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Julia Sawalha has shared an open letter via her social media profiles expressing disappointment and anger at being left out of Aardman Animations’ upcoming “Chicken Run” sequel, confirmed as a Netflix pickup at June’s Annecy festival. Sawalha voiced Ginger in the Oscar-nominated original, which remains the top grossing stop-motion feature ever, 20 years after its release.

“To say that I am devastated and furious would be an understatement,” she said in the letter. “I feel totally powerless, something in all of this doesn’t quite ring true. I trust my instincts and they are waving red flags.”

According to Sawalha, she was informed about the decision last week by her agent, who speculated it was because her voice now sounds “too old” after receiving a letter of dismissal in which it was indicated that Mel Gibson would not be returning as Rocky for that very reason.

Sawalha says that voice actors in similar situations are typically given an opportunity to do a voice test, but that she was denied that privilege and produced one of her own, which she linked in the letter.

No producer or company are mentioned by name, but Sawalha did lament the loss of opportunity to work with Aardman producers Nick Park and Peter Lord, who co-directed the original.

Variety has reached out to Aardman and Netflix for comment.

CATALOG PARTNERSHIP

John Hendricks’ Factual media company CuriosityStream and Swedish broadcaster Com Hem have partnered on a deal that will provide Com Hem with hundreds of hours of factual programming for its linear service and soon-to-launch on demand platform Comhem Play Plus.

This will be the first time CuriosityStream’s original programming will be made available in Sweden, much of it subtitled in Swedish with the full program offering to be finished later this year. Titles heading to Com Hem include current events programs such as “Bright Now,” science news program “Breakthrough,” wildlife documentary “The Secret Lives of Big Cats” and cultural programing including “The History of Home.”

Niche Media Group worked with CuriosityStream and Com Hem to facilitate the partnership.

STREAMING SERVICE

The Barbican has launched Cinema on Demand, a new streaming platform spotlighting international cinema and lesser-known titles to be showcased independently or in Barbican Cinema team curated film seasons. It will also feature children’s titles from the Family Film Club program as well as supplemental free to view content and virtual ScreenTalks.

Cinema on Demand will roll out over the next four weeks featuring events meant to reflect the Barbican’s far-reaching cinema programming. From July 10 to Aug 7, five films, a poetry reading and two virtual ScreenTalks will be made available on the platform. Viewers will have 48 hours to watch their rentals, which will include closed caption and audio description options when available.

Rollout titles include: Matt Wolf’s biosphere doc “Spaceship Earth”; Hlynur Pálmason’s award-winning drama “A White, White Day”; Nietzchka Keene’s Bjork-starring 1990 fantasy drama “The Juniper Tree”; Alvaro Delgado Aparicio’s BAFTA-nominated “Retablo”; and a Film Family Club collection of five short films from filmmakers at Latvia’s AB Studios.

COMMISSION

Steve Couture, founder and former CEO of Frima, and Epic Story Media CEO Ken Faier have co-founded Epic Storyworlds, an independent kids content creation company based in Quebec, as a sister company to Epic Story Media. Radio Canada has commissioned the upstart company on an animated comedy-action series “Dex and the Humanimals,” which will play on the broadcaster’s on-demand platform TOU.TV.

Epic Storyworlds will focus on transmedia franchise IPs that will appeal to both local and global audiences and offer opportunities in TV, digital, gaming and consumer products.

Co-financed with assistance from the Shaw Rocket Fund and Quebec City, “Dex and the Humanimals” will be 2D animated for 6-11-year-old audiences. It was created by Raymond Boisvert and Paul Stoica and will turn on a team of rebels in a high-tech futuristic world who must stop an evil cyborg’s devious plans for global destruction.

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Humanimals Epic Storyworlds

SERIES SALES

Digital Television Russia and global production-distribution company Nucleus Media Rights have finalized a deal with Dubai-based Spacetoon TV to bring Russian animated series “Be-be-bears” and “Leo&Tig” to the Middle East and North Africa broadcaster this November.

Produced by Parovoz animation studio for broadcaster VGTRK and Digital Television Russia, the programs will broadcast on Spacetoon TV’s linear service and SVOD platform Spacetoon Go in the 22 countries where the services are available.

Both programs are for preschool audiences. “Be-be-bears” follows a group of bears and their fox friend who teach lessons about the importance of our relationship with nature and overcoming obstacles, while “Leo&Tig” turns on two best friends who explore the Far East together, and learn about respect for nature and other cultures. Both series will begin broadcasting in November.

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Be Be Bears Digital Television Russia

FESTIVALS

Switzerland’s Zurich Film Festival and Montreux Jazz Festival have launched a strategic alliance in which the latter will present a series of concerts in Zurich in partnership with the film festival’s SoundTrack_Zurich congress on music and film, as well as a panel on music and film headed by Montreux Jazz Festival director and CEO Mathieu Jaton.

Since its foundation in 1967, the Montreaux Jazz festival has become Europe’s premiere live jazz events and gained global recognition. Partnering with SoundTrak_Zurich, the two will present a series of concerts headlined by the return of Ray Parker Jr, writer of the “Ghostbusters” theme song, to accompany a documentary about his life titled “Who You Gonna Call.”

SoundTrack_Zurich is organized by the Swiss Media Composers Association in conjunction with the Zurich Film Festival, Soundtrack_Cologne, Forum Filmmusik and ZHdK. Zurich Film Festival will host a press conference Sept. 10 to announce this year’s programming, before launching the inaugural edition of SoundTrack_Zurich on Sept. 29 running through Oct. 1.

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Zurich, Montreaux, SoundTrack_Zurich SoundTrack_Zurich

*****

Supported by the Bagri Foundation and the British Film Institute (BFI), this year’s 11th London Indian Film Festival festival was the first South Asian film festival globally to go online. Running June 25 to July 5, prizes were awarded earlier this week, including a special recognition for Mira Nair’s 1991 drama “Mississippi Masala,” starring Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury, as the festival’s top-streamed film over a 24-hour period.

Other winners at this year’s event include actors Deepa Mehta and Shabana Azmi, who were honored with Icon Achievement awards; Freida Pinto, Adil Hussain and Vidya Balan, who each received prizes for outstanding achievement in their fields. Pakistani filmmaker Saim Sadiq’s short “Darling” – Venice’s best short film winner last year – won the Satyajit Ray Prize for best short, with the jury giving a special mention to Aarti Neharsh’s “Song We Sang.”

In addition to short films and festival favorite features from past editions, the online event also included conversations with Bollywood star Ayushmann Khurrana and Hollywood actor Freida Pinto, Oscar-nominated filmmakers Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair, “Life of Pi” and “Star Trek: Discovery” actor Adil Hussain with Peter Webber, and actor Padma Bhushan Shabana Azmi in conversation with British director Pratibha Parmar.

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Freida Pinto at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party Stewart Cook/WWD/Shutterstock