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Studiocanal, Cottonwood’s ‘Around the World’: Offers from ‘All Over the World’ (EXCLUSIVE)

CANNES  — Produced by Cottonwood Media and Studiocanal, written by “Ice Age 2’s” Gerry Swallow, and directed by Academy Award nominated Samuel Tourneux (“Only Pidgeons Go To Heaven”), $25 million animated feature “Around the World” had sparked offers from “from all over the world” by Wednesday evening at Cannes, said Anne Cherel, Studiocanal head of international current movies sales.

Weighing offers, Studiocanal looks to close 70%-80% of major territories by the end of the market, she added.

That looks set to make “Around the World” one of this year’s Cannes Film Market hits.

Studiocanal will distribute “Around the World” directly in France. It will also release the film, based on Jules Vernes’  timeless literary classic, in its direct distribution territories of Germany, the U.K. and Australia/New Zealand, unless it receives offers for the territories which it can’t refuse, Cherel said.

That may be possible. One of the biggest animated features to hit this year’s Cannes Film Market, “Around the World” is set up, in terms of animation  studios, at MacGuff Brussels, which worked on the original “Despicable Me” feature, and Studio Circus.

Via its upscale, robust-selling animated series, such as “Ollie & Moon,” sold to 150-plus territories, and renewed live action teen/tween hit “Find Me in Paris,” Paris-based Cottonwood, part of Federation Entertainment,  has quickly established itself as a market-attuned class-act among European family and kids companies.

“Around the World” follows Passepartout, a bookish marmoset with dreams of exploration. One day, he crosses paths with a greedy rash frog named Phileas, who brashly accepts a challenge to circumnavigate the planet in 80 days with a promised payout of 10 million clams should he succeed. Passpartout jumps on the opportunity to fulfill his wildest dreams and embarks on a wild adventure which, the synopsis says, is a crazy and exhilarating journey, full of twists and surprises.

Screened to distributors at Cannes, a one-scene promo suggests that “Around the World” will have wall-to-wall gags, often visual, playing off character foibles.

Phileas, a spindly legged frog and Passepartout are first seen exploring a tropical jungle. Passepartout worries they might be attacked by head-hunters who will kill them and put their heads on sticks.

“There are no head hunters,” retorts Phileas, just before a shower of arrows hit the rock behind them. Cut to the two dashing through the jungle and suddenly, in shades of “Papillon,” triggering a trap, which scooes them high in the sky in a net. Still trapped in the net, but now above a fire, Phileas looks around them. “I told you, there are no sticks,” he tell a n appalled Passepartout, his confidence still intact.

“Around the World” is a major project. It’s an independent movie but it’s ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ so it features many locations, lots of world building,” said Cottonwood Media’s David Michel, who produces with Cottonwood’s Zoe Z. Carrera and Cecile Lauritano.

“We really wanted to adapt ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ in a fresh new way,” he added.

“We have a very strong project here, without a doubt, plus we are quite well known for having some great family titles at Studiocanal,” Cherel said, citing the “Shaun the Sheep” franchise , Ben Stassen’s Nwave animated movies and the painterly Didier Brunner-produced “Ernest & Celestine.”

“Distributors all realize that there are not that many real big family animation films on the open market,” she added.

“Clients know that by buying early they will be with us on the journey towards the release well in advance, and with family films it’s vital for them to plant their flag, fix the dates, and work together on the marketing campaign rather than coming on at the last minute, especially when it’s an IP that is relatively well known,” added Anna Marsh, Studiocanal EVP, international distribution.

There have been many adaptations of “Around the World in 80 Days,” however, that so the key challenge here was finding something distinctive and new to set “Around the World” apart. One departure is humor, courtesy of Swallow. Tourneux is aiming to give an originality to the animation style, merging a base CGI with 2D visual effects.

“The adventure and the action are kind of built in to the story. But the original material was almost completely devoid of humor. It’s not a comedy and an essential element in these movies is that they have to be funny,” said Swallow.

He added: “I have a philosophy with these types of movies that you should always write for adults,” he went on. “Kids today are far more sophisticated, they’ve got YouTube, they’ve seen everything and they get things that we might think that they wouldn’t, but they do.”

“I want to have something new. Not to have the average realistic rendering, everybody can do that,” Tourneux explained at Cannes. “It’s a CGI movie so of course that leads the visual aspect. But we really want to mix that with some 2D visual effects, like water and smoke, so we have to defy how we are 3D CGI rendering.”

He went on to explain he is mixing “the steampunk Jules Verne universe with an animal world built for and by animals. Everything is made of wood, leaves, shells, little rocks and sand. But they’ve managed to make machines with that. We have boats and a house made of wood.”

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