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European Producers Prove That Mature Animated Features Are Possible At Cartoon Movie

Want a view of where feature animation is headed? Look no further than Cartoon Movie, which is among the most important annual business events for long-form animated filmmaking.

The annual European pitching and co-production forum, now in its 18th year, will take place this year from March 2-4 in Lyon, France. Over 700 players in the animation world are expected to attend.

Designed to assist film producers in finding financing, co-producers, and distributors, Cartoon Movie has helped over 250 films find financing since 1999. Yesterday the organizers announced the 2016 line-up of 55 project pitches from 19 European countries.

"Funan, The New People" directed by Denis Do.
“Funan, The New People” directed by Denis Do.

In announcing the selections, Cartoon Movie’s organizers noted European feature animation’s continuing evolution into a more diverse, adult storytelling medium. For the first time ever, one-third of the event’s selected projects are aimed at a teen and/or adult audience. These films address political or sensitive subjects, ranging from child soldiers in Angola (Another Day of Life by Platige Image), Khmer Rouge in Cambodia’s years (Funan, The New People by Les Films d’Ici), resistance in Iran (The Siren by Les Films d’Ici), adoption (The Khmer Smile of Animalps Productions), and the civil war in Angola (Nayola by da Praça de Filmes).

Fictional adult films are also represented including a remix of Joseph Conrad’s literature that takes place in Rio de Janeiro (Heart of Darkness by Les Films d’Ici), a psychotic thriller about the confinements of reality (Mind My Gap by Studio Rosto), and a kids-in-school comedy featuring notorious dictators like Hitler, Stalin, and Franco as classmates (Little Bastards by Rokyn Animation).

"Mind My Gap" directed by Rosto.
“Mind My Gap” directed by Rosto.

For Americans who are used to predigested Hollywood feature animation that looks and feels generic, it can be disorienting to see the remarkable range of story concepts and graphic styles being presented at Cartoon Movie. Below are a few more projects in various stages of development and production that caught our attention:

  • I Lost My Body, the feature debut of Jérémy Clapin (Skhizein), is an absurdist mixed-media feature about an amputated hand on a quest to reunite with its owner, a young Moroccan immigrant named Naoufel.
    "I Lost My Body" directed by Jérémy Clapin.
    “I Lost My Body” directed by Jérémy Clapin.
  • A modernized Diabolique, Domenica from Ugo Bienvenu and Kevin Manach is based on the true-life story of Domenica Guillaume, whose husbands — art dealer Paul Guillaume and architect Jean Walter — both died under suspicious circumstances. It’s described as “a tale of beauty, cruelty, deceit and murder” that explores “to what extremes art fever, greed and ruthless ambition bring a vulnerable soul.” An image from the project is also included at the top of this article.
    "Domenica" directed by Ugo Bienvenu and Kevin Manach.
    “Domenica” directed by Ugo Bienvenu and Kevin Manach.
  • Mutafukaz, the highly anticipated hyperviolent team-up between France’s Ankama and Japan’s Studio 4°C and Ankama based on Guillaume “Run” Renard’s popular comic series.
    "Mutafukaz" directed by Guillaume Renard and Shojiro Nishimi.
    “Mutafukaz” directed by Guillaume Renard and Shojiro Nishimi.
  • Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs, the feature directorial debut of Latvian director Edmunds Jansons (Choir Tour), about a young boy who teams up wtih a horde of talking homeless dogs to save a city neighborhood from being turned into glass skyscrapers by a rich developer, Lord Pie.
    "Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs" directed by Edmunds Jansons.
    “Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs” directed by Edmunds Jansons.
  • The Fantastic Voyage of Marona, a new film from Romanian director Anca Damian (Crulic: The Path to Beyond, Magic Mountain) about an injured dog’s memories of all the different masters she’s loved unconditionally.
    "The Fantastic Voyage of Marona" directed by Anca Damian.
    “The Fantastic Voyage of Marona” directed by Anca Damian.
  • Tulip, from the Oscar-nominated directorial team of Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli (A Cat in Paris, Phantom Boy), about a little girl who has the ability to see the mysterious and invisible creatures with whom we share our lives and emotions.
    "Tulip" directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli.
    “Tulip” directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli.
  • Mike Mort’s Night of the Trampires is a campy stop-motion buddy cop film starring grizzled lone wolf cop Chuck Steel and vampire hunter Abraham Van Rental who team up to find an ancient race of drunken vampires (Trampires) that only attack inebriated citizens.
    "Night of the Trampires" directed by Mike Mort.
    “Night of the Trampires” directed by Mike Mort.

Projects are presented in four general stages at Cartoon Movie: in concept, in development, in production, and completed sneak previews. The pitching sessions, where filmmakers present the ideas to potential co-producers and distributors, are the core element of the event. Each team has a set amount of time to pitch, from 10 minutes for projects in concept up to 30 minutes for films in production.

France leads the number of pitches with 18 projects, followed by Denmark and Germany with five apiece, and Italy, Netherlands, and Poland with three each. Eight projects are being presented from Nordic countries. For the first time, Cartoon Movie will present a Canadian project — Ricardo Curtis’s Amoeba from House of Cool.

To learn more about all 55 projects, visit the Cartoon Movie website. Below are a few more images from the 2016 Cartoon Movie selections.

"Nayola" directed by José Miguel Ribeiro and Jorge António.
“Nayola” directed by José Miguel Ribeiro and Jorge António.
"The Siren" directed by Sepideh Farsi.
“The Siren” directed by Sepideh Farsi.
"Spirit Seeker" directed by Bo Juhl Nielsen.
“Spirit Seeker” directed by Bo Juhl Nielsen.
"Heart of Darkness" directed by Rogério Nunes.
“Heart of Darkness” directed by Rogério Nunes.
"Amoeba" directed by Ricardo Curtis.
“Amoeba” directed by Ricardo Curtis.

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