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Anton Boards Laurent Zeitoun and Yann Zenou’s ‘Fireheart’ (EXCLUSIVE)

In a new strategic move, Anton will finance and sell the duo’s follow-up to “Ballerina”

Bringing one of the biggest new independent animation projects onto the Cannes market, London-based Anton is lead-financing and handling international sales on “Fireheart,” produced by Main Journey’s Laurent Zeitoun and Yann Zenou.

CAA Media Finance represents the North American and Chinese distribution rights to the animated feature.

Budgeted at $40 million, “Fireheart” marks a step-up in scale for the Montreal-based Main Journey whose “Ballerina” (released in the U.S. as “Leap!”) earned $110 million worldwide. Zeitoun and Zenou’s producer credits also include “The Intouchables,” which grossed a global $427 million.

Set in New York in the roaring twenties, “Fireheart” is written by Zetoun and Jennica Harper (“Some Assembly Required”) from an idea and story by Zeitoun. It turns on Maria, just 16, who dreams of becoming a firefighter, but has to overcome the challenge of being a girl with a highly overprotective father.

When New York City comes under threat from a mysterious arsonist, who is burning Broadway theaters down one by one, Maria disguises herself as a man so as to enroll in the firehouse.

She becomes the bravest of a team of untrained volunteers. The film carries the tagline: “Untrained, Undercover, Unstoppable.”

“Fireheart” is about “becoming who you are” and also a tribute to New York and the U.S. of the ‘20s, its energy and movies, such as Buster Keaton’s, said Zeitoun.

Zenou added that, with music a crucial element, “Fireheart” will use recent worldwide hit songs but re-orchestrated in a ‘20s style. It will be made by L’Atelier Animation, in Montreal, using processes mastered on “Ballerina,” ensuring quality and curbing costs, Zenou commented.

Positioning “Fireheart” as a studio-level movie, Anton — a longterm investor in Studiocanal’s slate and now high-end BBC Worldwide dramas — is looking to drive into the full-financing, sales and marketing of a select number of high-end family animation or live action features of studio-level caliber, Anton founder Sébastien Raybaud said in Cannes.

“Fireheart” also sees Anton partner Harold van Lier — the former head of international distribution at Studiocanal and president of eOne Films International — once more back in the sales saddle.

Anton aims to play an active role, bringing producers “capital and skills in sales and marketing, in a way bypassing the usual players by working much more closely with producers on very selective projects,” van Lier said.

“We think we can create more value for producers and talents working this way, while bringing top-of-the-art films at a competitive price to our distribution partners,” he added.

Said Raybaud: “We are proud to start this journey with Laurent and Yann as they are some of the most ambitious, entrepreneurial and creative producers we know.”

Previously based out of Quad in Paris, Zeitoun, who is also a well-known screenwriter, and Zenou have been thriving since their early days as producers thanks to high-concept films, such as “Heartbreaker,” a Hollywood-style romantic comedy, which has earned an estimated $47.3 million worldwide.

“We love movies, mainstream movies, with emotion and values,” Zenou commented at Cannes.

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