The Long Shadow Over The Atlantic

by Heikki Jokinen

The flood of feature animation is not a phenomenon limited to the United States. Europe produces a lot of feature animation and the pace is even accelerating. The difference is that the European films hardly ever cross their own national borders. Europe has the creative talent; seven out of ten recent animation Oscars were given to European filmmakers. However, not even major domestic success guarantees the distribution of an animated feature in other European countries.

Werner III, Volles Rooäää!!!, which premiered September 16, 1999, reached 2.1 million spectators in the first three weeks. © and courtesy of Brösell/Achterbahn AG.

For example, in Germany Werner I (1990) and Werner II (1996) both collected 5.5 million spectators. Werner III, Volles Rooäää!!!, which premiered September 16, 1999, reached 2.1 million spectators in the first three weeks. But even these films are not screened in the rest of Europe. Moreover, the reason is not due to that infamous German humour! The fascinating Italian children's feature La Freccia Azzurra (The Blue Arrow) by Enzo d'Alo was only occasionally shown in the cinemas of other European countries.

In the United States European animated features are totally unknown, because the US cinema market is in general one of the most protected and closed markets in the world. The percentage of foreign films in US cinemas is more comparable with North Korea than Europe.

The new feature by D'Alo, La Gabbianella e il Gatto (Lucky and Zorba), premiered in Italy at the end of last year, around the same time as Mulan and The Prince of Egypt, both of which were accompanied by an expensive marketing campaign. By February of 1999 though, only La Gabbianella e il Gatto was on the list of top 15 box office hits in Italy.

In Norway a domestic animated feature was the major hit of the year. Ludvik, Solan og Gurin med reverompa (Gurin with Foxtail) by Nille Tystad and John M. Jacobsen attracted 700,000 spectators into Norwegian cinemas, which placed it second in spectator statistics, shadowed only by Titanic. The absolute all-time winner of Norwegian cinema spectator statistics is also an animation, Flåklypa Grand Prix (The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix, 1975) by Ivo Caprino. Its total audience was over five million, which is not bad in a country of four million people!

Cartoon Now Does Movies
Cartoon, the European Union's animation platform, recently decided to take action. It organized the first Cartoon Movie in February at the historical Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam, near the German capital of Berlin. The idea was to collect financiers and distributors together for three days to extend national distribution into international success.

The three day event included screenings of seven completed films, presentations of 27 projects in development and nine films in production. Cartoon was happy with the results and has already announced that the next Cartoon Movie will be held in Potsdam in March 2000. The aim is to create a European network in the field of feature animation and this equals a lot of work.

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