A quick guide to animated content sellers to be found amid the live-action overload of the Cannes Film Market.
ombing through the Cannes Film Market in search of the right property or deal can be a daunting experience even for veterans of the event. And it’s even harder if you’re looking for animation amid the overwhelming prevalence of independent and art-house live-action features. So here’s a quick guide to some of the vendors of animated content and their wares available at this year’s market.
anish animation powerhouse Copenhagen Bombay has its proverbial fingers in many pies: It’s released a string of successful original features for children, launched a handful of hit series and expanded into markets such as educational materials — all of it done in-house while retaining creative control.
In other words, the Denmark-based studio is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2016 as a veritable poster-child-style role model for the modern independent animation studio.
“What we want to do, and what we do, is all kinds of content,” says CEO and owner Sarita Christensen, adding one caveat: “It has to be original.”
Copenhagen Bombay is in production on the feature film Get Santa, directed by Jacob Ley, and due out this Christmas; and The Next-Door Spy, about a quirky girl detective who has to solve a major case at the same time she’s dealing with falling in love for the first time. “It’s funny and different, and it’s film noir for children,” says Christensen.
Two more animated features are in development, with the studio expecting to close financing for them this year. The studio also just released its newest TV series, Kiwi & Strit, co-produced with NDR in Germany and sold to eight territories.
And the company has plans to ramp up its output from a film every two years to two or three films every two years. All of which is in line with what has been Christensen’s goal from the start: Create high-quality original content for children.
That goal crystalized for Christensen during her nine years working at Lars Von Trier’s Ze- ntropa Films. She fell in love with animation while producing the anime-style feature Princess and wanted to use the medium to bring to children’s entertainment the same quality Zentropa did to its projects for adults.
But she realized forming a new company to focus on that goal exclusively was more likely to succeed than doing it at Zentropa, and Copenhagen Bombay was founded. “It was not that they were not interested,” she says of Zentropa. “But for me ... it’s something you have to do 100 percent — or 110.”
The company started up with 15 employees, an animation studio and investors all set to take on that goal. Christensen says it caused waves in the industry when she began signing talent to new contracts sharing ownership in its IPs with creators.
“The company owns a great share of all the IPs we have created, and so far we’ve created more than 40 IPs — 20 of them are finished productions and 20 of them are concepts,” she says.
After its first feature, 2009’s The Apple and the Worm, Copenhagen Bombay had a breakthrough with the 2011 CG-animated feature The Great Bear, directed by Esben Toft Jacobsen. Made for 1.8 million euros, the film has sold to more than 30 territories and was selected for the Berlin Film Festival.
Christensen split in 2011 with her business partner, director Anders Morgenthaler, and investor Egmont Co., buying their stakes in the company and taking full ownership.
The 2014 release Beyond Beyond was a mixed success story, Christensen says. The film tells a good story, but it is a very sad film — a quality that made it a more difficult sell to audiences. The film lost money in Denmark, but also became the studio’s first U.S. sale with Lionsgate picking it up for distribution.
“We learned we need to be careful, not in avoiding working with difficult subjects ... but in what hard work it really takes to handle these subjects in a way that you get more audience,” she says. “It was in a way absolutely worth it, but lesson learned.”
Moving into television was an obvious move that also was more challenging than expected, Christensen says. “It’s a totally different ballgame to do a series,” she says. “It’s machinery on a different level than doing a niche cinema film.”
Today, Copenhagen Bombay comprises seven divisions, including a rights-holder company, a production company, global and domestic distribution arms, an educational division, a daughter company in Stockholm, Sweden, and a joint venture in China. It has about 15 employees and works with around 50 freelancers and between 15 and 20 writers, directors and concept creators, Christensen says.
The company works with debut directors and writers, which keeps things fresh, and constantly seeks ways to work faster and smarter to make the business side of things work out and keep the company independent, she says.
But the real future is on the creative side. “I really believe we need more original feature films,” says Christensen. “I like the idea of creating something really new and something very different ... and there is money for that, if it’s not too expensive.” [
Wizart returns to the Cannes Film Market as a key component in building franchises like multiplatform successes. By Tom McLean.
The Cannes Film Market continues to be a key stop for Wizart Animation as it builds The Snow Queen movie series into a multiplatform franchise and launches new animated features that also have franchise staying power in their sights.
This year, the Russia-based animation studio has two features coming out that it will be bringing to market: The just-premiered Sheep & Wolves and the holiday release The Snow Queen 3: Fire and Ice. Producer Vladimir Nikolaev says the market is an essential platform for sales and allows the company to build on the momentum of its earlier projects.
“In case of the first installment (of Snow Queen) we needed to present 40 minutes of the movie to start sales,” he says. “And now for The Snow Queen 3, we started sales with five minutes of the movie.”
Bolstering The Snow Queen 3 is the addition to the filmmaking team of well-known Hollywood animation writer Robert Lence, whose credits include Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story.
Wizart also is in preproduction on the 52 x 11 min. animated TV series The Snow Queen: Friends Forever. Nickloaev says the series is still open for partnerships. Also on the TV front, Wizart produced the animated series Yoko in cooperation with Spanish studios Somuga and Dibulitoon.
And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of the plans Wizart has for turning Snow Queen into a global multiplatform property.
Going Live Wizart is developing a live show based on The Snow Queen with the Zapashny Brothers, a group of established circus artists. The show will debut in December to coincide with the release of The Snow Queen 3, with 70 engagements planned for Russia, Nikolaev says. Discussions are under way to take the show abroad, with Wizart’s partners in Bulgaria, the Baltic nations and Israel showing strong interest, he says.
Nikolaev says the popularity of the Zapashny Brothers in Asia will help popularize The Snow Queen there, and across Europe. “Zapashny Brothers are very popular in Asia, and we hope that Europe would love this show, too,” he says, adding that the show costs as much to produce as a full-length independent movie.
On the high-tech side, Wizart jumped last year into augmented reality games released on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Nikolaev says Wizart produces its AR games inhouse on the Vuforia platform from Qualcomm and it’s a segment that builds on the company’s origins producing computer games.
“That’s your additional contact with the audience, a bonus that you offer as an entertain- ment,” says Nikolaev. “Our partners work with it very actively ... and we are very satisfied with the feedback we get from the audience.”
The apps are originally produced in English and Russian, then customized for partners, Nikolaev says. “We localized The Snow Queen World application in Portuguese for our Brazilian partner. In Netherlands, Peru, Chile, South Africa the application is being successfully promoted in English.”
Other apps are in the works for Sheep & Wolves, with localized apps debuting in April alongside the movie in the Middle East in Turkish, and in Mongolia in English, he says. Multitasking Growth A licensing deal with Doll Maker produced a