Ukrainian producers Anna Eliseeva, Egor Olesov, and Iryna Kostyuk – who had just left the car after driving the two-day drive between Kyiv and Cannes — kicked off this year’s Annecy Goes to Cannes Animation Day with a call to arms.

“While Ukraine is fighting with Russia we need to keep fighting on a cultural level,” said Olesov, whose project “Mavka, The Forest Song” (pictured) was one of five works-in-progress presented at a May 22 morning session. “Culture is our strongest weapon right now, and we need to show ours to the whole world. That’s why our team is twice as motivated.”

A family friendly 3D adventure lifted from Ukrainian folklore, the long-in-the-works project was selected at Bordeaux’s Cartoon Movie in both 2017 and 2018 and been in production since well before that. Now with deals signed and delivery still slated for September, the filmmaking team faces pressures uncommon in even the most breakneck of timelines.

“A lot of our animators are working out of bomb shelters,” Kostyuk explained. “They’ve been displaced and spread out all over. Some of them are in occupied territories, facing Russian soldiers and tanks as they work to finish the movie.”

While the project has already secured distribution across a number of international territories, the film’s domestic future remains uncertain. “We don’t know when the domestic release will happen,” said Eliseeva. “We say it will happen after our victory – and that will be very sweet.”

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“With Closed Fists” Credit: Jean-Jacques KAHN

Of course, “Mavka, The Forest Song” was something of an outlier at Annecy Goes to Cannes, a works-in-progress pitch jointly organized by Cannes Marché du Film and the Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival, as the four other titles arrived at much earlier stages of development. While the “Mavka” team asked for international support, the four other development projects were looking for international partners.

Directed by Zoltan Horvath, Jean-Jacques Kahn and Franck Van Leeuwen, and produced by Switzerland’s Nadasdy Films, the boxing drama “With Closed Fists” tells the true story of Young Perez, a Jewish Tunisian immigrant who became the youngest World Flyweight Champion, and his older brother Kid, who survived the war and carried on his sibling’s legacy. Heading into production, the project will use motion-capture to give the boxing bouts their punch while tying together 2D computer animation, 3D graphics and painting with a visual style meant to look like an etching.

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Lollipop Credit: Lisa Marie RUSSO

“Lollipop” director Lisa Marie Russo called her visual touchstone “dangerous Disney,” explaining that her semi-autobiographical story would treat a woman’s battle with breast-cancer battle with the popping colors, 2D graphics and accessible character designs of certain early ’90s films. A non-fiction producer and the former head of the BFI doc fund, Russo also keyed to animation’s imaginative and oneiric potential, especially when exploring a subject more often than not painted in shades of docu-realism. Fly Films and Enter Yes will produce.

Spearheaded by Naïa Productions and based on a best-selling trilogy of French graphic novels, the Jan Kounen-directed “Epiphania” tells a father-son story, following a human man and his adopted hybrid child across a sprawling sci-fi landscape. Series author Ludovic Debeurme already set the tone with his dense and thoughtful saga, and now Kounen is working with animation studio Mac Guff Ligne to translate Debeurme’s graphic novel designs into scalable 3D models. As he embarks on his first animated feature, Kounen will use the set of tools he’s assembled over the past few years directing immersive and VR experiences.

Likened to a 1990s indie comedy, director Joël Vaudreuil’s “When Adam Changes” is a 2D coming-of-age tale about the horrors of puberty. Like a distant Quebecois cousin to Mike Judge’s earliest work, Vaudreuil’s treats the awkwardness of adolescence by giving each character a unique form and figure, none more so than Adam himself, whose body incorporates whatever taunts it receives. In the footage screened, the gangly teen hangs out with a possible crush, watching cheesy game shows and experiencing an oddly comfortable mid-summer malaise of being young and bored and having not much to do. Parce Que Films produces.

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When Adam Changes Credit David PIERRAT

Three weeks after Annecy Goes to Cannes, the animation world will go to Annecy for a huge festival-MIFA market edition, running June 13-18.