ANNECY, France — In a major strategic move by one of Europe’s preeminent animation production houses, Folivari’s Didier Brunner, producer of the Academy Award nominated “Ernest & Celestine,” has launched an animation studio, Fost Studio.
Co-founded by Folivari executives Damien Brunner and Thibaut Ruby, who will serve as its president and managing director, Fost Studio will be in charge of some of the rough and clean animation on “Wolfwalkers,” the new feature from two-time Academy nominee Tomm Moore (“The Secret of Kells,” “Song of the Sea”) and Ross Stewart, and produced by Cartoon Saloon.
Fost Studio will oversee most backgrounds, all the animation and the overall production supervision on “Stinky Dog,” a 52-part TV series adaption of Marc Boutavant and Colas Gutman’s bestselling books, which have sold 500,000 copies in France. Davy Durand and Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar (“A Town Called Panic”) direct.
A third production set up at Fost, “The Summit of the Gods,” is a feature film co-produced by France’s Julianne Films and Folivari and Luxembourg’s Mélusine Productions and directed by Patrick Imbert. Fost is currently managing pre-production and will share backgrounds and animation with Luxembourg’s Studio 352. Fost will also manage the overall production supervision.
Though founded by Folivari management, Fost Studio will be an independent company open to both third-party and Folivari productions, said Ruby, production manager on Academy Award nominated “Ernest and Celestine” and line producer on “Song of the Sea.”
Fost’s main focus will be on 2D animation and its pre-production, backgrounds and animation. It will be able to provide production, however, right through a work’s production cycle.
“We really want to offer as many possibilities as possible,” said Ruby, adding that though Fost’s focus is on 2D animation and backgrounds it also has expertise in cut-out animation and can offer 3D VFX, props, camera mapping, and some 3D backgrounds. It could also team with a 3D animation studio Folivari is used to working with on 2D-3D works.
Almost certainly destined to become one of Europe’s world class 2D animation studios, along with the likes of Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon and France’s Folimage, Fost Studio will work a virtuous cycle, attempting to create a talent hub to ensure a continuity of workflow for the highly-talented animators it attracted for Folivari’s “Ernest & Celestine: the Collection” and “The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales.”
“Our philosophy is that every production, especially in 2D, is its own prototype. Animation will be tailor-made for each project. That will not change. That said, we want to keep working with all the great people we worked with on ‘Ernest & Celestine’ and ‘The Big Bad Fox,” Ruby said.
Fost Studio aims to improve “not productivity but workflow.” A steady work flow saves time, money, and energy, allows Fost “to offer better for the same price.” Working a virtuous circle, “having the best people, you attract the most interesting projects, which is why the best people will want to stay with us as well, ” Ruby argued.
Recent French animated feature production remains volatile with no clear increase this decade. The launch of Fost Studio comes, however, after other distinguished French production houses – TeamTO, Marc du Pontavice – have opened thriving studios and at a time of increasing TV and international animation production in France, driven by increased state aid for French production (which more than doubled to €61.5 million in 2017 for French production, according to an April CNC French agency report), rising exports, fueled by digital platform acquisition, and hiked tax credits for national and international (TRIP) animation productions.
The number of TV hours produced in 2017, 353, was the second highest since 2011, only bettered by 2016. Total aggregate budgets, €269.0 million, were the highest ever.
“Over the last four-to-five years, animation is France seems to be growing very quickly,” Ruby said. “Back in 2005, it wasn’t so easy to get a job. Today, lots of productions are going on in France, French and European, and from elsewhere in the world. Managing your crew, recruitment, is more vital than ever.”