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Cartoon Movie 2007: Sneak Peeks European Animated Features

Alain Bielik uncovers the role of CG in meticulously recreating the infamous serial murders and period look of San Francisco in David Finchers Zodiac. Includes QuickTime movie clips!

The year 2007 will be remembered as the year Cartoon Movie made its first big push into new media and alternative distribution models. With cinema going digital, Cartoon Movie will increase funding opportunities for producers.

In 2007, Cartoon Movie made its first big push into new media and alternative distribution models. The European co-production forum for animated feature films is staged every March at the Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam, Germany. The idea is to bring producers of new movies together with potential distributors and investors.

The gathering, March 7-9, brought together a total of 494 participants this year -- of which 62 were distributors and 132 investors. But most significantly 15 were from the online, gaming and cell phone markets. According to CARTOON managing director Corinne Jenart this is just the start of a major expansion in opening up Cartoon Movie to digital media.

"With cinema going digital, European animation is strengthening its position in the marketplace and, with the arrival of new players with new platforms, Cartoon Movie will increase the funding opportunities for producers. These new players are in increasing need of content," she says.

This ninth edition of Cartoon Movie screened 10 completed films and presented 32 projects at various stages of development or production. The total budget of these movies represented a total of 286 million.

Since the event began in 1999, 108 of all projects presented have achieved full financing to the tune of 660 million. Of these, 83 films are complete with a budget of 502 million. This compares with the five years before Cartoon Movie began when a total of just 27 European animation feature films were made.

For the seventh consecutive year Cartoon Movie Tributes were awarded, with participants voting on this year's nominees. The award for best European animation director of the year went to Michael Hegner and Karsten Kiilerich of A Film, Denmark, for The Ugly Duckling and Me. Best European distributor of the year was Jørgen Kristiansen -- head of acquisitions at Scanbox, Denmark. European producers of the year were Alphanim, Europool, Nelvana and Studio Canal for Franklin and the Turtle Lake Treasure.

The award for best European animation director of the year at the Cartoon Movie Tributes went to Michael Hegner and Karsten Kiilerich for The Ugly Duckling and Me. © 2005 A Film, Magma, Futurikon, Ulysses.

This year, a score of students from some of the most important animation schools in Germany and the U.K. participated in the Cartoon Movie Coaching Program, taking place in parallel to the Cartoon Movie's three-day event. The program is an initiative by the European Assoc. of Animation Film to achieve a consistent integration of young talent into the financing market, giving students an opportunity to experience the industry first-hand.

Cartoon Movie kicked off in style with the world event premiere screening of Philippe Leclerc's tale of ancient Egypt, The Princess of the Sun -- a week before its official premiere of the French/Belgian/Hungarian production in front of the Egyptian Pyramids.

Nine further completed movies were screened -- Desmond and the Swamp Barbarian Trap (Sweden/Spain), Franklin and the Turtle Lake Treasure (France/Hungary/Germany/Luxemburg), Happily N'ever After (Germany/Ireland/Greece), Haemoglobin, A Vampire Of Seville (Spain), Lotte From Gadgetville (Estonia/Latvia), One Night In The City (Czech Republic/Spain), Snow White: The Sequel (Belgium/France/U.K./Poland), The Ugly Duckling And Me (Denmark/Ireland/France/Germany) and U (France).

Projects that caught attention in the concept section were headed up by the outrageous gore-fest of Zombie Western -- extreme puppet animation inspired by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Presented by Perro Verde Films from Spain and Happy Flyfish from Denmark, it features blood, guts, exploding body parts and lots of zombies. Only for those with a strong stomach it looked like a sure-fire hit for the teen and young adult market.

Also something of an acquired taste, The Annoying Thing was presented by Berlin's The League Of Good People for Swedish studio Kaktus Film. The same team has already developed the famous ring-tone through a series of pop videos -- a process that has allowed them to build the environments and characters for a planned feature film. The CGI movie will be developed alongside a series of 52 one-minute shorts for cell phones, online distribution and TV to promote for the main event. It should be completed by the end of next year.

It was interesting to note that of the 12 projects presented in concept this year, none could exactly be described as falling into the cute and cuddly category. The process was kept firmly on track by French studios Mac Guff Ligne and Les Films d'Antoine when the appropriately named director Pierre Coffin showed off his concept for Bones Story -- a hilarious CGI tale of a family of skeletons.

But among the ghosts and vampires of the concept projects was the charming myth of Tamariata -- The Cloud Child. Drawing heavily on writer Sydelia Guirao's upbringing in Tahiti, it tells the story of a girl's journey from her home island where love is a curse. She sets off through a beautiful Pacific environment to find the human tear that will break the spell.

Happily N'ever After (Germany/Ireland/Greece) was among the features screened at Cartoon Movie. Courtesy of Lionsgate.

Another 12 projects were presented in the development section. Denmark's A Film had what looked like a natural successor to its successful low budget teen to adult hit Terkel In Trouble. This time around it's an adaptation of a classic Danish comic strip story -- Journey To Saturn -- and the promise is once again for a lightening-fast schedule ready to deliver for Easter 2008.

Finnish project The Magic Crystal attracted a lot of interest. A co-production between Epidem ZOT in Finland and Cartoon One in Italy, it's a Christmas story about an orphan boy who joins Santa's helpers to thwart the evil plan of Santa's twin brother to stop all the Christmas presents being delivered. A 26-episode spin-off series called, The Red Caps, is already in production.

Cartoon Movie presented the world avant premiere of Philippe Leclerc's tale of ancient Egypt, The Princess of the Sun. © 2007-Belokan Prods.-Rezo Prods.-France 3 Cinema-YC Aligator Film-RTBF-Cinemon Kft.

Completing the Scandinavian assault on new projects in development was Icelandic studio CAOZ with its take on the world of the ancient Norse Gods -- Thor. The producers are looking for the final 30% of a 14 million budget. Delivery is scheduled for the end of 2010.

Films already in production or post-production were: Dodo (Rothkirch/Cartoon-Film, Warner Bros Ent.), Dragon Hunters (Futurikon, Trixter, LuxAnimation), Jungo Goes Bananas (Per Holst, Asta Film, A Film Latvia, Nordisk Film), Round Da Way (Millimages), The Missing Lynx (Kandor Graphics, Perro Verde Films, YAYA Films), The Three Robbers (Animation-X), The True Story Of Puss 'n Boots (Herold & Fanmily, Saga Prod., Nexus Factory) and Quest For A Heart (MRP, Greenlight Media, Film and Music Ent.).

The 10th anniversary Cartoon Movie will be staged next March and it has been confirmed that the event will remain at the same venue in the Babelsburg Studios for at least the next five years.

Bob Swain is an animation scriptwriter based at Sidewinder Films in the U.K. He has attended every edition of Cartoon Forum since it began in 1990.

Ron Diamond is the president of AWN and the owner of animation production house, Acme Filmworks.