Cartoon Movie Preview: 12 European Animated Features That We’re Excited About
Cartoon Movie, one of Europe’s most important platforms for upcoming animated feature film productions, has unveiled its 2023 lineup, and it’s packed with interesting titles, big-name filmmakers, and some gorgeous artwork.
Running March 7-9, 2023, in Bordeaux, France, this year’s Cartoon Movie will host 58 projects with primary producers from 15 different countries. France is the biggest contributor with 27 projects, hardly a surprise there. Other contributors with multiple films are Germany (7), Spain (5), Italy (4), Belgium (3), and Denmark and the Netherlands with two a piece.
Of the 58 projects, 27 are in development, 20 are in concept, three are in production, and eight will be showing sneak previews for their nearly or entirely finished films. Thirteen of this year’s selections are aimed at young adult or adult audiences, with the rest targeted at kids and families.
Below, we take a look at a dozen noteworthy titles from the lot. Some of our picks were made because they come from established directors or producers, some are sequels or adaptations of successful shorts or features, and some we thought just looked really cool. That being said, there are still a ton of interesting projects we couldn’t fit on this list and we will be covering more of them in the future. You can find the full Cartoon Movie project lineup here.
Cursed Children – Matisse Gonzalez, Germany
This project from Matisse Gonzalez, one of Cartoon Brew’s seven promising Latina directors to watch, is a kids and family film produced by Studio Seufz in Germany. The film mixes supernatural mysticism and real history to tell the story of a girl looking to lift a curse from her family, brought on by the actions of her grandfather who served as a general under the brutal Bolivian dictatorship of the early 1960s.
Decorado – Alberto Vázquez, Spain
With Unicorn Wars still wowing audiences globally and set to hit the U.S. in early 2023, Spanish auteur Alberto Vázquez is working on his next feature, a colorized update to his 2016 short of the same name. This young adult/adult film is produced by long-time Vázquez producers Uniko and Abano Productión and follows Arnold, a middle-aged mouse in the middle of an existential crisis. The film visually and narratively spoofs some of the most famous characters and names from animation history as Arnold tries to escape the grasp of A.C.M.E. (A Company that Makes Everything).
Four Souls of Coyote – Áron Gauder, Hungary
A sneak preview, this Cinemon Studios-produced feature is an alternative and modern take on a creation myth in a world where humans are not at the top of the food chain and don’t run things in their world, but instead are more equally integrated into the natural hierarchy. According to its synopsis: “Through adventures filled with animals, magic, hunger, greed and the sacred circle of all creations, the story gives us hope that it Is not too late to correct our course – it is the last minute to save Earth.” Gauder is a former Annecy best feature Cristal winner for his 2004 film The District.
Fox and Hare Save the Forest – Mascha Halberstad, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg
Halberstad’s last film, Oink, is qualified for this year’s animated feature Oscar, but she’s wasting no time in plotting her next adventure with a new film from Amsterdam-based producer Submarine, co-produced by Doghouse (Luxembourg) and Walking the Dog (Belgium). Based on the eponymous book series by Sylvia Vanden Heede, the story plays out like an allegory on climate change in which forest animals must save their friends from rising waters. The film already has a sales agent in Periscoop Film and Urban Distribution International and has been sold in Benelux and France.
Happy End – Marie Amachoukeli, Vladimir Mavounia-Kouka, France
Produced by Miyu Productions in France, this black-and-white young adult feature offers a new twist to a familiar plot hook: “What if Death disappeared overnight?” The feature follows Bertha, a profoundly suicidal former soldier who is devastated by her inability to die. Filmmakers Amachoukeli and Mavounia-Kouka were previously nominated for a French Academy César Award for their animated short film I Want Pluto to Be a Planet Again.
The Inseparables – Jeremie Degruson, Belgium, France, Spain
Produced by Nwave Pictures in Belgium and co-produced by Octopolis in France and A Contracorriente Films in Spain, this nearly finished film has already been sold to several territories in Europe. Adapted by Paw Patrol: The Movie screenwriters Bob Barlen and Cal Brunker from an original idea by Toy Story scribes Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, this 3d family feature follows a runaway puppet and an abandoned stuffed animal who cross paths in Central Park. Director Degruson previously helmed the Son of Bigfoot and Bigfoot Family features, the latter of which screened in competition at Annecy in 2020.
Love is a Gypsy Child – A Carmen Story – Sébastien Laudenbach, France
Produced by Damien Bruner at Folivari and co-produced by Pikkukala Barcelona in Spain, this 2d family feature unspools in the southern Spanish city of Seville, where 13-year-old Salva meets Carmen, a 20-year-old Romani woman with an enchanting voice. When he hears a prediction that Carmen is doomed to die, he recruits a group of street urchins to help him save the woman. The director, Sébastien Laudenbach, made the tour de force one-man animated feature The Girl Without Hands.
Mars Express – Jérémie Périn, France
One of the most buzzed-up adult animation titles headed to Cartoon Movie this year, Mars Express previously turned heads with an Annecy work-in-progress presentation in 2021. A rare European cyberpunk, sci-fi feature, Mars Express trails a stubborn private eye and her partner – who has been dead for five years- that embark on a mission to find a cybernetics student before assassins can catch up to her. It’s produced by Everybody On Deck and sold by MK2 Films.
Richard the Stork 2 – Mette Tange, Benjamin Quabeck, Germany, Belgium, Norway
Repped by Indie Sales, this 3d sequel is produced by Knudsen Pictures, Walking the Dog, and Den Siste Skilling. This is the debut feature of standout 3d artist and animated short Tales from the Multiverse co-director Mette Tange, who teams with award-winning live-action vet and Revolting Rhymes editor Benjamin Quabeck to update audiences on the adventures of Richard, a sparrow who was adopted by a stork family.
The Roman of Renart – Leo Marchand, Anne-Laure Daffis, France
Co-directors of My Neighbor’s Neighbor, nominated for a European Film Award this year, Marchand and Daffis are using 2d drawings superimposed over real backgrounds to adapt this medieval collection of stories that satirized human society by anthropomorphizing animals. Christian Pfohl’s Lardux Films is producing.
Rosa And The Stone Troll – Karla Nor Holmbäck, Denmark
Nearly finished, sales rights to this preschool feature were recently acquired by Danish sales company LevelK. Holmback’s feature debut, the film’s screenplay is adapted from Josefine Ottesen’s kids’ book Roselil og hendes venner and turns on a timid flower fairy who makes her first friend. Denmark’s Dansk Tegnefilm produces.
Round and Round the Wishing Well – Hugo de Faucompret, France
One of two highly anticipated sequels to the brilliant 2021 Annecy tv special jury award-winner Mum is Pouring Rain, this 2d feature turns on three very different characters. Through their personal and shared experiences, the project reflects on the hardships and joys of life experienced by a young girl, her grandma, and a huge musician bum living in the forest who takes the girl under his wing. Laïdak Films produces.
Pictured at top: Decorado by Alberto Vázquez