Paris-based arthouse outfit Autour de Minuit, producer of Oscar-winning toon short “Logorama,” will produce toon feature “Spitsbergen” and medium-length “Return to Nix,” both to be directed by Suzie Templeton, who won as Academy Award and Annecy Cristal  for”Peter & the Wolf”). “Spitsbergen”marks Templeton’s much-awaited feature debut, currently in development.

The news comes as Annecy awarded a Special Jury prize to the Autour de Minuit-produced short “Homeless Home,“ from Spain’s Alberto Vázquez (“Birdboy: the Forgotten Children”), a heady B & W mix of fantasy genre, casual, modern-day dialog and a horror at blood lust and cruelty.

Yesterday, a second Autour de Minuit short, Geoffroy de Crécy’s “Empty Places” – a hypnotic portrait of a world in which humdrum machines continue to function, though human beings have disappeared – took the Festivals Connexion Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes prize, in partnership with the Lumières Numériques & Mèche Courte Award.

“Spitsbergen” turns on two kids living together in a disused factory in 1970s England. When the elder realizes he can’t give the younger what she really needs – a proper family – he leaves her. Alone and scared, she sets out to find him, embarking on a decade-long quest that takes her across continents and into adulthood.

“‘Spitsbergen’ will be a stop-motion film incorporating hybrid techniques. Stop-motion brings a unique power and intensity to the screen,” Templeton told Variety, adding: “To support the magical realism of the story, the film will be grounded in textural realism, but in some episodes I’ll explore a sort of dreamy, ethereal, fragile aesthetic.”

Also stop-motion, 26-minute “Return To Nix ” will be a spin-off of Rosto’s musical “Monster of Nix.” Co-produced by Amsterdam’s Richard Valk, it centers on a lonely 9-year girl hears about a fountain in the magical village of Nix that can take you back to the happiest moment in your life. Desperately unhappy, she travels there – only to discover that the fountain’s dried up.

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Return to Nix Credit: Autour de Minuit

Autour de Minuit’s stop motion production credits take in Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar’s “A Town Called Panic” and Carla Pereira and Juanfran Jacinto’s “Metamorphosis.”.

Nicolas Schmerkin, head of Autour de Minuit, said had always loved Templeton’s work and over 15 years produced and distributed the shorts of Templeton’s late husband, Rosto (“Lonely Bone,” “The Monster of Nix”), a friend, who passed away in 2019. Schmerkin worked along with his friend Rosto for over 15 years. Rosto has been developing “Spitsbergen” and “Return to Nix” when he died.

“We’re really excited about the idea that part of Rosto’s work could live on with through talent,” Schmerkin said, adding he’s looking for co-production partners in the Netherlands and possibly Belgium.

Templeton praised Autour du Minuit’s “dynamic, positive and hugely supportive environment where the integrity of uncompromising, soul-searching creativity is respected and nurtured, which for me is the very reason for making films.”

Autour de Minuit boasts a substantial lineup at Annecy, including two TV films and six shorts, taking in three buzzed up titles at the event: “Homeless Home,” “Empty Places” and Alexandre Siqueira’s “Purpleboy.”

The French company recently initiated pre-production on “Unicorn Wars” Alberto Vázquez’s solo follow-up to feature “Birdboy: the Forgotten Children,” which was sold by Charades. The feature is co-produced by Autour de Minuit’s new Angoulême studios, Spain’s Abano and Uniko, and France’s Schmuby.

Autour de Minuit produced animated just shorts until 2012, when it began to drive into TV series such as “Babioles,” “A Town Called Panic,” “No-No,” “Jean-Michel Super Caribou,” and to develop features such as Vázquez “Birdboy”). It also began publishing books and DVDs.

Autour de Minuit aims to “build visually original universes with social content for adults and family audiences, to feed the brain with out-of-the-ordinary non-P.C. projects, that are sometimes borderline-edgy and with [give] a certain vision of the world.

Autour de Minuit is also developing an animated feature for family audiences alongside Canada’s Micro_Scope, which will be a musical, with a soundtrack by Canadian Patrick Watson, who co-penned the script with the director, Chris Lavis, Oscar-nominated for “Madame Tutli-Putli”).

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The Midnight King Credit: Micro_Scope / Autour de Minuit