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European Theaters Tooning Up for an Animated 2019

Fairies, dragons, a trip to the moon and the fall of the Berlin Wall are just some of the family-friendly highlights in German and European animation this year.

While the current crop of animated pics offer historical themes and adaptations of beloved books, a popular German toy line serves as the basis for one highly anticipated film. The European Film Market is buzzing with animation.

Produced by leading Hamburg-based animation house Ulysses Films, maker of recent hits like “Luis and the Aliens” and “Ooops! Noah Is Gone…” (a.k.a. “All Creatures Big and Small”), “Bayala” explores a fantasy world populated by elves, fairies, unicorns and dragons based on the hot-selling figurines manufactured by German toymaker Schleich.

The film follows two fairy princesses who embark on a journey with a dragon egg to save their magical kingdom.

“‘Bayala’ is everything that small humans aged 5 to 10 just love,”  a timeless story of “fantasy, friendship, adventure, magical animals, nature and good versus evil,” says Ulysses Films managing director Emely Christians.

Writer Vanessa Walder, working with Baboon Animation, developed the script based on Schleich’s descriptions of the magical world and its inhabitants.

“Bayala” is a well-known property among both children and parents due to the popular toy line, Christians says, noting that the value of the brand enables broad marketing of the film.

The brand is “a huge opportunity and hook” for distributors, adds Julia Weber, head of theatrical sales and acquisitions at Global Screen, which is handling international sales for the film.

The figurines are sold in more than 50 countries and “Bayala” toys will hit stores worldwide later this year accompanied by a big marketing campaign. A “Bayala” video game is also scheduled for release in Europe, with more territories to follow.

“It’s still a rare gem to find an independent animated movie that is based on a toy brand,” Weber adds. “Our distributors have the chance to release the movie with a much higher awareness than most independent animated movies will ever have, coming closer to the studios’ animated movies.”

Global Screen has a number of animated titles in its European Film Market lineup this year, including a pic about the fall of the Berlin Wall as seen through the eyes of a young girl.

“Fritzi — A Revolutionary Tale” follows a 12-year-old in East Germany trying to find her best friend, who has managed to flee to West Germany with her mother as demonstrations in the communist country intensify.

“With its more artistic style of animation, ‘Fritzi’ has a different look,” says Weber. The film is set to premiere later this year on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. “It is a truly emotional project for us and it has great crossover potential.”

Ulysses is also producing “Ooops! The Adventure Continues…,” the sequel to Global Screen’s hit “Oops! Noah Is Gone…,” which follows two animal pals as they try to survive a fall from Noah’s ark.

Unspooling in the Berlinale’s Generation sidebar is “Louis & Luca — Mission to the Moon,” the third installment in the popular Norwegian franchise about a magpie and his hedgehog friend. Sola Media is screening the film at the EFM along with bird adventure “Manou the Swift.”

Animated pics had a strong year in Germany in 2018 and many of the recent releases are on offer at the market.

Wild Bunch Germany presents its hit live-action/animated family film “Pettson and Findus — Findus Moves House,” which premiered in Germany in September. Based on the works of Swedish author Sven Nordqvist, the film centers on an old farmer and his cat.

Global Screen’s lineup also includes “Luis & the Aliens” and “Tabaluga,” based on the popular franchise created by German rock musician Peter Maffay about a little dragon, released locally by Sony.

Also attracting young moviegoers were local favorites like Caligari Film’s “Coconut the Little Dragon — Into the Jungle” and Studio 100 Film’s “Maya the Bee 2: The Honey Games.”

The lineup for European animated features looks strong this year. Coming to theaters are “Marnie’s World,” about a pampered cat trying to survive in the outside world; “Raven the Little Rascal — Hunt for the Lost Treasure”; and “Princess Emmy — The Movie,” which Studio 100 has already sold to distributors in more than 100 countries around the world, including France’s TF1 Studio and China’s Bright Media.

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