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Constantin Goes Into Production on Timeless-Sold ‘Dragon Rider’

Adapting Cornelia Funke, as Germany shapes up as a territory to track in European animation

ANNECY, France —  Constantin, Germany’s biggest movie company, has initiated production on S3D adventure film “Dragon Rider,” based on the bestselling novel by German writer Cornelia Funke and written by Johnny Smith, who penned the original screenplay and story for 2011’s “Gnomeo & Juliet.” One of the biggest independent cartoon movie breakouts from the U.K. this decade, produced by Elton John’s Rocket Pictures, it earned $198 million worldwide and $100.0 million in the U.S.

Co-produced by Antwerp’s Cyborn 3D animation studio (“Ploey, You Never Fly Alone”), and produced by Martin Moszkowicz and Oliver Berben, “Dragon Rider” is the next big animation play by Constantin Film, one of Germany’s foremost film and TV production-distribution forces.

High-end by European standards, the 3D children’s fantasy adventure turns on Firedrake, a young silver dragon, Sorrel, a mountain brownie, and Ben, a human orphan who search among the highest Himalayas for the Rim of Heaven, which can offer sanctuary for Firedrake’s kin, whose valley is made uninhabitable by a dam.

“This is going to be a big 3D extravaganza if you want, where every single set and frame is really thought through,” said Moszkowicz, also Constantin Film chairman of the executive board.

The Stereoscopic 3D might not be important for every territory, but there are certain territories where it is hugely important,” he added, citing “China, obviously, but especially for animation films also other markets – e.g. Germany, Russia, Brazil and South Korea.”

Brought onto the American Film Market by Ralph Kamp’s Timeless Films, “Dragon Rider” has  run up “very substantial sales,” selling “most of the world already,” Moszkowicz said.

That can be put down to two reasons, he argued.

“Cornelia Funke is an exceptional storyteller. Her books have been tremendously successful all over the world. The story is well-suited for adaptation. It’s a known brand. The material is recognizable.”

Also: “The quality of the participating creative team,” led by Israeli Tomer Eshed whose 2011 short, “Flamingo Pride,” was “just outstanding in quality, wit, a very accomplished short film.”

A big new family entertainment play from Germany, “Dragon Rider” should have an obvious appeal for the Chinese market. It is also a sign of building momentum on Germany’s animation/VFX scene, best known for the strength of its TV animation, as both German and E.U. authorities look set to put their backs more fully behind the sector.

In Germany, “Dragon Rider” is being animated at Rise FX South Studios in Munich.

“There are a lot of German companies working at a world class level in CGI and animation,” said Moszkowicz, citing, apart from Rise FX, Scanline VFX, “the best when it comes to any kind of liquid,” and Trixter, which has helped create Marvel characters like Iron Man, Black Panther, Rocket and Baby Groot.

Published Dec. 2015, a European Commission wish-list of copyright enhancement initiatives suggested E.U. interest in lending larger support to animated movies, which travel notably better than movies at large.

Germany’s FFA film funding institution is said to be studying rebates for Germany’s animation sector, similar to French incentives which have helped dynamite the Gallic animation and VFX scene.

“It is very wise to support animation,” Moszkowicz said.

“Because of the longterm employment you have with animators – the production period being usually two-to-three years – animation has a huge leverage effect on the economy.”

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