Le Chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat) opens in French theaters on June 1, 2011. Directed by Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux, the film is based on Sfar’s popular comic series of the same name.

It’s being produced by the Paris-based animation studio Banjo and production company Autochenille. Both companies were launched by Sfar, Delesvaux, and illustrator Clement Oubrerie with the goal of “making author-driven, challenging films to appeal to children and adults.” The hand-drawn film is modestly budgeted at under US$18 million. That’s similar to the budget for The Illusionist, and a far cry from the ever-increasing costs of CG features like Hop ($63 million), Rango ($150 million) and Tangled ($200-plus million). No word yet on theatrical distribution beyond French territories, but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

The official film synopsis:

Algiers, 1920s. Rabbi Sfar has more than one problem. His beautiful daughter is becoming a teenager and above all, his parrot-killing cat has just started talking! The delivery of a trunk from Russia further complicates matters when a painter is discovered inside, more dead than alive. The painter is on a quest for a hidden tribe and its mythical city in Africa. Convinced that the city really exists, he sets off on an incredible adventure, taking with him the Rabbi and his cat, a wise old Arab Sheikh and an eccentric Russian millionaire.

(Thanks, Jakob Schuh)