“Unfortunately, international people are looking at Iran from a political point of view; all the news is bad and toxic,” Ragozar tells Cartoon Brew. “Yes, we have lots of political, social, and economic problems. But Iran is a great and beautiful country with great history and amazing people who have a great culture. I want to note that there are lots of beautiful things that people around the world can learn from and remind each other about.”
The film is in production, with Rahgozar’s brother Arman serving as producer. The team of 40-odd artists spent more than six months training in the film’s Disney-inspired animation style, which is markedly different from the look of The Last Fiction. The studio also “improved our pipeline with strong layout panels to control super detailed scenes of the film,” says Rahgozar.
In true Disney tradition, Juliet & the King is a musical. It will feature 11 original songs by Iranian songwriter Meysam Yousefi and composer Behnam Jalilian. Says Rahgozar: “The style of the music is like the art and the way of thinking of the Qajar dynasty: something eclectic, like European pop with a mix of Iranian traditional music and instruments.” The team plans to record English versions of the songs as well.
Here is a bit more about the film’s story:
Naser Al-Din Shah, a Qajar king, receives an invitation from European Council. With the encouragement of his top General, the King decides to take the trip. While in France, the King goes to see “Romeo and Juliet” in a theater, where he finds himself thoroughly mesmerized by Juliet, played by Julie, an ambitious acting student who desperately wants to gain fame. In order to get to know Julie better, the King devises a scheme to bring the whole cast of “Romeo and Juliet” to Iran, to perform in Tehran. Julie accepts the offer, thinking this would help her career. Instead, she finds herself caught up in the middle of the King’s affection and the jealousy of his numerous court ladies. This comic animated feature tells a story of love, friendship, and self-reflection.
Hoorakhsh has put up 80% of the budget itself and is looking to secure the remainder. The studio is working toward a summer 2023 premiere, and is searching for international distributors and sales partners.
Meanwhile, it is forging ahead with production on yet another feature, the ecological fantasy adventure The Dragon’s Treasure. Read our report on the film’s pitch at Annecy last month.
Concept art from Juliet & the King and the poster are below: