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‘Yaya,’ ‘Anne Frank,’ ‘Musketeers’ Catch Investors’ Attention at Cartoon Movie

“The Ballad of Yaya,” “Where is Anne Frank?” and “Musketeers of the Tsar” proved the most-attended of industry presentations among 66 feature projects pitched at this year Cartoon Movie, Europe’s top animated feature co-production forum which ran at the French port city of Bordeaux over March 5-7.

A production of Blue Spirit Productions, the company behind François Laguionie’s César-nominated “The Painting” and Claude Barras’ “My Life as a Zucchini,” “The Ballad of Yaya” is penned by Patrick Marty, Céline Ronté and Antoine Schoumsk.  The director is yet to be confirmed.

Set in 1937, in development, and targeting 6-12s, it turns on 9-year-old Chinese girl Yaya, raised in the French Concession in Shanghai, who flees Japanese bombings to join her family in Hong Kong.

Already in production and targeting family audiences “Where is Anne Frank?”  is the new project of Ari Folman (“Waltz with Bashir,” “The Congress”), a revisitation of the Nazi legacy through the eyes of Anne Frank and her imaginary friend. Folman explained his initial reluctance towards a film adaptation due to the extreme psychological depth of the original novel. To overcome that narrative pitfall he decided to adopt the viewpoint on Kitty, Frank’s imaginary friend to whom she devoted her diary and who wakes up in a near future modern world. Kitty believes that if she’s alive, Anne must be alive as well, so she sets out to find her friend. A sneak preview showed a surprising combination of 2D techniques and stop-motion backgrounds.

Wild Bunch-sold “Where is Anne Frank?” is a multi co-production involving Netherlands’ Submarine Animation, Israel’s Bridgit Folman Film Gang, France’s Le Pacte, Belgium’s Purple Whale Films and Walking the Dog, Luxembourg’s Doghouse Films and Samsa Films. It is the first feature which has been supported by The Anne Frank Fonds Basel.

“Musketeers of the Tsar,” a family-addressed project in production directed by Paul Brizzi and Gaëtan Brizzi, is produced by France’s Est-Ouest Films in association with Walking The Dog and Russia’s Kinoatis.

Made in 3D computer and stereoscopic 3D, “Musketeers” is set in the 17th century when Grigori the Bear, young Tsar Peter I army’s chief, goes to Versailles with his young daughter and an apprentice magician Dashen’ka, to meet with King Louis XIV and seal an alliance with France.

CREDIT: Cartoon Movie

Of news at this year’s Cartoon Movie, the organizers of the European Animation Awards abounded that its next edition will be held in Lille, Northern France, on Friday, Dec. 6.

EAA general secretary Jean-Paul Commin said that this edition will be the “last in France for some time.”

France supplied many of the fresh titles which met with an upbeat reception at Bordeaux, such as Alain Gagnol & Jean-Loup Felicioli’s “Tales of the Hedgehog” Antoine Lanciaux’ “The Secret of Birds,” Grégoire Sivan’s “A Five-Star Family” and Claude Barras’ “Savages!”

CREDIT: Cartoon Movie

Patrick Raats’ “Benjamin Bat,” from the Netherlands and Nuno Beato’s Portuguese project “My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons” were other buzzed-up titles.

Spotlighted at Bordeaux this year, the Netherlands suggested the ever-increasing emphasis placed on animation by many European states, with 30-plus projects currently in production and a cash rebate on up to 35% of feature films’ expenditure  n the country and 30% for high-end series.

Other projects in various sidebars which were well received were Anca Damian’s “Marona’s Fantastic Tale” from Romania “The 14th Santa,” a rare Icelandic animated feature, “No Dogs or Italians Allowed,” “Latte and the Magic Waterstone” from Germany and “I Lost My Body, produced by classic French animation company Xilam).

CREDIT: Cartoon Movie

Discussing trends at this year’s Cartoon Movie, director Annick Maes told Variety, “You can see an increase in adult projects and new ‘live action’ distributors interested in introducing animation to their lineups.” Among such producers are Cinema de Facto, Rimbaud Films, Dolce Vita, Offshore, and more.

One case to point is “Lali Across the Multiverse,” a project in concept to be produced by Spain’s Rockyn Animation in co-production with Barcelona-based Mediapro, one of Europe’s biggest independent film and TV companies. The project will be directed by Spanish comedian Joaquin Reyes, Miguel Esteban, creator of the Intl. Emmy-nominated “The End of Comedy,” and Manuel Sicilia, director of the Oscar-nominated short “The Lady and the Reaper.”

Also notable this year was the presence at Cartoon Movie of graphic novel editors – Lion Forge (U.S.), Rue des Sèvres (France), Nobrow (U.K.), Tunué (Italy), Carlsen Verlag (Germany). According to Maes, they were in town not only to offer up content, but buy it as well.

According to the updated global figures shared at Cartoon Movie, 333 features have been financed via the event for a total value of $2.5 billion. “More and more films are being produced. Five times more than 20 years ago. It has changed the market in Europe and majors in the U.S. have had to react,” Maes commented.

CREDIT: Cartoon Movie

One buzzed-up project with proven international appeal presented at Bordeaux was “Terra Willy” sold to more than 50 countries by France’s Bac Films. A French production from TAT Productions in co-production with Bac Films, Logical Pictures, France 3 Cinéma and Master Films, and directed by Eric Tosti (“The Jungle Bunch: The Movie”) “Terra Willy” will be released in France on April 3.

The story follows Willy who, after the destruction of his family’s ship, lands on an unknown planet with the only his robot to help him. Three clips from the feature were shared in Bordeaux, a child engaging in one in standard morning hygiene rituals with hilarious help from sophisticated machines.

The Bordeaux region –the Nouvelle Aquitaine– has experienced a significant boost in animation studios, the number of companies now being second only to Paris. The area also hosts 15 training centers.

Next year’s Cartoon Movie will take place March 3-5.

CREDIT: Cartoon Movie

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