Veteran French animation producer Aton Soumache and renowned comicbook artist-turned-filmmaker Joann Sfar (“The Rabbi’s Cat”) are launching Magical Society in the run up to the online Annecy Animation Film Festival.
The Paris-based mini-studio is already boasting a slate of a dozen ambitious animation, hybrid and live action projects in various stages of development, with about 30 topnotch international creative talents attached, notably Leo Sanchez Barbosa, the character designer of “How to Train Your Dragon,” and Viktor Antonov (“Dishonored,””Half Life 2”).
Magical Society is a rebranded company stemming from Sfar’s production vehicle Nice Pictures, which was acquired last year by Soumache’s Mediawan-backed ON Entertainment. Sfar’s latest animated feature “Little Vampire” is part of the official selection of Annecy’s online film festival.
The outfit’s roster of titles includes the series “Monsieur Crocodile,” “Monsters’ Shrink,” the 3D animated feature “La chanson du Renart” (“The Fox’s Song”), as well as a hybrid mini-series based on French aviator and author Antoine de Saint Exupery’s 1943 philosophical parable “The Little Prince.”
“I have developed with Aton (Soumache) this rich relation that an author has with an editor, one which allows me to have a vision and create sprawling works spanning across different fields — books, series, films with the ambition of Guillermo Del Toro and Tim Burton in mind,” said Sfar. “Like them, we strive to have a truly artistic vision that also delivers on the entertainment front,” he added.
“Fox’s Song” will be inspired by “The Story of the Fox” (“Roman de Renard”), a classic of French medieval literature.
Sfar said it will be a heroic fantasy feature in the veins of “Lord of the Rings,” retelling a European folk tale with Pixar-style animation, a caustic tone and European perspective. Sanchez, whose stellar track record includes work on “Tangled,” “Bolt” and “Trolls,” has been tapped for the project and is notably transposing Sfar’s drawings into 3D.
“We’re opening the doors of Magical Society to talented artists from around the world and my role will be that an orchestra conductor… Our projects will weave humor and fantasy with lots of diversity and a good dose of generosity as my graphic novels and their characters,” said Sfar.
“Monsieur Crocodile” will be a New Orleans-set animated series about a little girl teaching a crocodile how to live in a city. “Monsters’ Shrink,” inspired by “L’Eternel” et “Le dernier juif d’Europe,” will be an adult-skewing series about a British psychologist living in the French Riviera who wakes up to a new dawn controlled by monsters. The show will have a subtle political undertone that is reminiscent to Stephen King’s work, explained Sfar.
“The Little Prince” mini-series, meanwhile, will be set in New York in an imaginary world with air battles and imaginary creatures in the spirit of King Arthur’s legend and J. R. R. Tolkien’s works.
Antonov, the art director and conceptual artist of the blockbuster video games “Half-Life 2” and “Dishonored” is working with Sfar to create the epic backdrop of the five mini-movies that will mix live action and CGI in the veins of “The Lord of the Rings.” Sfar previously adapted “The Little Prince” in 2008 into a graphic novel that became a New York Times bestseller.
Soumache, whose feature credits include Mark Osborne’s Cesar-winning animated feature “The Little Prince,” said “the scale and scope of Magical Society’s slate reflects the way the audiovisual industry has evolved.”
“We’re in a new world where talent from everywhere in the world, whether they come from television, film, video games, comicbooks and animation, can combine their knowledge and singularities to come up with the most inventive stories,” said Soumache.
The executive said that although the industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the market for youth entertainment was full of promise, “thanks in part to streaming services that are a gold mine to tackle all types of genres.”