Driving to develop animated features and series that reach out to more sophisticated global families and 18-34 young adults after the milestone success of the Academy Award-nominated “I Lost My Body,” Marc du Pontavice’s French animation studio Xilam Animation has tapped ‘Dustbin Baby’ and ‘’Hetty Feather’ screenwriter Helen Blakeman to write “Lucy Lost.”
In the run-up to this year’s online Annecy Festival and MIFA market, Du Pontavice also teased further “The Wolf,” the next feature film at Xilam, to be directed by Julien Bisaro, nominated for an Annie for his storyboard artist work on “I Lost My Body,” whose half hour “Shooom’s Odyssey” is one of Annecy’s buzziest titles in its TV Film section.
A BAFTA and International Emmy Award winner for her TV screenplay adaptation of ‘Dustbin Baby’ for BBC/Kindle Entertainment, starring Juliet Stevenson, David Haig and Dakota Blue Richards, Blakeman is also the creator, lead writer and associate producer of the BAFTA-nominated CBBC Victorian foundling drama series “Hetty Feather,” now in its sixth and final series. She also serves as chair of the BAFTA Children’s Committee.
Blakeman will bring her sense of narrative structure and edge to Xilam’s eight half-hour miniseries “Lucy Lost.” Jean-Christophe Dessaint (“The Day of the Crow”) is attached to direct the CGI show with a final 2D rendering. An animated drama period piece, it is based on the bestselling mystery novel “Listen to the Moon” from British children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo, author of “War Horse.”
Set in 1915 in the Islands of Scilly off Cornwall as WWI rages, the novel kicks off when Alfie and his fisherman father rescue from an uninhabited island an injured girl who can utter just one word – “Lucy.” As she listens to music on a gramophone, glimmers of the girl she had once been begin to surface.
Inspired by true events, such as the sinking of the Lusitania, an event which helped bring the U.S. into WWI, Morpugo has commented, “Listen to the Moon’s” adaptation “Lucy Lost” reflects the sea-change wrought by the explosive entrance of global platforms into the financing and distribution of animated features and series.
“‘Lucy Lost’ returns to the concepts we repeated time and again when promoting ‘I Lost My Body,’” Du Ponatvice told Variety. Its story would “normally be treated in live action but can be told through animation, which really creates something that’s very different,” he added.
Global streamers have broadened the scope of animation, opening up two new animation audiences for Europe, Pontavice argued: “More sophisticated storytelling for global families”; young adult 18-34s.
At Xilam, “Lucy Lost” joins two YA titles: “The Wolf” and “Monkey Bizness.”
Adapted from a graphic novel by the author of “Snowpiercer,” Jean Marc Rochette, “The Wolf” turns on a vengeful shepherd chasing a wolf in the mountains, as a storm is gathering.
“Julien has a very unique talent, an incredible artistry, to immerse the audience in a highly vibrant nature that pops off the screen, said Du Pontavice, citing not only “Shooom’s Odyssey” but all the more Bisaro’s B & W 2014 short “Bang Bang!” a thriller set largely during a forest hunt which frames a daughter’s rebellion against her patriarch father.
“The Wolf,” Du Pontavice predicts, will be “quite dramatic, with nature as a third character.”
Xilam is also developing what Du Pontavice describes as a ten half hour “trashy offbeat comedy series” adapting cult French graphic novel series “Monkey Business,” written by the “brilliant duo of writers,” El Diablo and Pozla, also co-directors on “Les Lascars.”
“A kind of parody of ‘Planet of the Apes,’ the comedy series is set in an anarchic post-apocalyptic city known as Los Animales where man has regressed and animals rule. Baboon Jack Mandrill and gorilla Hammerfist the gorilla, two bumbling under-achievers, navigate a corrupt and anarchic criminal underworld.
Du Pontavice argues that platforms allow producers to target niche audiences globally, so access bigger budgets than if they trying to finance a series out of a single market niche.
“There are no reserved territories for live action. Any story can be told in animation,” he said.