ANNECY – “Despicable Me” co-creator Sergio Pablos, one of the key figures in Spain0s potential animation renaissance, is teaming with Gustavo Ferrada, a senior Spanish industry figure and producer on Juan Jose Campanella’s “Underdogs,” and Atresmedia Cine, a production powerhouse in Spain, to produce “Klaus,” an animated feature whose novel 3D-looking 2D animation is stirring buzz at this week’s Annecy Festival.
Produced by Pablos’ Madrid-based SPA Studios and Atresmedia Cine, “Klaus” marks the directorial debut of Pablos, best known for originating “Despicable Me,” and as a animation supervisor on “Tarzan’s” Toppler, Dr. Doppler in “Treasure Planet” and Juan Jose Campanella’s “Underdogs” (aka “Foosball”).
Also written by Pablos, “Klaus” plot is being kept under-wraps. A teaser, now online, pictures a young man dispatched in 1876 to a snow-covered, unidentified part of Scandinavia in order to introduce the ultra-modern concept of the postal service. Irrepressibly optimistic, with a winning smile, he bangs on doors of villagers attempting to interest its died-in-the-wool citizenry in the postal service. After 176 days, trying one last cottage, which appears to house some sort of laboratory, a big burly white bearded man comes up behind him. That man is Klaus.
Presenting the project Wednesday at Annecy’s Focus on Spain, Pablos described “Klaus” as a Christmas tale.
In MIFA’s Anatomy of a Studio series, on Thursday Pablos will talk an industry audience through first images of “Klaus.” It is “definitely a comedy, yes, but with a strong heart behind it. Our guiding principle in telling this story has been: ‘Make them laugh 30 times and make them cry twice: first tears of sorrow, then tears of joy’. Not an easy feat to pull off, mind you, but we’re confident the story deserves it,” Pablos told Variety.
Released early month, “Klaus’” teaser trailer caught attention as the images shown at Annecy’s Focus on Spain, for its application of cutting-edge digital technology to traditional hand-drawn animation. 2D animation simply fitted “Klaus” better, Pablos said at Annecy, and allows animators more freedom. That said, in a technological combination which Pablos may go into in more depth at his Anatomy of a Studio presentation, backgrounds have a gloss more usually associated with 3D.
Pablos commented: “The idea is to deliver an amusing, heartwarming, family oriented adventure with the best possible look of state-of–the-art 3D technology merged with the warmth and organic feeling of traditional hand-drawn animation.”
Working a film whose target audience is “3-103,” and seeking international co-producers, investors and worldwide distribution, the producers aim to close financing in the coming year and begin principal animation in Spring 2016, Ferrada said.
“Our bet is that a smaller budgeted film with a strong story can hold its own in the current marketplace,” Pablos added.
Ferrada’s producer credits include “Underdogs,” a The Weinstein Company U.S. pick-up set for an Aug.14 release, and in live action, Alex de la Iglesia’s “Ferpect Crime” and Mateo Gil’s “Nobody Knows Anybody.”
Led by president Mikel Lejarza and managing director Mercedes Gamero, Atresmedia Cine has co-produced over 40 titles, including international co-productions such as Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” Alberto Rodriguez’s “Marshland,” and Spain’s biggest 2015 B.O. hit to date, Nacho Garcia Velilla’s “Off Course,” which has grossed over $10 million.