.”

Pursuing this goal, Ankama’s 2015-16 slate adapts two edgier comic-books – “City Hall” and “The Grocery”- looks to create new platform ultra-short formats out of two more Ankama properties – “Maliki” and “Chacha” – and takes in Ankama’s flagship first animated features, ““Dofus-Book 1: Julith” and “Mutafukaz.”

Focusing on young adult genre titles, Ankama’s comic books “have a community building behind then,” said Puech. Ankama wants to take advantage of that and also serve an evolving fan-base: “Our community is ageing and looking for something new,” said Ankama communication director Linda Duchaussoy.

At Annecy’s Ankama 2015-16 lineup presentation, Puech and Fabre screened an animation teaser for “City Hall,” which adapts its action manga comic set in a steam punk universe, where everything people write comes to life, and City Hall cops combat an evil genius. A young adult hybrid “City Hall’s” comicbook sold 150,00 copies. Ankama is also looking to turn graphic novel series “The Grocery,” a comedy about a Baltimore street gang, into a digital series, Fabre said.

“Whenever we do book signings with our properties, we feel there’s a lot of demand for us explore different formats,” he added.Ankama has started to work with David Souillon, the author of “Maliki” – an Ankama comic web blog in which a young pink-haired girl, a comic book artist with a half cat alter ego, narrates her daily life – with an eye to creating a short-format digital animated series targeting platforms like YouTube or Vine.

Ankama also aims to launch “Chacha,” an online game turned licensing brand, as another ultra short format series.

In a fest highlight, Ankama screened at Annecy Thursday afternoon some 35 minutes of its flagship animated feature, “Dofus-Book 1: Julith,” Sold by Indie Sales, Gebeka will release “Dofus” in France in February 2016.

Co-produced with Japan’s Studio 4ºC (“The Animatrix,” Mind Game”), “Mutafukaz,” based on another Ankama comicbook, has concluded the first-phase of animation, and will be ready for delivery in 2017. French comicbook artist Guillaume Renard, (aka Run), helms with Japan’s Shoujirou Nishimi.

Set in a pre-apocalyptic American urban jungle called Dark Meat City, toon follows a 20-something who develops supernatural powers after a motorcycle accident, is pursued by government agents who want him dead, and starts seeing alien beings.

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