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Annecy: U.S., Globalization Fire Up Fest, Market

U.S. attendence increase extraordinary 60%

ANNECY – Annecy attendance has The Big Mo. And Hollywood and U.S. animation at large is driving that surge as the U.S. industry reaches out to the world for talent and markets.

Five days out from the June 15 launch of is 2015 fest edition, France’s Annecy Animation Film Festival and Market were on track for a ovrall 10%-15% accreditation boost, a near dramatic boost. U.S. fest/market participants were up a remarkable 60%, Canada’s by 40%.

Including the Festival’s International Animation Film Market (MIFA), registrations – industry professionals and accredited film school students – look set to come in around 8,000 vs. 7,100 in 2014, reported Patrick Eveno, CEO of Citia, the Annecy Fest’s organizer.

At MIFA, by Thursday, market registrations were over 10% up year-on-year. MIFA will begin its 30th edition on June 17 with more participants than it finished last year’s, MIFA head Mickael Marin confirmation.

Put that down to globalization, often driven by a digital revolution. Hollywood is reaching out with ever more energy to global markets not only to recoup on and limit costs but also and all the more to its talent.

Countries worldwide – China of course, but also Latin America and South Africa, among striking examples – are building their own national animation industries.

And all converge on Annecy, the biggest dedicated animation event in the world.

There’s a sense that the Hollywood studios and high-profile Euro players have learnt to play Annecy. Reflecting the cyclical nature of animation, on the back of “The Little Prince” and “Inside Out,” both major titles at Cannes, there will be five or six very or pretty significant world premieres at Annecy, led by Illumination Studios’ “Minions,” and an enticing smorgasbord of total or partial first looks, such as, in the former category,  “The Peanuts Movie,” with director Steve Martino and artistic director Nash Dunnigan unveiling production on a title which hasn’t had so much visibility to date.

Director Peter Sohn will present first footage from “The Good Dinosaur,” including some materials showed by John Lassater at Cannes but much additional material. Helmer Sanjay Patel and producer Nicole Grindle will unveil the official world premiere of Disney-Pixar short “Sanjay’s Super Team.” Later Tuesday, directors Rich Moore and Byron Howard will introduce together for the first time “Zootropia,” mixing a few scenes screened by Lasseter and never-before seen footage.

DreamWorks Animation TV’s Margie Cohn will talks auds through the first Euro sneak-peak of the first episodes 1 and 2 of the 13-seg series “DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the Edge,” an exclusive Netflix release on June. 26. The first was seen at AFIFA a few weeks back.

Cartoon Networks will screen a pilot for one of its two new broadcast series, Daniel Chong’s “We Bare Bears,” and talk up a brand new initiative, Cartoon Network Imagination Studios, another attempt to reach out to international, teaching and inspiring kids to animate.

World premieres include “Phantom Boy,” from “A Cat in Paris” producer Folimage,  “Adama,” Simon Rouby’s period odyssey-come-coming of age tale which won Annecy’s Work in Progress Gan Distribution Award last year, and “April and the Extraordinary World, sold by Studiocanal, fast emerging with Aardman, a title-by-title production partner, and Ben Stassen’s nWavePictures, which it co-owns, at the forefront of animation/family entertainment.

“Ghost in the Shell” will world premiere next Saturday day and date with Japan.

Annecy opens with “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet,” with producer-director Roger Alles in attendance.

Of Works in Progress, there’s a good buzz on “My Life as a Zucchini,” sold by Indie Sales, and the Quad-produced and Gaumont sold “Ballerina,” and large expectation at an unveiling of 40 minutes of Ankama’s “Dofus: Book 1: Lilith,” another Indie Sales title, and director Michael Dudock de Wit’s “The Red Turtle,” backed by Studio Ghibli and sold by Wild Bunch. A Paramount Pictures pick-up for worldwide distribution, “Capture the Flag,” another WIP presentation, marks Spain’s biggest animation play of the year.

2015 sets a new standard for U.S. attendance and the energy of its roll-out at Annecy. Just one example: Nickelodeon, which for the first time will take an exhibition space. Its talent outreach includes four screenings, a making off session, a share with Nina Hahn, SVP Nickelodeon International development, and a Global Animated Shorts Prpgram showcase.

“At Annecy, U.S. companies can work multiple options, present a premiere or a movie in work in progress and at the same time they can meet new recruits, discuss with them, or launch new projects,” said MIFA head Marin.

The energy of the U.S. presence reflects the digital revolution’s game-changing impact, which ranges from distribution to consumer access, the kind of formats studios can accommodate and studio-creator relations.

“’Make it everywhere and use it everywhere’ is what we really live by at Nickelodeon at that really has come into play in so many of our experiences across the animation world, which was not the case even a [few] years ago. This thinking is fuelled by what’s happening in the non-linear space, where kids have access to content everywhere. Hollywood can’t just make content for Hollywood,” argued Nickelodeon’s Hahn.

She added: “Annecy has always been about creators. That gives it its uniqueness as a festival. [But] Nickelodeon does not want to behave like a big foot-printed network landing on their doorstep saying: ‘This is what we’re looking for, can you squeeze yourself into it?’ In fact, it’s really the reverse. It’s: ‘What story do you have to tell? What is your passion? What is your vision? What do you see? And, how can we be the home for what you see?’”

Meanwhile, online giants are ramping-up their production capacities. Aiming to build Amazon’s digital video retail ecosystem as it transitions from one of the biggest retailers of DVDs and at Annecy for the second-year-running, Amazon Studios is upping the ante on exclusive original production not only to face off with Netflix in the SVOD sphere via Prime Instant Video –where, after Netflix, Amazon Prime has the second biggest U.S. penetration of any service – but to encourage subscribers to connect their main TV set to the Amazon ecosystem, said François Godard, at Enders Analysis.

Gearing up for her first time at Annecy, Tara Sorensen, Amazon Studios’ head of kids programming will also be looking for talent. AS only launched its children’s series last May but now has four series on the air including “Tumble Leaf,” which won five Daytime Emmy Awards.

With all four series re-upped for second seasons, Amazon Studios has greenlit three additional series for release in the next year, plus four animated kids pilots and two live-action kids pilots. Releasing pilots online so that customers can help decide whether they are ordered to series, Amazon can move from an idea to a potential greenlight for series in just 12-to-14 months.

Meanwhile, as Hollywood reaches out to the world, for talents, for markets, the world’s burgeoning animation sector is heading for Annecy. Latin American and Chinese attendance is broadly stable, though China’s now symptomatically the biggest of any Asian territory. Mexico has added exhibition space; Hong Kong takes a booth for the first time. Indian Fest/MIFA presence is up 18%. Annecy’s guest country, Spain had 264 attendees through last Thursday, up an enormous 80% on 2014.

“Maybe we’re approaching some sort of tipping point. Films that are made in Hollywood need increasingly to worry about what’s happening in China, Europe, and other territories,” said Gkid’s Eric Beckman. “They’re producing films with an international audience and market in mind. They’re also outsourcing a lot of core animation activities.”

He continued: “At the same time, around the world, in Asia and increasingly elsewhere, local capabilities and aspirations are also on the rise. Some markets are looking to emulate U,S. style, CGI animation. Other creators have the opportunity to pursue individual artistic visions.”

Peter Debruge contributed to this article.

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