Netflix, China’s Alibaba and France have thrown their weight behind the Annecy Animation Film Festival, with the festival set to showcase an in-progress reveal of the U.S. streaming giant’s “The Cuphead Show!” plus a look back at cult movie “Animal Crackers,” as well as six French productions in its Work in Progress section, Annecy’s single most important program strand.
Also selected for the section, and distributed by Alibaba Pictures Group, “New Gods: Nezha Reborn,” from Ji Zhao, follows on the highest-grossing animated movie ever in a single territory, “Nezha,” which earned over $700 million in China.
French productions are led by the hugely awaited “The Summit of the Gods,” produced by Jean-Charles Ostorero and also the most ambitious movie to date from fellow producers Didier and Damien Brunner.
Also in the French WIP mix is “The Island,” the latest from Romania’s Anca Damian who won Annecy’s top prize with “Crilic: The Path to Beyond,” as well as films backed by Sacrebleu Productions and Haut et Court (Benoît Chieu’s “Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds”), Charades (“Even Mice Belong in Heaven”) and Folimages (“Vanille”).
Annecy is also not done yet, with its Special Presentations and Masterclasses section still to be revealed. That said, whether Hollywood’s studios will for 2020’s online edition have anything like the extensive presence of recent years remains to be seen.
Popular on Variety
Based on the popular as it is difficult video game “Cuphead,” Netflix’s original series adaptation “The Cuphead Show!” will host a WIP Series presentation. It follows the titular character and his brother Mugman through a host of wild and dangerous adventures across the Inkwell Isles. Expanding on the game’s storyline while employing the same 1930’s Fleischer-inspired animation style, the series is produced by Netflix Animation and King Features, with Emmy and Annie winning producer Dave Wasson (Micky Mouse Shorts) executive producing and “Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling’s” Cosmo Segurson co-executive producing.
The tale of a solo attempt without oxygen in Winter on Everest’s soaring South-West face, based on a Japanese graphic novel, “The Summit of the Gods,” directed by Patrick Imbert (“The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales”) is sold by Wild Bunch with Diaphana Distribution handling French rights.
Another departure for Damián after moving dog bio “Marona’s Fantastic Tale,” the Mediterranean island-set “The Island” is described by her as a musical comedy and “upside-down Robinson Crusoe” story.
A buzz title at March’s Cartoon Movie, “Sirocco” combines hallmark exquisite 2D animation from Sacrebleu, is set in a fantastical world and is written by Oscar-nominated Alain Gagnol (A Cat in Paris”). Haut et Court handles French distribution.
Also selected for Annecy’s WIP section are two U.S. productions. Produced by Unity Productions Foundation, “Lamya’s Poem” turns on a young Syrian refugee who finds Rumi’s book of poetry which magically transports the girl to Rumi’s youth. Alexander Kronemer directs an all-star voice cast featuring “Aladdin” lead Mena Massoud, Millie Davis (“Wonder”), Faran Tahir (“Iron Man”) and Raoul Bhaneja (“Miss Sloane”).
“My Love Affair with Marriage,” a Latvia-U.S. production from Signe Baumane, is funded by a Kickstarter campaign and turns on a neuroscience analysis of love.
A further French co-production which will also receive a WIP Features sneak peek, “No Dogs or Italians Allowed,” from Alain Ughetto – director of the singular ‘70s Iran set claymation love story “Jasmine” – weighs in as another stop-motion tale, this time about the director’s migrant grandfather.
Also selected for WIP Features, “Len and the Song of the Whales,” directed by Joan Manuel Millán and Manuel Alejandro Victoria, proved a standout at Ventana Sur’s 2016 Animation! Forum. A coming of age tale, it turns on a 9-year-old indigenous girl who has a terrible fear of water. Latido Films has boarded as international sales agent.
Produced by Science Saru, with Asmik Ace teaming as a producer and distributor, and part of last year’s Annecy Mifa market pitches, “Inu-Oh” is an animated musical fantasy film based on the life of a 14th century Japanese playwright and theater performer. It is directed by Masaaki Yuasa, who won the top Annecy Cristal in 2017 with his “Lu over the Wall.”
Of WIP TV Specials, Hugo de Faucompret’s “Mum is Pouring Rain” follows an 8-year-old girl spending Christmas with her grandma while her mother stays home struggling with depression. Like Satsuki and Mei in “My Neighbor Totoro,” the young girl, who only occasionally speaks with her mother, retreats into the surrounding wilderness. Paris-based Dandelooo is distributing.
Inspired by Carl Sandburg’s homonymous poem, VR experience “The Hangman at Home,” another WIP offering, from Michelle and Uri Kranot, asks of its gloomy protagonist, “What does the hangman think about when he goes home at night from work?” In one room at different times, five stories of people at their most intimate share the moments with the viewer. Late Love Production in Denmark, NFB in Canada and Miyu Productions and Floréal Films in France produce.
This year’s Preview Sessions sidebar features three buzzed up titles, one feature, one half-hour special and one VR experience.
Years in the making and highly anticipated by Annecy followers since first appearing at Annecy’s Mifa market in 2014, stop-motion feature “Even Mice Belong in Heaven” from Denisa Grimmová and Jan Bubeniček and based on Iva Procházková’s book, has been a festival favorite throughout its production lifecycle, participating at Cartoon Movie, Cartoon Connection, Annecy goes to Cannes and a WIP presentation at last year’s Annecy.
In it, a mouse and fox, mortal enemies, die in an unfortunate accident and meet again in heaven but without the survival instincts that pitted them against one another in life. There, they become fast friends and learn about love, overcoming prejudices and lingering pains.
Croatian duo Veljko and Milivoj Popovic are back after last year’s Annecy VR Works in Progress session with “Dislocation.” Distributed by Croatia’s Bonobostudio, the seven-minute experience throws viewers into a moment in time when they are forced to fight for life in a strange land after being displaced from their own.
Using a mix of 2D computer animation and stop-motion, Guillaume Lorin tells the story in “Vanille” of a young Parisian girl, just arrived in Guadeloupe, who is thrown into a mysterious adventure like something from a dream in this French-Swiss half-hour special. Bright colors, over-the-top action and a bit of Creole flavor highlight the action-adventure tale. Folimage has French rights with Nadasdy Film Sarl distributing in Switzerland.
This year Annecy is also hosting two Making Of panels. In another contribution from Netflix, “Animal Crackers” directors Tony Bancroft and Scott Christian Sava will look back at their 2017 Annecy main competition feature “Animal Crackers,” revisiting the production process, the film’s world premiere where Variety’s Peter Debruge described it as “delightfully inventive, frequently hilarious animated feature,” and the subsequent obstacles in finding its audience. A second Making Of session will be hosted by Gutsy Animations’ CEO Marika Makaroff, creative director and executive producer of “Moominvalley.”
The 2020 Annecy International Animation Film Festival will run online over June 15-30.
ANNECY WORK IN PROGRESS, 2020
“No Dogs or Italians Allowed,” (Alain Ughetto; Alexandre Cornu, Enrica Capra, Nicolas Burlet, Ilan Urroz, Jean-François Le Corre, Manuel Poutte; Gebeka Films, France, Italy, Belgium)
“The Summit of the Gods,” (Patrick Imbert; Jean-Charles Ostorero, Damien Brunner, Stéphan Roelants; Diaphana Distribution, France, Luxembourg)
“My Love Affair with Marriage,” (Signe Baumane; Roberts Vinovskis, Sturgis Warner; Latvia, U.S.A.)
“Inu-Oh,” (Masaaki Yuasa; Fumie Takeuchi, Eunyoung Choi, Yuhai cheng; Asmik-Ace, Japan, China)
“The Island,” (Anca Damian; Gregory Zalcman, Augusto Zanovello, Mathieu Rolin, Gina Thorstensen, Romania, France, Belgium)
“Len and the Song of the Whales,” (Joan Manuel Millán, Manuel Alejandro Victoria; Julián Danilo Londoño Navarro, Marcial Quinones; Latido Films; Colombia)
“Lamya’s Poem,” (Alexander Kronemer; Unity Productions Foundation; U.S., Canada)
“New Gods: Nezha Reborn,” (Ji Zhao; Xi Lu; Alibaba Pictures Group; China)
“Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds,” (Benoît Chieu; Ron Dyens; Haut et Court, France)
“The Cuphead Show!” (Dave Wasson, Cosmo Sergurson; Netflix; U.S., Canada, Ireland)
WIP TV SPECIALS
“Mum Is Pouring Rain,” (Hugo de Faucompret; Antoine Lietout, Ivan Zuber, Emmanuèle Petry Sirvin, Jean-Baptiste Wery; Dandelooo, France)
“The Hangman at Home,” (Michelle Kranot, Uri Kranot; Lana Tankosa Nikolic, Katayoun Dibamehr, Avi Amar, Emmanuel-Alain Raynal, Marc Bertrand; ONF, Miyu Distribution; Denmark, France, Canada)
“Even Mice Belong in Heaven,” (Denisa Grimmová, Jan Bubeniček; Vladimír lhotak, Alexandre Charlet, Grzegorz Waclawek, Marek Jenicek; Charades, Gebeka Films, Cinemart, M2 Films; Poland, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia)
“Dislocation,” (Veljko Popovic, Milivoj Popovic; Veronique Siegel, Bonobostudio; Croatia, France)
“Vanille,” (Guillaume Lorin; Folimage, Reginald De Guillebon, Nadasdy Film, Nicolas Burlet; Folimage, France)