UniFrance Rendez-Vous: Studiocanal Takes International on ‘Big Bad Fox,’ ‘L’Ecole Buissonnière’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Deals continue Studiocanal’s fruitful focus on European kids and family entertainment

PARIS – Studiocanal, one of Europe’s biggest film-TV companies, has acquired international rights to Benjamin Renner’s animated movie “Big Bad Fox and Other Tales,” from Didier Brunner’s Folivari, as well as live-action period drama “L’Ecole buissonnière,” the latest film from “Belle et Sebastien” director Nicolas Vanier.

The two titles join Studiocanal’s biggest French movie slate in recent years, which is to be presented to buyers Friday at the 2017 UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris.

“The Rendez-Vous is a must-attend event for buyers of French films. We want to take advantage of that,” said Anna Marsh, Studiocanal head of international film sales.

Also on Studiocanal’s lineup are Vincent Cassel-starrer “Gauguin”; French vineyard-set “Back To Burgundy,” from Cedric Klapisch (“L’Auberge espagnole”); “Elementary,” toplining Sara Forestier (“The Name of Love”); and teen fantasy survival thriller “Alone,” from “IT Boy’s” David Moreau, which will screen at the Rendez-Vous.

After distributing in France and selling abroad the Academy Award-nominated animated feature “Ernest and Celestine,” which was directed by Renner and produced by Brunner,  Studiocanal’s deal with Folivari gives it an ongoing financing-distribution-sales relationship with the three most prominent kids’ and family movie producers in Europe: “Harry Potter” producer David Heyman; Aardman Animations (“Shaun the Sheep,” “Wallace & Gromit,” “Chicken Run”); and now Folivari’s Brunner, whose productions or co-productions, such as “The Triplets of Belleville” and “The Secret of Kells,” have scored five Oscar animation nominations.

Studiocanal will release the Heyman-produced “Paddington 2” over Nov. 26 to Dec. 26 in the U.K., France, Germany and Australia/New Zealand. Produced by Aardman, “Early Man” bows in the first quarter of 2018.

Animated in 2-D and adapted from three Renner comic books, “Big Bad Fox and Other Tales” was originally conceived as a triptych of humor-laced TV half-hours. Now linked by interludes featuring a muppet forest owl designed by Renner, the three animal fables of the animated feature turn on a cack-handed fox; a rabbit, duck, and pig delivering a stork’s baby; and, in the third tale, the menagerie distributing Christmas presents. The movie opens in France on June 21.

“This is pedigree animation, heartwarming and funny, high-quality family entertainment for kids aged 4-10, older kids who will have a great laugh, and parents and grandparents who will find layers,” Marsh said.

Selling around the world, including a Gkids pickup for the U.S., “Ernest and Celestine” was Studiocanal’s second-biggest animation release in France this decade, earning around $9.4 million.

“L’Ecole buissonnière” is Nicolas Vanier’s follow-up to “Belle and Sebastien,” a 2013 sleeper which grossed about $25 million in France for Gaumont. The film is a coming-of-age drama set in 1930 in the Sologne, a region of lakes, marshes and pine forests in north-central France which also provided the setting for Alain Fournier’s celebrated novel “Le Grande Meaulnes.”

A former wildlife documentary filmmaker, Vanier has moved with success into fiction film-making with two films of friendship between boys and animals: “Wolf” and “Belle et Sebastien.” By contrast, “L’Ecole buissonnière” turns on the friendship between a young Paris orphan, adopted by the gamekeeper of a huge estate in the Sologne, and a poacher (François Cluzet), who teaches him how to hunt, fish and find mushrooms.

“‘L’Ecole buissonnière’ is wholesome family feel-good entertainment about two people who feel alone in the world and, helping each other, understand their differences and find a friend in each other,” Marsh said.

There is a resemblance, she suggested, to a Studiocanal box office and sales hit, “Heidi,” in which an adolescent befriends a rude rural character.

“Gauguin” is set in Tahiti, in the latter part of Paul Gauguin’s life, when the painter fully developed his primitivist style, raged against colonial rule, went native in marital practice and battled debt. It stars Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”), one of France’s most famous character actors. Studiocanal will fully launch “Gauguin” at Berlin, but will show images in Paris, Marsh said.

Also screening at the Rendez-Vous is “Seuls” (“Alone”) by David Moreau. The film is “a little like ‘Divergent’ – a teenage thriller with the girls and guys kicking ass against a mysterious sci-fi backdrop which keeps you guessing,” Marsh said. It turns on Leila (Sofia Lessafre, seen in “Les Trois frères, le retour”) who wakes up at her parents’ house, after going to a funfair the night before, in a city which has been emptied of people. She connects with four other teens in a film which director Moreau told Variety was structured as a survival thriller and a “teen fantastic story” made in French, in a recognizably French setting.

Other highlights of Studiocanal’s 2017 international sales slate, which comprises 12 features:

*Sales in Paris of “The Climb,” based on the true story of a man, played by stand-up comedian Ahmed Sylla, who attempts to climb Mt. Everest for the love of a girl. “The Climb” screens at the Rendez-Vous.

*Continuing a longterm relationship, Studiocanal is selling “Back to Burgundy,” the latest from Klapisch (“Paris,” “Chinese Puzzle”), now in post-production, about a daughter and two sons who inherit their family vineyard. Saving it, they discover their roots. The drama-comedy was shot over four seasons, allowing a spectator to see how the vineyard changes during  that time, Marsh said.

*”Ladies” stars comedian-actress Florence Florets as a woman who takes up performing striptease after surviving breast cancer.

*Directed by Pierre Jolivet (“The Night Watchman”), and starring Cannes best actress winner Emilie Dequenne (“Rosetta”) and Roshdy Zem (“Point Blank”), who shared a best actor award for “Days of Glory,” ”Les hommes du feu,” another Studiocanal title, centers on a squad of firefighters in southern France.

*In a departure for its star, comedian Kev Adams, and producer, Alain Attal, “Gangsterdam” is an Amsterdam-set drug caper from “Radiostars” director Romain Levy.

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