Cartoon Movie's 11th edition moved from its home in Germany to Lyon, France, bringing a new focus on videogames and a record number of participants.
Cartoon Movie moved to a new venue and a new country this year, logging a record attendance and putting a new priority on links with the videogame industry. After 10 years in the historic home of German film at the Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam, the event switched this year to France's second city, Lyon.
While Babelsberg was best known for production of cinema classics such as Metropolis and The Blue Angel, Lyon also has a place in the history of cinema as the city where the Lumiere Brothers invented the cinematograph. In more recent years, however, its media of choice has centered on videogame production.
Cartoon Movie was set up to ease the production of European animation feature films by encouraging co-production between European countries and accelerating the financing and distribution process. Films are presented to an audience of investors, distributors and producers at various stages of development. This year a total of 51 projects were on show with a total budget of €370 million -- seven completed movies, 10 in production, 16 in development and 18 in concept.
Of the projects presented during the first 10 years of Cartoon Movie, 99 have already had a theatrical release and 24 more are currently in production -- sharing a total budget of €800 million. This compares with the previous decade when only 52 European animation feature films were produced.
"Last year there were 500 people at Cartoon Movie. This year there are over 600 -- so that's a great success," says Cartoon General Director Marc Vandeweyer. "The main success of Cartoon Movie is the construction of a genuine European distribution system for animation movies. There are now over 25 million admissions a year for animation movies -- and more to come," he continues.
"The Rhone-Alpes region of France is a real center of animation with studios, film schools and the Annecy animation festival. It is also a major center of computer games -- and that is an important theme this year with many games companies attending Cartoon Movie.
"We strongly believe that the animation industry and the games industry can both benefit from a win-win synergy. Cartoon Movie offers all delegates a chance to be involved at an early stage in the development of a project. This dynamic gives a lot more potential for collaboration," he concludes.
It's a sentiment that was mirrored by many of the game developers present at the show.
"We are a developer mainly for consoles like Nintendo DS and Wii and have previously worked with movies such as Asterix -- so we understand the problems when you get the assets too late," says Laurent Benadiba of Lyon's Smack Down Productions. "We think there can be a lot of benefit if you start working with the production company earlier so that you become an extension of the IP."
Interestingly enough, many of the game companies present came from an animation background -- so there was already a great deal of synergy.
"We work with a team of traditional 2D animators on fantasy games that take a lot of inspiration from Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away. We think there is a lot of overlap between what we do and what the people at Cartoon Movie do," says Claas Paletta of Daedalic Ent. in Hamburg.
The opening night film this year was Journey to Saturn -- a beer-swigging tale of Denmark's space program from A. Film in Copenhagen that was presented two years ago as a project in development. Directed by Kresten Vestbjerg Andersen, Thorbjørn Christoffersen and Craig Frank, the company's seventh animation feature managed to hit 400,000 admissions (10% of the population) during its domestic Danish release.
The other completed films were Mia and the Migoo from Folimages (France); Sunshine Barry and the Disco Worms from Crone Film (Denmark) and Sola Media (Germany); The Missing Lynx from Kandor Graphics, Perro Verde Films and Green Moon (all Spain); Goat Story -- The Old Prague Legends (Art and Animation Studio, Czech Republic); Jasper, Journey to the End of the World from Toons 'n' Tales (Germany), Amuse Films (France) and Dacodac Studio (Hungary); and The Secret of Kells from Cartoon Saloon (Ireland), Les Armateurs (France) and Vivi Films (Belgium).
The Secret of Kells was the big winner in the annual Cartoon Tribute awards with the producers taking producer of the year and Tomm Moore taking director of the year. The beautiful 2D film has already enjoyed theatrical releases in France, Belgium and Ireland and has also been invited for a special St. Patrick's Day screening to staff at Pixar.
"We made our original co-production deals here at Cartoon Movie so it's good to be back here where it all started with the finished film," says Moore. Cartoon Saloon also presented two further projects at Cartoon Movie -- Song of the Sea in development and Skunk Fu! The Movie -- Exit the Dragon in concept.
Song of the Sea was inspired by Kila -- a band of traditional Irish musicians featured on the soundtrack of The Secret of Kells. It was decided to expand on this theme, using the same musicians and artists to explore the world of traditional Irish legends. A first draft script is already complete for what will be a fully digital pipeline across various European territories with a budget of €4.5 to 5 million.
The Skunk Fu! movie is based on the studio's successful television series -- originally presented at sister event Cartoon Forum back in 2003.
A. Film presented another new movie together with German company WesToons Medien. Fix and Foxi -- The Movie is based on an incredibly successful franchise. The German comicbooks on which it is based have sold a total of 780 million copies since the 1960s and an animated television series is distributed in some 30 territories.
Also from Denmark, Copenhagen Bombay presented The Great Bear -- the latest in a number of low-budget animation features it has already produced. Budget for this latest forest adventure is just €1.5 million.
The U.K.'s Illuminated Film Co. is developing Not the End of the World -- a new take on the Noah story based on the book by Geraldine McCaughrean.
"U.S. animation works on a very narrow bandwidth. But for the past few years all of the most interesting films have come from Europe and Japan -- and at a lower budget," says the film's Los Angeles-based Dutch director Piet Kroon.
One of the most promising projects in concept was Extraordinary Tales from Mélusine Prods. in Luxembourg and Kandor Graphics in Spain. Building on an earlier Oscar-nominated short film called The Tell-Tale Heart, the idea is to add five further Edgar Allan Poe stories in a variety of graphic styles and with different high-profile narrators. Pre-production is due to start immediately with delivery set for Fall 2010 on a budget of €2.4 million.
The dark theme continues in the shape of Paolo & Rita – Fairy Tale of Palermo from Sicilian studio Grafanimated, aiming to make its first feature project after 20 years in television production. The film is based on the true story of a 15-year-old girl whose father and brother were killed by the Mafia. "These are traumatic events but we want to tell them as a fairy tale with a happy ending in order to give hope," says producer Alessandra Ragusa.
More cheerful subjects include Overtime from Hollywood-based Acme Filmworks, based on a short film made four years ago by French animators Oury Atlan and Thomas Bernos while students at Supinfocom. It tells the story of a group of puppets who come to life after the death of their puppet master in order to fulfil his dream. [Full disclosure: Acme is AWN's sister company.]
Thieves! is the latest concept from the Magma Group, comprised of Magma Films (Ireland), Pictorion Magma (Germany) and Ulysses (Germany), featuring the tale of a young thief being trained by a master thief who is approaching retirement. It's a classic 2D movie with a €6 million budget and has already picked up development financing from the Hamburg Film Fund.
Over Splodge Hill is being developed by Hungary's Stúdió Baestarts together with TeamTO from France, based on a successful Hungarian book, musical stage show and CD. Baestarts has already made three theatrical features and four direct-to-video films. This story starts in live action and then progresses through adventures in seven different animated worlds.
"We are not trying to make a European Shrek. The American studios are so successful that we don't want to compete with them. What we are aiming to do is use great Hungarian artists to create a unique world," says Baestarts' Andras Erkel.
The 12th edition of Cartoon Movie will be staged in Lyon March 3-5, 2010. The 20th edition of Cartoon Forum (for television series) will be staged in Stavanger -- Sandnes (Norway) from Sept. 22-25, 2009.
Bob Swain is an animation scriptwriter based at Sidewinder Films in the U.K. He has attended every edition of Cartoon Movie since it began in 1990.