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6 December 2010

The UK funding page has been updated – to reflect the demise of the UK Film Council in the Coalition government’s spending review. Given that the Council funded only one completed animation film I can think of (A Christmas Carol) the impact on UK animation film-making will be pretty negligible. And Lottery Money will still be available via the British Film Institute. Ireland, facing a similarly savage round of cost-cutting, is cutting the Irish Film Board’s budget by a modest 3% so its support will also be largely spared. Feature films benefiting from IFB Euros include Cartoon Saloon’s Moon Man and the in-development Hound from Paul Bolger’s Pillar Stone Productions and BreakThru Films.

16 October 2010

O Apostolo

Still no news on when exactly O Apostolo (The Apostle), a 3D stop-motion movie from Galicia in Spain, is going to make its debut. Should be soon, because according to the Artefacto Producciones website the shooting was completed in April. Some truly spectacular footage can be seen on the studio's website here, or on YouTube here.

PS 31 October: it appears the movie will be released in 2011.

1 September 2010

Le Voyage Extraordinaire de Samy

After three weeks in French cinemas, the 3D European film Sammy's Adventures: The Secret Passage (Le Voyage Extraordinaire de Samy) has sold a respectable 943,500 tickets. The film, about a turtle's 50-year journey around the world, is the second mass market 3D movie produced by Belgium's nWave Pictures. With backing from Illuminata Pictures (US) and Motion Investment Group (Belgium), the film is directed (like Fly me to the Moon) by Ben Stassen. The film outsold both of the US heavyweights - Toy Story 3 and Shrek 4 - in the week beginning 25 August. However it should be added they had been on release for some time and accumulated 3.8m and 4.6m admissions respectively.

In its first week on release, 577 copies of Sammy were distributed compared to 735 copies for Toy Story 3 and 842 copies for Shrek 4.

27 July 2010

It's been far too long since the last entry on this page, but I have been keeping the site up to date, with plenty of new additions to In Production, Upcoming US films and the database. To follow on from the last entry, The Illusionist has now got a UK release through Warner Bros and Pathe next month, while Jackboots on Whitehall (Vertigo Films, apparently, though it's not mentioned on their site at time of writing) and A Town Called Panic (Optimum Releasing, again not seemingly worth publicising) are coming out in October. Three Mills Film Studios could not confirm whether Tim Burton's stop-frame Frankenweenie was in production there... but referred me to Walt Disney Co.

28 February 2010

l'Illusioniste

Change to the programme of this week's Cartoon Movie in Lyon: there will a screening of images from Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist as opposed to the whole film. Makes me wonder what is amiss with this long in gestation follow up to the Oscar-nominated Triplettes de Belleville. The film seems to have been shown at Berlin earlier this month and got this favourable write-up (though not a full-scale review) from Wendy Ide in The Times (note: this not cannot be accessed unless you pay). Clips from the film can also be found on You Tube.

16 February 2010

In a first for an animated movie based on a 9th Century book, The Secret of Kells has been nominated for this year's animated film Academy Award. This makes it the fifth European movie to be nominated since the category was introduced in 2001, the others being Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003), The Corpse Bride and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Wererabbit (2005) and Persepolis (2007). Not a bad record for a truly European effort from Ireland's Cartoon Salon, Les Armateurs and Vivi Film. I actually really enjoyed the film (which in an era of overblown 3D crafts real beauty out of two dimensions), but Up seems close to a dead cert to bring Pixar its fifth award next month. Wider release for Kells might, of course, be the real upside for the film's nomination.

10 February 2010

Cartoon Movie will be in Lyon on 3-5 March this year. New films being presented, currently in production and added to the In Production page, are: Lotte and the Moonstone Secret from Eesti Joonisfilm (of Estonia) and Rija Films (Latvia); Moomins and the Comet Chase from Oy Filmkompaniet Alpha AB (Finland); Project Chopin - The Flying Machine from Denis Friedman Productions (France) and BreakThru Films (Poland); Ramon (IB Cinema, Spain) and The Great Bear (Copenhagen Bombay, Denmark). Another 11 films in development will be presented and the eight films completed and screened include Around the World in 50 Years from stereoscopic 3D specialists nWave and Yona Yona Penguin (Denis Friedman Prods). There will also be a special screening for Sylvain Chomet-directed The Illusionist.

1 February 2009
Films being presented at next month's Cartoon Movie (held for the first time in Lyons) include a couple I had not heard about and which have duly been added to the In Production page. Egill, the Last Pagan, is based on an Icelandic saga and is being produced by a puppet animation studio in Poland and Hungary's Lichthof, producers of the successful Nyocker. From Belgium comes Suske en Wiske, based on a comic strip and set in Texas - or at least in the parallel universe that is Belgian comic strip artists' reimagined version of Texas. Or so I imagine.

Speaking of Belgian comic strip artists, I am increasingly disturbed to hear more news of Stephen Spielberg's movie version of Tintin this week. Apparently the film will be an adaptation of Red Rackham's Treasure (Le Tresor de Rackham le Rouge for French-speakers and Tintinophiles pretentieux, comme moi), with the main characters created in motion-capture and voiced by, inter alia, Jamie Bell (as Tintin), Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Thomson and Thompson). More detail here, including the detail that new characters will be introduced including Tintin's editor (famously, Tintin is a celebrated reporter who never actually files a story) and an American Interpol agent.

I must avoid knee-jerk reactions, but I'm worried. I grew up on Tintin, mostly reading the English translations by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, blissfully unaware of Tintin's nationality. Moulinsart? An English country house, of course - Marlinspike Hall. I only found out Sir Francis Haddock was actually a Frenchman when I was about 30. That's a tribute to the brilliance of their work, which is a shining example of sensitive translation - preserving and enriching Herge's humour and seamlessly bringing his wonderful characters to life in another language. I just worry whether Spielberg and the writers are up to it, or will 'reinterpret' the books for coke-quaffing multiplex audiences. I am almost tempted to start some sort of campaign to preserve Tintin from defilement.

23 December 2008
Just made a few improvements to the In Production and Upcoming US film releases pages. I am planning to keep a better track of European films which have been completed but not released, plus the handful of movies which cross the borders of this fair continent.
I couldn't help noticing how many films which must be in an advanced stage of production but have no confirmed release date. By my count, there are ten films due to come out in 2009 but which have no firm premiere date. Why is this? Is the recession starting to hit movie distribution? Or is it another clear sign of the main weakness with the European movie industry - marketing and distribution. Why, after so much working raising the money and making these films, do so many disappear into a void? Where's the commitment from distributors? I've always felt it's easy to hide behind the excuse that European films are not always that good. After all, a lot of Hollywood studio movies aren't that good, but they still have guaranteed backing from distributors... and a firm launch date for the production teams to work towards.
On which note, may I wish all readers - and anyone who happens on this site - a peaceful and happy holiday and all the best for 2009!!

24 November 2008
The long list of films up for an animated movie Academy Award includes four films produced in Europe as well as Israeli feature Waltz with Bashir. Euro films include Fly me to the Moon and Dragon Hunters as well as Igor, financed by US company Exodus Film Group but made at Sparx in Paris, and The Tale of Despereaux, made at Framestore in London for US studio Universal. A total of 14 films are on the long list, announced earlier this month, and will be winnowed to a shortlist of three on 22 January. Sticking my neck out, I would imagine the Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda are certs for the shortlist – the question is, which will be the third one?

9 November 2008
Continuing a strong tradition of locally-produced films doing well in the Nordic market this year, Kurt Blur Grisom (Kurt Turns Evil) was second top-rated film in Norway in its first week on release(week ending 3rd Nov), with 34,467 admissions. The movie, about a mild-mannered truck driver who reaches the end of his tether when someone tells him his job is not important, was directed by Rasmus Sivertsen and produced at Qvisten Animation studios. More on the Norwegian Film Institute website.
Meanwhile in Denmark, A-Film's Rejsen til Saturn (Journey to Saturn) has racked up admissions of 380,977 after five weeks on release and Disco Ormene (Sunshine Barry and the Disco Worms) has 139,387 after four. Data from the DFI website.

30 October 2008
Production of Un Monstre a Paris has been suspended, according to Variety. The film, in production at Bibo Films in Paris, was due to be released in April 2010. The article cites a shortage of cash as the reason for the hiatus and cites a budget of $35m (correct figure appears to be more like €22m, about $29m). Confusingly, the article quotes Pascal Herold saying that it is impossible to raise funding for an animated film 'unless you're a movie mogul with an international profile like Luc Besson'. Besson is head of EuropaCorp, which is to distribute Un Monstre a Paris. The same article also says Gaumont is struggling to raise the $35m budget for its planned stereoscopic 3D feature, Rock the Boat. Is recession already taking its toll on European animation? I also heard that Thor - The Edda Chronicles, due to be produced in Iceland, has run into difficulties.

18 October 2008
Niko – lentäjän poika (Niko and the Way to the Stars) was the number one rated film in Finland the first week after its release on 10 October. Total admissions were 22,966, with 66 prints on release; to put it in context, last year's top-rated film in Finland was the Simpsons movie with about 400,000 admissions - so this is a great start and the Christmas-themed film has sold all over the place (the Weinstein Co. has American rights). The film, the first full-length animated effort from Anima Vitae, is co-produced with Denmark's A-Film, Magma Films (Ireland) and Ulysses (Germany). Also making its debut was Disco Ormene (Sunshine Barry and the Disco Worms) in Denmark, with 23,433 admissions from 84 prints. Three more European-produced films are out this week: Goat Story in the Czech Republic, Der Mondbär in Germany and Igor (produced at Sparx in Paris) in the UK.

8 September 2008
White Shark has completed its first feature-length animation film, Gnomes and Trolls – The Secret Chamber. According to the Swedish computer animation company’s website, the sales agent NonStop Sales has already sold the film to 69 territories. The film, described as an action/adventure comedic fairy tale, is already completed and was screened at the Norwegian Film festival earlier this month. The film was made in English and directed by Robert Rhodin with Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, who were scriptwriters on Toy Story, credited as executive producers. No word on exact theatrical release date. White Shark is already at work on a sequel, Gnomes and Trolls 2 – the Forest Trials and in 2010 will launch viking saga Astrid Silverlock.

4 September 2008
It’s been a quiet summer in terms of new animated movie releases, with European distributors leaving the market wide open for the two big US blockbusters, Kung Fu Panda and Wall E. However, September is shaping up to be a busy month, with at least four new releases due to make their debut in European cinemas:
El Espiritu del Bosque (Spirit of the Forest), the long-awaited follow-up to El Bosque Animado from Spanish studio Dygra Films and Portugal’s Appia Filmes, is due out in Spain next week (12 September). El Bosque Animado was a big domestic hit and exported to several countries including France, Italy and Germany.
Brendan and the Secret of Kells, produced by Cartoon Salon of Ireland with France and Belgium, is being released at some point by Walt Disney in Ireland. The film (below) was presented in Dublin last week but there’s no mention of the Irish commercial release on the Disney site. However the film has won something ungrammatically called the Directors Finders Series which means it will be screened to an audience of distributors in Los Angeles on 19 Sept. Incredibly, this film seems to have no release lined up in the UK, though it will be coming out in France and Belgium.
Mamma Mu och Kråkan is meanwhile released in Sweden later in the month while Rejsen til Saturn, from Denmark’s prolific and humorous A-Film is out in Denmark.

27 July 2008
More news on Planet One, the CGI feature film in production at Ilion Animation Studios in Madrid: the movie will be distributed in Spain by DeAPlaneta, which is also taking DVD rights, while earlier this month, US rights were picked up by Sony Pictures. It seems that rights were previously with New Line but were dropped by Warner Bros when it took control of the studio. Planet 51 - about a US astronaut who crash lands on a planet similar to 1950s America and inhabited by little green men whose only fear is alien invasion is Ilion's first and is currently in production with release pencilled in for November 2009. The budget is now a hefty €40m/$64m (more than the original $50m). The movie is co-produced with Worldwide Biggies, a New York based company, and international sales are through the UK's HandMade Films.

24 July 2008
According to an interview with Aardman Animations' Nick Park in this week’s Media Guardian, three films from the Bristol studio are “about to be green-lit”. They are: Pirates, directed by Peter Lord; The Cat Burglars, from Curse of the Were-Rabbit co-director Steve Box; and Arthur Christmas. All three will be funded by Sony Pictures and according to the piece can be expected to combine model animation with CGI.
Since Flushed Away and the demise of its agreement with Dreamworks Animation, Aardman has been busy producing TV series and a forthcoming half-hour Wallace and Gromit special for the BBC, A Matter of Loaf and Death.
A brief trawl of the web suggest indicates that Pirates will be based on the cult books by Gideon Defoe about a loveable but incompetent Victorian pirate captain. This was back in June 2006... so they must be pretty well advanced. (Things don't move fast in the West Country.)
The Cat Burglars is a comedy caper about stray cats trying to steal milk, written by the creators of the BBC series Life on Mars. Meanwhile Arthur Christmas, (I am guessing) previously known as Operation Rudolph, is an action-comedy created by Peter Baynham, one of the writers on the Borat movie.
This is great news (the greenlighting bit), especially as recession clouds loom, but I wonder. The entire output of the long Dreamworks/Aardman relationship was only three films released over six years and at least one stillborn project (Tortoise and the Hare). And the Sony deal is "first-look", which doesn't apply any definite financial support from the studio. Will it be brave enough to give the studio its creative head?

15 July 2008
France's film support body the CNC has introduced a new funding scheme to support the development of stereoscopic 3D animation. The NTP ('nouvelles technologies en production') will provide grants to French producers to defray the costs of using and developing 3D. First project to be supported is a pilot for Occho Kohoi, a planned feature film from TEAMTO that was presented at Cartoon Movie earlier this year. The grant is for €60,000. Link to TEAMTO's presentation of the movie here.

21 June 2008
Two additions to the in production page: Totally Spies! le film is being produced by Marathon Media and Studio 37 (film subsidiary of France Telecom) and Magic Crystal is in production by Epidem Zot in Finland and Cartoon One in Italy.
I have also been busy adding hundreds of images to the searchable database of films.

9 May 2008
Dygra Films is producing five films in stereoscopic 3D. The first, Noche de Paz (Holy Night), is already in production and is due to be completed in summer 2009 for release at Christmas 2009. After that, the studio (website here) plans to release on film every year for the next five years. The movie is set on Christmas Eve in a house where Santa Claus and the elves live in the tree and the shepherds, three wise men etc live in the Nativity scene. An alarm goes off and both worlds battle to save the season of peace from disaster. La Coruna-based Dygra was a European pioneer in CGI animation and is now looking to capitalise on the expected boom in 3D (the kind you need special glasses to wear). From next year, all Dreamworks and most Disney animation releases will be in 3D (as well as 2D).

April 2008
Search function added to site:
You can now search Animation Europe's database of 300+ European films by title, nationality or director.

10 April 2008
Disney announced several new projects on its upcoming animated film slate. Starting with Up, due out in the US in May 2009 all Pixar films will be made in stereoscopic 3D. All details of Disney films have been added to the US releases page on this site. With Dreamworks SKG also releasing its next films in steroscopic 3D, this type of film is getting heavy support for the majors. They are hoping it will get more bums on seats and massively increase box office - the digital cinema market is growing fast, all films will still be released as usual in 2D, and Blu-Ray DVD sales (in the US) are going strong. Fly Me to The Moon is the only European film made in this format and I know of only one other in production (Gaumont's Rock the Boat), so the gap between Europe and the US in terms of box office risks growing wider (unless the Pixar/DWA films all flop, which is fairly unlikely).

9 March 2008
The tenth CARTOON Movie in Potsdam last week was a perfect opportunity to assess the health of European feature film animation. There were 530 people attending, including 146 investors and 71 distributors, according to CARTOON, which is supported by the European Commission and which gets funding from the Land Berlin Brandenburg for the annual Movie event. This year's crop of films was 48 in total, with 10 completed, 12 in development, 10 in production and 16 in concept (ie at a very early stage of development).
CARTOON president Marc Vanderweyer presented some figures on the first ten years of the event's life which cast it in a generally favourable light. Since 1999, 123 of the 305 films presented at CARTOON Movie secured full financing, including 24 which still in production, a success rate of 40 per cent. Overall budgets were €800m, or an average of €6.75m per film. Admissions in the EU to European animated films grew from four million in 2003 to 25 million in 2005. Admissions for all animation films (ie including US and Japanese films) were 51m in 2003 and 122m in 2005.
Marc said this 140 per cent increase in the audience for films showed there is still hope for more growth for the industry. He also pointed to increasing investment from distributors and commented that authors and concepts are much stronger than they were 10 years ago. He singled out Didier Brunner of Les Armateurs and Thilo Rothkirch of Cartoon Film (of Berlin) are the stars of the industry because of the strong box office record of their films. Finally, Marc said a strong network of producers and investors is emerging (networks are a big preoccupation of those who run EU media support schemes).
He also mentioned some negatives: the lack of pan-European distribution; a tendency for some films to go into production too quickly without proper work on scripts; the lack of involvement of the UK, where there is little funding for producers and where distributors are averse to investing in European films.
Of course you cannot measure the health of an industry just by looking at the growth of films produced: how many actually covered their costs, and how many investors made a return on their investment? Well, a lot of the €800m (most of it, probably) was either public subsidy money which investors usually do not expect to recoup, and another chunk from broadcasters buying rights (often, in Europe, because they are obliged to support local production). A small amount would come from producers, distributors and investors: these would clearly be hoping to recoup or even make a profit.
How many have managed to do so? Undoubtedly there have been several European films which have been successful at the box office. CARTOON said that nine per cent of the projects presented sold over two million tickets, 17 per cent over one million, 25 per cent over 500,000 and 40 per cent over 300,000. Assuming an average ticket costs five euros, that converts into 9 per cent of movies making €10m at the box office and 17 per cent making €5m.
Of course, some producers make films for much more than the average €6.75m and some for much less, so it's difficult to say how many films make money. But it seems reasonable to assume that a majority don't make money.
Much of the anecdotal evidence is negative. I spoke to Marc du Pontavice of Xilam about Tous a l'Ouest, released on 5 December in France. The break-even target was 1.4 million admissions, and it got only 600,000. The film cost €12m and €2m was spent on P&A in France. Filmax spent €14m on making DonkeyXote and €1.5m on P&A and is not expecting to recoup. Filmax's most successful film has been the cheapest (The Hairy Tooth Fairy, €2.5m) and the company's Paco Rodriguez says it is now focusing on low cost live action/animation films to improve its chances of making money. Other people also mentioned disappointing admissions for local films in Germany and recently for Peur(s) du Noir in France.
It's tempting to think that many European producers are cocooned from these harsh realities by public funding schemes and tax shelters. As long as their studios are kept in work year-in, year-out, their main goal is achieved and if one project fails, there's always the next CNC, Filmboard or Eurimages funding round to look forward to. As a European tax-payer, I can tolerate this: I would prefer us to have some sort of infrastructure and talent base and am ready to accept a high failure rate.
But it's still the case that most Europeans, if they choose to go to an animated film, tend to go to an American one, and that is largely because there are too many badly made films being pumped onto the market. I am sure some good films are dragged down because the public perception is so negative. The bonds of that network - between producers and financiers - need to get stronger and European producers need to increase their success rate, or the flow of funding will start to dry up.

9 March 2008
Locally-made films captured 13 per cent of the German box office in 2007 (2.8m admissions), while US films dominated with 82 per cent. Overall admissions were 18.4m, according to figures published by the Federal Film Board (FFA). By far the most successful German animated film was Lissi und der Wilde Kaiser (2.2m) but others (Das Doppelte Lottchen, Die Drei Rauber) made little impact. Overall share for European films was 18 per cent (including Flushed Away with 258,000 and Arthur and the Minimoys with 695,000).

4 March 2008
Just added to the site is a page on future US animation releases, here. With nine more films (at least) due to be released in the rest of the year, it's become a crowded market. As well as Disney and Dreamworks, Fox and Sony have become active in the movie market, with Paramount and Warner Bros, indepedents like the Weinstein Company and European and Japanese films all jostling for position. The bar for what makes a successful movie has been raised further and further and the gulf between Hollywood and Europe has widened. In the Dreamworks Animation conference call, the company mentioned that it kept about $300m in cash on its books at all time to enable it to finance about two films. That's enough for about 20-30 European movies!

25 February 2008
Admissions to animated films in France were more than 27.1m in 2007, with French films accounting for 19% of ticket sales. European films (including French) accounted for 21% while US films captured 68.4% of the market. The biggest film was Luc Besson's Arthur et les Minimoys: released in 2006, the film registered 7.8m sales, putting it second only to 2003's Finding Nemo (9.2m) in recent years (and perhaps all time). Otherwise, admissions to French films were quite disappointing: Persepolis (1.2m) was the only other hit, with Tous a l'Ouest (377,000, though it did open in Dec) and La Reine Soleil (230,000) nowhere near. Pixar's Ratatouille (7.7m), which yesterday won best animated feature Oscar, was the top film of the year.

26 January 2008
Persepolis made the shortlist of three films for the Animated Feature Academy Award this year. The French film, directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, qualifies because it was released in the US by Sony Pictures Classics. Great news for the much-praised film after it failed to make the list of films nominated for the foreign-language Oscar. The two other films on the shortlist are Pixar’s Ratatouille and Surf’s Up from Sony. There were only three films rather than five because there has to be a field of at least eight movies considered by the Academy to be eligible. Films must have been released in Los Angeles county to qualify - explanation of the rules here.

24 January 2008
The 10th edition of Cartoon Movie will be held in Potsdam/Babelsberg (Germany) from 5th to 7th March. The European films being presented included some completed, some in production, in development and in concept. The number of films in concept has been cut dramatically down over the years. But there are still 11 projects looking for funding. French projects predominate, though les Armateurs (with Ernest & Celestine) is the only studio I've heard of (that is probably largely due to my ignorance). There's also a Belgian project from la Parti and Belgian/French film, Sambora, as well as the well-backed German movie 7 Dwarves. Among the eight completed films being screened there was just one which was off Animation Europe's radar - Mocland and the Legend of the Aloma from Forma Armada in Spain (which looks like a TV movie to me (link), and I have also added Goat Story from Prague's Art and Animation Studio to the In production page. This year I will be at Cartoon Movie, so maybe see you there.

5 January 2008
The list of upcoming films on the In Production page has just been updated: 2008 looks as if it will be relatively quiet in terms of US releases, with Fox bringing out Dr Seuss' Horton Hears a Who in the spring, Kung Fu Panda from Dreamworks and Wall-E from Disney/Pixar in the summer and Madagascar 2 in November, also from Dreamworks. Plenty of room either from the US majors to bring forward the launch of other movies like Bolt (Disney) or The Tale of Despereaux (produced in London by Universal and because it's UK qualified by the UK Film Council just added to In Production).
As far as European films are concerned, there are plenty of interesting films due to come out this year: Peur(s) du Noir, Max and Co and Brendan and the Secret of Kells to name but three. I will be reviewing the performance of 2007's crop of European features as soon as I can compile the admissions data.
The brilliant Persepolis will finally get an airing outside France: it's being released in Italy (Feb), the UK (April) and Germany (November) and hopefully many other countries, while Azur and Asmar and Ugly Duckling and Me are both coming to the UK in 2008.

14 December 2007
Winx Club, the Secret of the Lost Kingdom seems to be the European animation hit of the year, totalling €3.7 billion at the box office in Italy two weeks after its 30th November release. Despite losing its place at number one to Disney festive offering Enchanted, the Rainbow-produced film, released by Rai distributor 01, looks set for a profitable run in its home market and should also do well in other markets where the Winx TV series has a big following like France and Belgium. Admissions figures from boxofficemojo.

14 December 2007
Two European films made their debut on 5th December: Tous a l'Ouest in France and DonkeyXote in Spain. Tous a l'Ouest, produced by Xilam, grossed €837,500 in its first week and Donkey Xote from Filmax, €665,400 (both figures from boxofficemojo). Box office in both countries was headed by The Golden Compass. With the school holidays just beginning, both films should be able to build up to an acceptable total (though the reviews for Xilam's film were lukewarm). Nocturna has now grossed €468,151 after seven weeks in France.

12 December 2007
US movie distributor the Weinstein Company has picked up North and Latin American rights for Niko and the Way to the Stars (Tie Tähtiin), currently in production. Originated by Finland's Animaker, the film is currently in production in Finland, Denmark and Germany and is set for an October 2008 release. The Weinsteins, who appear to have done well with Hoodwinked, are trying their luck with a slate of independent features - which is excellent news for European films seeking distribution over the water. Niko has sold to more than 100 territories, with Nordisk Film handling the Nordic region, Universum lined up to release in German-language territories and Flimax in Spain.

17 November 2007
To Potsdam, Germany this week for the CARTOON Master conference. A PDF of my presentation on online distribution of movies will shortly be available on the Screen Digest website. The subject should be of interest to the audience – European animated feature film producers, mostly – but of little immediate crucial-ity.
Why? Well, European animation doesn’t have a big share of the box office and there’s no reason to think it will be that different in the on demand habitat on the web, IPTV and digital cable. As for funding (which is 90% of the reason producers fork out fees to go to conferences) as far as I can see they can forget about the net. Google, Yahoo and others may be raking in billions from the net, but they put barely a centime into developing or originating European animation.
The internet is still largely a parasitic medium where TV and film entertainment is concerned. Yes I know there is some original content on the web, but how do you find it? It’s buried deep beneath a billion clips of American teenagers falling off walls and illegally ripped shots of babes in bikinis. We are in the early days, though…
More interestingly, I sat in on some excellent presentations, including three or four by producers of European films. First up was French producer Denis Friedman and Japanese director Rintaro, presenting the Japan-France co-pro Yona Yona Penguin. Friedman, despite his high seriousness, was frank about the trials of co-production, hinting that it could be very difficult without saying why. Japanese studios like Madhouse have no real need to work with foreigners but because they do not (for now) have much expertise in CGI it happened to suit them to seek an international partner. The budget is a tight €8m, and the movie is out next year.
Paco Rodriguez of Filmax presented Nocturna, a French/Spanish co-production. I had not realised that Red Kite Animation from Scotland, which had been involved at one stage, dropped out. A balls-up by the (unnamed) studio doing the compositing delayed the project another year, and it finally came out in both France and Spain in October. Sadly it appears to have flopped, which Paco blamed squarely on the marketing department of Filmax and the French distributor.
Bad timing (during school term time), and not enough marketing spend. It is a common fate of European films to fail because they don’t get the right support: what a waste of effort. Hope the DVD does well and there are some international sales. The premise of the film is a bit close to Monsters Inc.
Easily the most impressive presentation (for me) was Marc du Pontavice talking about Tous a l’Ouest, which hits the cinemas in France next month. No problem there about timing and with the popularity of the Lucky Luke albums the film is based on and the recent success of the TV series also made by du Pontavice’s company Xilam, it should do very well. The French animation industry is really getting its act together.
Key point of interest: 80% of the animation was done in France, thanks in some part to the Credit d’Impot which supports the “repatriation” of work which previously was farmed out to co-producers and Asia. This meant it was much easier to control the work, and deliver on time even though du Pontavice said the team went back and re-worked bits of the film which did not come off (something European studios rarely have the time or money to do).
The soundtrack was done in French and not English because a) du Pontavice said Anglo-saxon distributors re-dub anyway so why bother and b) it meant the animators had a much better feeling for the dialogue and the characters because they were listening to it in their own language.

25 October 2007
Die drei Räuber grossed $247,000 in its first week on release in Germany. The film, the first sortie by Animation X, is on release in 220 cinemas, according to boxofficemojo. Pixar's latest release Ratatouille has dominated, grossing $6.4m last weekend alone from 860 cinemas. Die kleine König Macius has grossed just over $247,000 (not a mistake - just a similar total) after five weeks. Meanwhile, Lissi und der Wilde Kaiser is relased today (not last month as previously reported here).

15 October 2007
Rainbow SpA, the Italian animation studio behind Winx Club, is seeking a flotation on the Milan stock exchange, according to reports. Proceeds from the sale of 35 per cent of its shares will be used to fund acquisitions in the UK and France. Rainbow, founded by Iginio Straffi, is based in Loreto, a small town in the Marche region. The Winx Club TV series is a huge success in Italy and other markets and Rainbow is releasing a movie, Winx Club, the Secret of the Lost Kingdom, on 30th November. Distribution in Italy will be managed by 01, and deals have also been signed with Quinta in France, Lusomundo in Portugal and Independent Film in the Benelux.

30 August 2007
This autumn’s release Tous à l’Ouest! (“Go West!”), the new Lucky Luke feature film in production at Xilam Animation in France, will be preceded by an Atari computer game. The game for the Nintendo Wii and DS platforms and PCs will be released by games company Atari in the autumn before the film hits the cinemas (5 December in France). Xilam is probably the European studio with most experience of developing computer game tie-ins for its properties (eg Space Goofs, Oggy and the Cockroaches). Lucky Luke is a very different proposition, featuring in comic books, a current TV series, and several past feature films.

17 July 2007
The Danish Film Institute, and Danish animation studios in generally, are busy producing four animated features at the moment. Details just added to the In production page; the first movie, from Dansk Tegnefilm, out next month and is possibly the first ever cartoon movie about mosquitoes. In October comes Disco Ormene ("Sunshine Barry & the Disco Worms") from first-time director Thomas Borch Nielsen. A-Film, one of Europe's main animation movie companies, is working on Rejsen til Saturn, which the company's Andres Mastrup says is a political satire based on an 80s comic book modestly budgeted at €3m. Last but not least, Anders Morgenthaler who produced last year's Princess, is already working on Æblet & Ormen ("The Apple and the Worm"). More news at the extraordinarily good DFI website.

27 June 2007
US films captured 80 per cent of the market for animated feature films in Europe. If you count Flushed Away as a US film, the total was 87 per cent. According to data recently added to the European Audiovisual Observatory's Lumiere website, the seven US films released in Europe last year sold 80.1m tickets, with Ice Age 2 the unquestioned champion with 40.3m sales throughout the old continent. European sales including Flushed Away were 18m, without 11.4m. It was a good year for French films, with four movies with French involvement in the top ten on release.

Top ten animated movie admissions in Europe, 2006 (000s)

Ice Age 2 (Fox)................................. 40,379
Cars (Pixar/Disney)............................. 16,968
Happy Feet (Fox) ............................... 8,177
Flushed Away (Aardman/Dreamworks)..... 6,586
Bambi 2 (Disney) ................................ 3,971
Arthur et les Minimoys (EuropaCorp) ...... 3,507
Monster House (WB) ........................... 3,067
Asterix et les Vikings (A-Film/M6) .......... 2,707
Azur et Asmar (NordOuest/Lucky Red)..... 1,668
Renaissance (Pathe) .............................. 841
Source: Lumiere

6 June 2007
The producers of Grass Roots: the Movie have struggled to raise the funding for their project, based on the comic books by Gilbert Shelton. Despite the impeccable track record of Bristol's Bolex Brothers and support from the author, an attempt to persuade investors to provide a cool $22.5m via a rights issue late last year went up in smoke. Film financiers Ingenious Media were interested but did not want go ahead in the absence of presales. Now, Bolex Brothers have rethought the budget and are about to launch a campaign to persuade fans of the strip to cough up a much-reduced £5m budget. I wish them luck - it's a risky project but if you don't know the Freak Brothers strips the main thing is that they are incredibly funny. And utterly incorrect… Check out the site.

2 June 2007
Das Doppelte Lottchen, the latest Michael Schaak movie, has grossed €610,000 after three weeks on release in Germany. A relatively disappointing return given the talent behind the film and the distribution muscle of Warner Bros. The movie is based on a book by Erich Kaestner about two girls who look identical and try to find out why.

9 May 2007
Here’s one we missed: Planet One, $50m budgeted computer animation film, is in production at Ilion Animation Studios in Madrid. Ilion is a subsidiary of Wisdom Entertainment Group, which also owns Pyro Studios, makers of the hugely successful Commandos computer game franchise. Planet One is Ilion’s first threatrical effort and will be co-produced with Worldwide Biggies, a New York based company set up by former Nickelodeon programming supremo Albie Hecht. The partners have hired Joe Stillman, who worked on the three Shrek movies, to write the screenplay. Production is underway and the movie is planned for release in the first quarter of 2008.
Thanks to John Hopewell, the Madrid correspondent of Variety, for letting me know about this (Ilion’s press release came out in Feb). First thoughts; it’s a massive budget for a European film (of Arthur and the Minimoys proportions) and at present there is no distributor lined up on either side of the Atlantic. Furthermore, no public funding has so far been secured from Spain or Europe.

24 April 2007
Persepolis, the full-length feature based on the graphic novels of Marjane Satrapi, is one of the films in competition at this year’s Cannes film festival. The film is about Mariane Satrapi’s experiences growing up as a young woman in post-revolution Iran. Directed by Satrapi herself and Vincent Paronnaud, the film is due for release in France in June. Selection for the annual Cannes blowout is quite a feat given that this is both directors’ first effort at the big screen. Interestingly (at least for me) one of the jury members is Orhan Pamuk, whose novel Snow deals with Islam and veiled women. The festival runs from 16-27 May.
Update: As well as good reviews, Persepolis won the Jury Prize, sharing the award with Mexican feature Silent Light.

18 April 2007
Xilam Animation and Zinkia Entertainment have started production on a film version of their Shuriken School TV series. It will be 75 minutes long and will be completed in August. It's not clear whether the film will be destined for cinema distribution or whether it will be sold to broadcasters buying the series (who include Nickelodeon in the US) and for DVD. Given that it was launched at the Mip TV sales market in Cannes, non-theatrical seems likely. France's Xilam will handle worldwide rights except Spain, Italy and Latin America, which will be managed by the Spanish studio.
Update: Confirmation from Zinkia's publicists: it is a TV/home video special and will not be released in the cinema.

12 March 2007
The latest Cartoon Movie saw 32 European animated movies presented, with combined budgets of €286m. In its statement following the event in Potsdam, which ended on 9 March, the European Union-backed organisation said that the majority of the projects presented were "3D adventure films with human protagonists targeted at family audiences" budgeted "close to €6.8 million". Ten of the 32 projects presented were completed - the rest were either in development or production. Combined budgets were €286m, an average of €8.9m per film.
In approach, if not budget, European producers seem to be taking their cue from Hollywood, though Disney has now decided to go back to hand-drawn animation with The Frog Princess, which has just started production.
Winners of this year's Cartoon Movie Tributes were Michael Hegner and Karsten Kiilerich, who shared best director credits for The Ugly Duckling and Me!. Jørgen Kristiansen; Head of Acquisitions of Scanbox Denmark, was distributor of the year, and Alphanim, Europool, Nelvana Internacional and Studio Canal won best producer for Franklin & The Turtle Lake Treasure.

3 March 2007
The 19 animated films released in the UK last year grossed £134m, or 16 per cent of the overall box office total. All but three of the films released were produced in the USA, though one of those (Flushed Away) was an Aardman production. US market share (even without Flushed Away) was 92 per cent. The top five were Ice Age 2 (£29.5m), Happy Feet (£17.7m), Cars (£16.5m), Chicken Little (£13.7m) and Over the Hedge (£13.1m). Flushed Away grossed a disappointing £10.4m and Renaissance only £71,000. The Little Polar Bear 2, released by Warner Bros, managed a creditable £500,000 and Danish film Terkel in Trouble a forgettable £3,000. Source of these numbers Nielsen/EDI.

3 February 2007
Last year was a banner year for French animated movies, which accounted for a third of first-run admissions in 2006. According to an analysis of admissions numbers published in trade weekly Ecran Total, eight French productions (and co-productions) accounted for 7.9m admissions, equivalent to 32.26 per cent of the total of 24.6m. US movies captured 62 per cent of the market, with Ice Age 2 (6.6m) topping the list. However, Arthur was second with 4.1m and is still on release, ahead of Cars and Bambi 2 (2m). Azur et Asmar (1.6m) and Asterix et les Vikings (1.4m) were next, ahead of Happy Feet (1m) and Flushed Away (1m).
Arthur, which launched this weekend in the UK, has also gone down a storm in Spain, grossing €3m after seven weeks. In Germany, the Luc Besson movie grossed €0.8m in its first week on release.


31 January 2007
The long-anticipated parting of the ways between Aardman Animations and Dreamworks Animation was confirmed last Tuesday by the US studio. A statement said the two companies would end their production agreement, started in 1999, which spawned three films: Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: the Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Flushed Away. Originally, the studios were to co-produce five animated movies, but the US studio was prompted to re-think by the disappointing US box office of the Wallace and Gromit film (which grossed $56.1m) and Flushed Away ($40m). It’s now going to concentrate on releasing two CGI films a year. As for Aardman, co-owners Peter Lord and David Sproxton said: “(I)t feels like the right time to move on. Aardman has an ambitious slate of feature film productions in development and we will announce our future production and distribution plans shortly.”
Update: Aardman has proved that it can crack the US market, and I do not think the Oscar-laden studio will find it hard to find a replacement (maybe Miramax or Sony?). But will its upcoming movies benefit from a similar level of marketing muscle as Dreamworks put behind it? And will other distributors find British-style humour any easier to sell to the American masses?
Update: It did not take long for Aardman to pull off a three-year first look deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment. This means the US studio will have first refusal for distribution rights to any new movies from Aardman. What is less clear is a) whether Sony will have the same US box office expectations as Dreamworks and b) whether the studio will give Aardman a similar level of financial support as it enjoyed with its three Dreamworks titles.

31 January 2007
Pèrez, el Ratoncito de tus Sueños ('Perez the Tooth Mouse') has won the Goya for best animated film of 2006 in Spain. The movie, co-produced by the Argentinean studio Patagonik with Spain’s Filmax Animation and Castelao Productions, was released in Spain just before Christmas. Update: after six weeks, Pèrez has grossed just over €3m in Spain.

24 January 2007
Forty-one European films with a combined budget of just under €300m will be presented at next month's CARTOON Movie. The total includes nine films which have been completed, eight in production, 12 in concept and another 12 in development. Screenings of completed films include U, Lotte from Gadgetville and The Ugly Duckling and Me. Among the studios pitching projects are Hahn Film (School for Vampires), Les Armateurs (Bedtime Stories Competition) and A-Film (Journey to Saturn). Complete list is on the CARTOON website. The 9th CARTOON Movie will take place in Potsdam, Germany on 7-9 March.

8 January 2007
Two European films made the list for films in contention for the 2007 Academy Awards: they are the Franco-British Renaissance and Flushed Away, the latest from Aardman Animations and Dreamworks. Arthur et les Minimoys, directed by Luc Besson, failed to make the cut because more than 25 per cent of its running time is live action. In order to qualify for consideration, movies must have been commercially released in a cinema in Los Angeles (how international is that?) and run for at least seven consecutive days. The removal of Arthur means there are only 15 films in contention and therefore only three will be on the shortlist to be announced on 23 January. The other 13 films are: Cars, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Happy Feet, Over the Hedge, The Ant Bully, Barnyard, Curious George, Everyone's Hero, Monster House, Open Season, Paprika, A Scanner Darkly and The Wild.
Update (24 Jan): The shortlist is Cars, Happy Feet and Monster House.
Update (28 Feb):
And the winner is... Happy Feet. Proof, as if any were needed, that animated movies are no longer a duopoly of Disney and Dreamworks.

2 January 2007
A busy pre-Christmas period in France for home-grown movies saw the release of three in December alone: Luc Besson's Arthur et les Minimoys performed outstandingly well, with 2.7m admissions in its first two weeks alone, according to the Allocine website. The movie is based on the director's best-selling series of books. Preschool-targeted movies Piccolo et Saxo and Franklin registered 101,000 and 68,000 ticket sales in France in their first week after a 20 December release. Besson's movie will be released in the UK as Arthur and the Invisibles on 2 February.

31 December 2006
There were 25 European films released for the first time in Europe in 2006; 11 of them in the last three months of the year. This site will publish admissions numbers as soon as they become available. Undoubtedly, the highlights will include the Norwegian film Slip Jimmy Frij, which featured in the top 20 for 18 weeks after its release in April and grossed over €2m. O wie schon ist Panama appears to have been the strongest local film in Germany, while Ugly Duckling and Me and Azur et Asmar made a good start in their own territories. French studios were invloved in nine of the 25 movies released last year, followed by Denmark (5) and Spain (4).

6 November 2006
Michel Ocelot’s Azur et Asmar was seen by 430,753 in France in its first seven days on release, and was beaten to the number one slot only by Open Season from Sony Pictures, which sold 486,750 in its second week (numbers from Screen Daily). Box office for A&A, distributed by Diaphana Distribution, is already €2.4m. Update on Germany: O wie schon ist Panama still in the top 15 in its 6th week on release through Warner Bros and has grossed €1.5m. Belated update: Ugly Duckling and Me is into its fourth week on release in Denmark. The film grossed Dkr357,994 (€358,000) over the weekend of 27-19 Oct and totals €771,430 in the land of Hans Christian Andersen. Ugly is ahead of The Ant Bully (€163,384 after three weeks) but behind Over the Hedge (€1.8m after five weeks).

31 October 2006
Azur et Asmar, directed by Michel Ocelot, was released in France last week. According to Allociné, it was the most successful debut of the week, with 10,505 admissions in Paris (from 47 screens). More info later this week. Meanwhile, Grégoire Solitareff's U slipped out unheralded by Animation Europe on 11 October. Released through Gébeka, the film was seen by 37,675 people in its second week, grossing €264,494. Total gross after two weeks was €445,000. Update: Das kleine Arscholch slipped out of the top 15 in Germany (and therefore off our radar) last weekend. After two weekends the film had grossed €730,000. O wie schon ist Panama is still in the top 15, grossing just under €1.5m.

23 October 2006
A healthy start for Das kleine Arschloch und der Alte Sack in Germany - the comedy grossed €431,000 in its first four days on release. The film is the latest from Michael Schaak and TFC Trickompany, the Hamburg studio behind the successful Werner franchise. But will the film travel outside German-speaking Europe? Update on O wie schön... after four weeks, the film has topped €1.2bn box office. Like London buses, German animated films are all coming at the same time this quarter.

25 Sept 2006
O wie schön ist Panama grossed €272,000 four days after its release in Germany (on 21 September). The film, produced by Papa Löwe Filmproduktion and directed by Martin Otevrel, was released by Warner Bros. Urmel aus dem Eis was released through Falcom Media in August and by its fourth week had grossed €3.5m (source: Screen International). The film, a CGI effort based on a classic cartoon character, was up against Over the Hedge, released by UIP and which had grossed €22m after eight weeks, and Cars (€8.5m after 3 weeks). Also coming up in Germany in the next two months are TFC Trickompany’s Das kleine Arschloch und der Alte Sack and the A-Film/Futurikon/Magma Ugly Duckling and Me. In 2005 home-grown titles accounted for 17 per cent of admissions to animated films in Germany, according to the EAO’s Lumiere website. (This story was amended on 27 Sept.)

31 July 2006
Renaissance, the black and white sci-fi film written and directed by Christian Volckman, was released in the UK by Pathé Films on 28 July. All the reviews I've seen have been favourable, though the fact the film has been given an English-language soundtrack featuring Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Catherine McCormack, Ian Holm and Jonathan Pryce was not well-received. Difficult choice, though - how many of the target audience, which I am presuming are young folks and teenagers, tolerate subtitles? Another reason for the dub decision is probably the US release through Miramax Films pencilled (or maybe penned) in for 28th September. Exciting stuff; bummer that I'm off on holiday and may miss the UK release. The film came out in France in March and registered 225,105 admissions in three weeks.

12 July 2006
Lion's Gate has signed up the North American rights to Happily N'Ever After, the long-gestating film based on the Grimm Brothers fairy tales and produced by Berlin Animation Film. The film is set to be released in the USA on 12 January 2007 (Martin Luther King Day). Sales agents Odyssey Entertainment report interest in European rights but no news yet on any release for the film, produced by John (Shrek) Williams, on this side of the pond.

4 July 2006
Cars, the new Pixar movie, has had a stuttering start in Europe. The movie opened in France on 14 June and after two weeks racked up 940,869 admissions. Not very impressive when compared to the 3.9m admissions for the first two weeks of Ice Age 2 in France, which was released in April. Cars was released in USA on 9 June and has now grossed $183m.
Update: Astérix et les Vikings ended up with 1.336m admissions in France after 8 weeks. Over the Hedge, released by UIP in 593 UK screens on 30 June, grossed £3,589,038 in its first week. The film comes out in France on 5th July.

30 June 2006
European films enjoyed an extremely successful year in 2005, with 31% of admissions, according to figures collected by the European Audiovisual Observatory on its LUMIERE website. Overall, there were 96.9m tickets sold to animated feature films in 2005; 64.1m tickets were bought for US-produced films, 30.2m for European films and 2.4m for films made in Japan and Russia. In 2004, there were 139.5m tickets sold and US films accounted for 95 per cent of sales, compared to just five per cent for Europe. Important point: European results were boosted by three films made in UK animation studios with US money: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (13m), Valiant (4.7m) and The Corpse Bride (4.4m). But there were also good results for the UK/FR co production Sprung! The Magic Roundabout (2.3m) and France’s Kirikou et les Bêtes Sauvages (1.5m). Top-rated movie was Madagascar (29.4m) from Dreamworks Animation.

10 June 2006
The "Cristal" award for best feature film went to Renaissance by Christian Volckmann at the Annecy International Film Festival, which closed on 9 June. The Festival also saw premieres of full-length features U by Grégroire Solitareff and Serge Elissade and Piccolo, Saxo et Compagnie by Eric Guttierez, as well as a preview of Azur et Asmar by Michel Ocelot. More than 100,000 tickets were sold at the Festival, held in the scenic Alpine French city. There were 5,700 accredited professionals including 161 buyers, which makes the Festival easily the biggest animation event in the vieux continent. MIFA (the market) attracted 250 exhibitors and 14,000 professionals from 62 countries. Almost 500 films screened, including 213 in competition from 35 countries.

3 June 2006
French animation studio Xilam is back in profit for the first time in two years. Net profit in the six months to 28 February 2006 was €519,000, compared to a loss of €214,000 in the same period one year before. Turnover was €4.3m, compared to €3.1m in 2004/5. Xilam's bottom line was lifted by sales of TV series Les Zinzins de l'Espace (Space Goofs) and Shuriken School. The Parisian company said it was on track with the production of its feature film Lucky Luke, Tous à l'Ouest and delivery is expected in summer 2007. It's also developing a Space Goofs movie with Marseilles' Studio Action.

29 May 2006
Cars is finally due to roll off the Pixar assembly line into US cinemas on 9 June. The first film from the studio since its $7bn acquisition by Walt Disney, Cars will be supported by a promotional blitz of $50m and will be, Disney hopes, the hit of the summer. Pixar has been incredibly consistent, and this time the company's founder John Lasseter is at the helm for the first time since A Bug's Life. The movie is released first on this side of the Atlantic in France on 14 June. More release dates in Europe here.

23 May 2006
Dreamworks Animation reported disappointing first quarter of 2006 and The Curse of the Were-rabbit was reported to be to blame. Profits were down 73% to $12.3m and revenues were $60m compared to $167m in 2005, when Dreamworks was riding high on DVD sales of Shrek 2. Having greatly enjoyed Were-rabbit myself, and knowing that it was a big hit here in the UK, I looked up the numbers in box office mojo. Were-rabbit has so far grossed $192 million; $56.1m in the USA and $136 million in the rest of the world, including a staggering $56.5m in the UK.

Forget the massive international BO (Chicken Run grossed $106.8m in the USA and $118m overseas. Were-rabbit was a flop. The knock-on effect of weak US box office is lower DVD sales (3.3 million shipped, said DWA) and the studio doesn't expect to make money. In comparison, the (inferior, in my opinion) Chicken Run raked in worldwide home video revenue of $104.7m (8.9m units).

In an interesting piece here Jim Hill says Dreamworks reckons Americans just did not get British humour. Probably true, but now they are reworking the upcoming Flushed Away to try to make it more palatable and have shelved another planned UK film, Gnomeo and Juliet. Quite rightly, Jim Hill (an American) thinks this is ridiculous. As non-Americans, we are welcome to swell the studios' coffers by going to their films, but our tastes come second.

This is frustrating given Dreamworks' relationship with Aardman so far. First, the decision to back the studios' creativity by agreeing to finance several movies, their success with Chicken Run and their patience as the follow-up Tortoise vs Hare was still-born and Were-rabbit took five years to see the light of day. Then their willingness to give the creatives their head and produce a completely distinctive Wallace and Gromit film with none of the mid-Atlantic fudge which (for me) spoilt Chicken Run.

1 May 2006
Astérix et les Vikings, the latest attempt to bring the Goscinny/Uderzo comic book series to the big screen, has made a promising start in France. The film, produced by A-Film in Denmark and M6 Droits Audiovisuelles France, was ranked second in the French box office with a cumulative 829,085 admissions. This is certainly a good result for the film, which cost €22m, though you have to set against it the box office for Ice Age 2 after three weeks on release in France: a cool 4.9 million. The film premiered in France on 12 April and has already come out in Belgium and the Netherlands. Next up is Germany (11 May) before the movie embarking in Viking territory: Finland (19 May) Denmark (2 June) and Norway (7 July). All admissions numbers from allocine.fr. Update (23 May): Asterix admissiones were 1.3m up to the week ending 23 May.

29 March 2006
Renaissance came out in France on 15 March, clocking up 225,105 admissions, according to allocine.fr. The sci-fi thriller set in Paris in 2054, is written and directed by first-timer Christian Volckman and was released through Pathé Distibution. Target audience is young adults, and style is a classy comic book-style black and white. I missed the screening of the film at Cartoon Movie earlier this month but you can read the (mixed) reviews on allocine. Official site is www.renaissance-lefilm.com.

29 March 2006
Aardman Animation, winners of the OSCAR for the Best animated feature film of the year for The Curse of the Were-rabbit, continue to tour the world receiving awards. The film was snubbed by the British Animation Awards on 9 March - award for best movie went to The Corpse Bride. However, at Cartoon Movie Aardman was voted best animation producer and Nick Park and Steve Box were best directors. Sadly, neither of them turned up in Berlin. There is an element of Buggins' turn about the Cartoon awards but on this occasion you could hardly quibble. And Gébéka were worthy recipients of the best distributor award.

29 March 2006
Cartoon Movie, held in Potsdam, Germany on 9-11 March was an interesting event from Animation Europe's point of view. Last time I was here in 2001 the event was somewhat sparsely attended - with producers pitching tentative and not always very good projects to an audience mostly made up of other producers and with distributors in short supply. It was much busier this year, but still a lot of distributors and funders were missing.

I couldn't see all the movies on offer, but two stood out - The Ugly Duckling and Me from A-Film, Futurkion and Magma is sharp and funny, and should be a big hit if cinema theatres can be bothered to give it the support it deserves. Desmond and the Swamp Barbarian Trap is a very low budget effort from Magnus Carlsson of Happy Life (Robin and Three Friends and Jerry) fame which is appealingly silly. White Fang from Alphanim and Welldone Films looks exciting and I enjoyed Czech studio Maur Film's Filmfarum 2.