Bob Swain reports on Europes 2004 Cartoon Movie, covering the hot progress of European animated film producers and the event supporting them over the past five years.
The sixth annual Cartoon Movie in Potsdam, Germany, recently brought together some 420 participants to focus on the fast-growing sector for European animated feature films.
The event was set up by Cartoon in partnership with the European Media program as a movie version of its successful Cartoon Forum meeting for animated series. Managing directors Marc Vandeweyer and Corinne Jenart claim it has had a significant impact on production, with an explosion in European features since it first began.
Only 11 animated feature films were produced in Europe during the five-year period from 1964 to 1968. This grew steadily to 27 titles in the five years from 1994 to 1998. But since 1999, there has been a massive increase in production volumes with a total of 68 animated movies and a combined budget of 415 million.
Of course, these have mostly been low-budget affairs and distribution remains a serious problem for many. For every Chicken Run or Les Triplettes de Belleville, there are many that have failed to make progress outside their own domestic markets. And time and again, the reason for this remains plain to see with high quality animation still being let down far too often by poor scripts.
Nonetheless, Vandeweyer believes the quality of projects being presented at Cartoon Movie is going up year by year.
Speaking at a press conference for Cartoon Movie are (left to right) Marc Vandeweyer and Corinne Jenart, of Cartoon; Klaus Keil, gm of Medienfilmboard Berlin-Brandenburg; Stephan Thies, head of NFP Animation Film Gmbh, co-organizer of the Forum and producer.
We had a stronger pre-selection committee this time and we refused more films than in previous years, with fewer films being pitched in concept and in development. I think we made the right decision because it meant that we had a much higher quality this year, he says.
Another goal for us was to build pan-European distribution network and that is now happening.
For the first time, public screenings of European animated features were timed to coincide with Cartoon Movie at cinemas in Potsdam and Berlin. If this proves to be a success the idea will be developed further in future years.
Awards were made to three European studios on the final day in the shape of the Cartoon Movie Tributes. The first went to Karsten Kiilerich of Danish studio A. Film for the companys wide collaboration in the production of European feature films. A. Film has produced well-known feature films such as Help! Im a Fish and Jungle Jack. The company has just started pre-production of its 3D animated feature The Ugly Duckling and Me, in co-production with Magma Film (Ireland) and Futurikon (France). It is in post-production on Terkel in Trouble for Nordisk Film, Denmark. Both of these projects were presented during this years Cartoon Movie.
A. Film is making Astérix and the Vikings for M6 France and has previously worked with many European studios and production companies on other films, including Jester Till, The Three Wise Men, El Cid The Legend, Eight Crazy Nights, Karlsson on the Roof, Christmas Carol The Movie, Pettson and Findus and Free Jimmy.
French studio Folimage Valence Production received an award for having created and produced La Prophétie des Grenouilles entirely in-house. The Folimage Studio has been in existence since 1984 and is run by its co-directors Jacques-Rémy Girerd and Patrick Eveno. Girerd has written and directed numerous award winning shorts and television series. Eveno is the producer of the studio-based films and series. When planning the production of its first feature film (which has already attracted 835,000 box office entries in France), Folimage decided to take on the challenge of producing the film entirely in-house including all the animation.
The third Tribute went to Pathé Europe (U.K./France) for its work in developing a European strategy for production and distribution, and as an exhibitor of European animation films. As well as being one of the most important independent film producers in Europe, Pathé is also a key player in cinema and video distribution in France and the U.K. A European leader in cinema distribution through its subsidiary Euro Palaces, the company has released several European animated feature films. Following Chicken Run (Pathé U.K.) and The Magic Roundabout (Pathé France/U.K. with a release planned for 2005), Pathé has now also invested in Renaissance (Method Films/Millimages) and Why I Did (Not) Eat My Dad (Les Armateurs).
An additional special Tribute was also given to Professor Klaus Keil, the departing gm of Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, for his support of Cartoon Movie since its original concept.
The opening night screening this year was of Back to Gaya from Ambient Entertainment the first German-produced 3D CGI feature film. It was the first of 12 recently completed features to be shown, several of them already having enjoyed considerable success in their home markets and now seeking wider distribution.
Jester Till from Munich Animation has had more than 800,000 box office admissions in Germany since its release in September 2003 and is being released in the Benelux territories on March 17. Folimages La Prophétie Des Grenouilles has had 815,000 entries in France. Les Triplettes de Bellevilles has had 830,000 entries in France, has already enjoyed great success in the U.K. and other territories and is now being released in Germany on April 8.
This was also a particularly strong year for Spanish producers, with Filmax Animations El Cid The Legend and Animagic Studios The Three Wise Men each chalking up 500,000 admissions in Spain. El Cid has already lined up distribution deals in 35 further territories.
Extracts from three movies were shown on the eve of their initial release all to great acclaim. Germanys Rothkirch/Cartoon Film presented Lauras Star in collaboration with Warner Bros. Film GmbH and A. Film presented work from its first 3D CGI movie together with Nordisk Film Production, Terkel in Trouble produced entirely in-house over a period of just six months by a small team of 15 animators using 3ds max.
La Prophétie des Grenouilles (left) and Jester Till (right) have generated solid box office revenue in Europe. © Folimage 2002 (left) and © 2003 Munich Animation/CP Medien/De Familie Janssen. All rights reserved.
Irelands Magma Films showed Inspector Derrick Duty Calls together with its German partners NDF and ZDF Enterprises, immediately before its German release date on April 1. The German release will be used as a platform to roll it out to further countries among the 130 or so around the world where the original live action television series of Inspector Derrick has been shown over the years. The project was original pitched by Magmas Ralph Christians at Cartoon Movie three years ago as an initial concept.
Only four movies currently in production were presented this year suggesting that the massive increase in completed European theatrical animation over the past 12 months may not be repeated over the coming period. The projects which are on the way are Midsummer Dream from Dygra Films and Appia Filmes in Spain, Nuages From Lardux Films (France) and La Parti Production (Belgium), Waste Side Story from Spanish partners Irusoin and Dibulitoon Studio and Why I Did (Not) Eat My Dad from the Les Triplettes de Bellevilles and Kirikou and the Sorceress producer Didier Brunner of Les Armateurs (France).
But among projects in development being presented, some were at a relatively advanced stage such as The Ugly Duckling and Me from A. Film (Denmark), Magma Films (Ireland) and Futurikon (France) and Rumbo from Radar Films (Denmark) together with Ambient Entertainment (Germany) and the Illuminated Film Company (U.K.).
With the European Union set to increase from 15 to 25 countries on May 1, Cartoon Movie was keen to invite and present projects from the new member states Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Cyprus and Malta. In addition, Bulgarian producers were invited as their country enjoys a bi-lateral relationship with the European Media organisation. Four of the 11 projects presented at the initial concept stage were from these 11 countries.
Fimfarum 2 is a stop-motion puppet project from Maur Film in the Czech Republic a follow-up to the original Fimfarum, which attracted 105,000 admissions to Czech screens. Some 50% of the 1.2 million budget has already been found from Czech film fund and Czech television sources. It will feature four different styles of animation, with different directors recruited for each of its four fairy tales.
Maru The Enchanted Talisman is also a puppet animation film and was presented by Polish company Se-ma-for Produkcja Filmowa. Co-production partners are being sought from other European countries to help meet the 1.5 million budget. Bulgarian producers Zlatin Radev and Svetoslav Alexandrov of Junk Brothers introduced their idea for The Junks a story based around characters built from bits of junk. And Gorazd Norcic from Slovenian studio Qollective told the story of Wai a quest to save the Earth by tracking down crucial lost parts for a vast underground machine that will otherwise cause the continents to crash together and so create catastrophic earthquakes all across the planet.
Meanwhile producers of each of the 40 projects presented this year at Cartoon Movie will all be hoping it will be their movie that makes the Earth move.
Scriptwriter, author and editor, Bob Swain has been part of the international animation scene for longer than he cares to remember.
Additional reporting by Ron Diamond, the co-founder and co-publisher of Animation World Network. He also serves as exec producer/founder of Los Angeles-based Acme Filmworks, an animation commercial production company.