"War with the Salamanders" "War with the Salamanders"

Just before Christmas, we profiled five projects due to be pitched at Cartoon Movie, Europe’s leading co-production forum for animated features. Given the abundance of cool projects in the line-up, we’re following up with a second preview of the event.

This list focuses on lesser-known filmmakers whose work has caught our eye over the years. The five films, which all mark their respective director’s animated feature debut, are in various stages of development and production; Cartoon Movie will see them pitch their idea to European industry figures and try to secure new partners. As things stand, the event is due to be held in Bordeaux, France on March 9–11. Explore the full line-up here.

A Door to the Woods

Director: Jola Kudela
Producer: Nectarious Films (France); co-producer: Opus Film (Poland)
Status: Concept

"A Door to the Woods"

The Polish-born Kudela has an eclectic filmography: she has directed ads and music videos, composited on blockbuster franchises, and orchestrated murals in a range of cities. Her knack for mixing media comes through in this historical feature, which will combine 2d digital animation, painting, and live action. (Going by the image, so does her passion for street art.)

Synopsis: “A door to the woods” is a Polish idiom, describing something absurd, something that has no reason to exist. And yet it’s those stubborn, sometimes irrational, convictions that help us overcome seemingly unsurmountable adversity and come out the other side, stronger, wiser, and, most importantly, alive.

Two young men and a girl, whose lives are intertwined, are forced to fight for survival, each in their own unique way, against three oppressive regimes: fascism, Stalinism, and communism. They can only win by finding their own “door to the woods” and by holding on to human values — hope, love, and loyalty — as well as to their artistic creativity.


Director: Nadia Micault
Producer: Autour de Minuit (France); co-producers: Panique! (Belgium), Schmuby (France)
Status: In development


Back in 2013, we were impressed by Micault’s short film Sonata, an austere study of the movements of interpretive dance (watch it on Youtube). Shadows, a family-oriented fantasy about two young migrants (and based on the French graphic novel of the same name), projects a very different mood. Migration from Africa and Asia has been a live political issue in Europe for many years, and the subject is reflected in many projects at this year’s forum.

Synopsis: Fleeing the Little Land, a region slaughtered by bloodthirsty horsemen, two children set out as their father did, to seek a better world in the Other World. It is the beginning of a long journey for these two “migrants”. They will meet the capitalist ogre, the snake-smuggler, the treacherous sirens, and the metal fortress. They also encounter other exiles, the Peacock or the Silent One. Together they will walk the long and steep road to the Promised Land, with the caring help of the Shadows.

White Plastic Sky

Directors: Tibor Bánóczki, Sarolta Szabó
Producer: Salto Films and Media Productions (Hungary); co-producer: Artichoke (Slovakia)
Status: In production

"White Plastic Sky"

Bánóczki and Szabó, the duo behind oddball festival darlings like the César-nominated Leftover, strike a characteristically bleak tone in their feature debut. White Plastic Sky is a dystopian eco-fantasy set in a future Budapest devoid of wildlife. The film combines 2d and 3d animation, harnessing rotoscoping; the artwork we’ve seen is atmospheric.

Synopsis: In a world without animals and plants where the laws of human survival are cruel, a young man wants to save his wife and forced to break the rules he served before.

The Lost Queen

Director: Carol Freeman
Producer: Paper Panther Productions (Ireland)
Status: Concept

"The Lost Queen"

Paper Panther Productions, which Freeman co-founded, restlessly experiments with animation mediums, changing gear for each production. The studio made a splash with The Bird and the Whale, Freeman’s handsomely realized paint-on-glass short; for her first feature, which she is also co-writing, Freeman turns to stop motion. She has form in children’s storytelling, having illustrated a string of books for young readers. We’re keen to see which way she steers this project.

Synopsis: 12-year-old Maeve Walshe’s life is turned upside down when her family mysteriously inherits a beautiful but derelict castle in rural Ireland. The inheritance comes from her mother, who died when Maeve was born. Maeve longs to know her history, craving a sense of belonging that she’s never felt.

So when Maeve gets the chance to explore this new link to her past, she embraces it, accompanied by her ever-optimistic (and slightly annoying) younger half-sister Emma. But it turns out that Maeve’s new home is full of secrets, ghosts, and magic — and nothing is as it seems — including Maeve herself, who might just turn out to be a Lost Queen.

War with the Salamanders

Director: Catherine Maximoff
Producer: Les Contes Modernes (France)
Status: Concept

"War with the Salamanders"

We’re bending our own rule here: Maximoff has directed features before — just not in animation. Her background is in dance and the performing arts, the subjects of her various documentary profiles. For her animation debut, she’s adapting Karel Čapek’s dark-as-night satirical sci-fi novel, which the Czech author wrote against the backdrop of Nazism’s rise. It’s an intriguing marriage about which we’re keen to learn more.

Synopsis: Washed up on a wild island with her father, Juliet, 11 years old, meets an astonishing giant salamander. The animal and its fellows have been vegetating on the nearby small island, surrounded by sharks. The girl and the beast become friends. However the old Isamu warned her: “if the salamanders are freed, they will invade the world…”

Image at top: “War with the Salamanders”

More projects to discover this year

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