A Ten­ta­cle Spec­ta­cle

Animation Magazine - - Features - By the Numbers

Pixar digs deep to make a sep­to­pus named Hank — ar­guably the stu­dio’s most tech­ni­cally com­pli­cated char­ac­ter ever — a con­vinc­ing pres­ence in An­drew Stan­ton’s fish tale se­quel Find­ing Dory. By Tom McLean.

she was cre­ated to be the ul­ti­mate side­kick in Nemo. Stan­ton says it took a year and a half for the Dory team to fig­ure out that the big­gest prob­lem with the char­ac­ter was that with­out the abil­ity to self-re­flect, there was no way to track her growth through the story.

Hav­ing iden­ti­fied the prob­lem, the so­lu­tion turned out to be many small ad­just­ments to the story, which fi­nally be­gan to come to­gether in the last eight months of its four-year jour­ney — much like Nemo did, Stan­ton says.

En­ter the Sep­to­pus Dur­ing her trav­els, Dory comes across a num­ber of new char­ac­ters, the most no­table of which — for more than story rea­sons — is Hank, a grumpy mimic oc­to­pus voiced by Ed O’Neill of Mar­ried ... with Chil­dren and Mod­ern Fam­ily fame. (Hank is ac­tu­ally a sep­to­pus as he’s lost one of his ten­ta­cles.)

From a story per­spec­tive, com­ing up with Hank and cast­ing O’Neill was pretty straight for­ward, Stan­ton says.

“We never had a lot of prob­lems with Hank,” he says. “My writer Vic­to­ria Strouse came up with the idea that Dory’s re­ally at her strong­est when she’s help­ing oth­ers and when her op­ti­mism is push­ing against some­body else’s neg­a­tiv­ity, be­cause she’s sort of im­per­vi­ous to rec­og­niz­ing it. So we needed a sur­ro­gate Mar­lin for her to be stuck with in the mid­dle of this movie.”

That set Hank’s per­son­al­ity as a re­luc­tant grump. But the real chal­lenge with the char­ac­ter — and by far the big­gest chal­lenge in mak­ing the en­tire movie — came in nearly ev­ery as­pect of try­ing to cre­ate Hank as a 3D char­ac­ter that could be con­vinc­ingly an­i­mated.

What makes Hank so dif­fi­cult is that mimic oc­to­puses have no bones, mean­ing there is no un­der­ly­ing struc­ture to rig up. That re­quires ev­ery shot of him to have a com­pletely or­ganic look. On top of that, an­i­ma­tors have to deal with his seven sucker-cov­ered ten­ta­cles as his main means of ex­pres­sion and lo­co­mo­tion on a per­for­mance level.

“We loved the phys­i­cal­ity of him,” says Stan­ton. “He can go any­where, and we have a fish who needs to get through a man­made park in the mid­dle of the movie, so he was the per­fect de­vice phys­i­cally to be able to bring her in and out of wa­ter and across things and through things.”

Char­ac­ter art di­rec­tor Ja­son Deamer says fig­ur­ing out Hank be­gan with ex­ten­sive study of real-life oc­to­puses, learn­ing how to draw them and fig­ur­ing out the ap­peal­ing and un­ap­peal­ing el­e­ments of the an­i­mal.

With mimic oc­to­puses able to cam­ou­flage them­selves by chang­ing both the color and tex­ture of their skin to blend per­fectly into aquatic back­grounds, Deamer says he be­gan to think of Hank as a kind of re­luc­tant su­per­hero.

“Maybe that’s his su­per­power: He can shape shift into back­packs; he can change his pig­ment and copy things,” he says.

Part­ners in Rig­ging Char­ac­ter su­per­vi­sor Jeremie Tal­bot says de­vel­op­ing the ap­proved de­sign of Hank into a rig the an­i­ma­tors could work with was an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult chal­lenge. Col­lab­o­ra­tion with the an­i­ma­tors was es­sen­tial to de­vel­op­ing the even­tual highly com­plex rig for Hank.

Su­per­vis­ing an­i­ma­tor David De­Van says he looked for­ward to tack­ling Hank pre­cisely be­cause he was go­ing to be so chal­leng­ing. “We had to fig­ure out how, in life, an oc­to­pus moves; we had to de­con­struct the move­ment and fig­ure out how are we go­ing to car­i­ca­ture this in a rig,” he says. “And the rig they built is just an in­cred­i­ble thing, but we had to learn how to use it.”

One of the tricks was “find­ing the el­bow” in

the com­edy al­ready on the page.

“We gave the three guys the in­struc­tion to make up this ‘Mighty Ea­gle’ song and the joke is that though the Ea­gle is this hero to them, none of them know the song,” says Reilly. “So the songs that each of them sing were just some­thing that came from them, and they were so hi­lar­i­ous that they went into the film be­cause with all these SNL per­form­ers we had so much to work with and we knew that would be a great thing for the movie.”

Power Up! The main char­ac­ters — Red (Sudeikis), Chuck (Gad) and Bomb (McBride) — also each emerge as su­per he­roes, in their own An­gry Birds kind of way. Bomb has his ob­vi­ous abil­ity to blow him­self up in a pinch to cre­ate a dis­trac­tion or put off some feisty pig­gies. Red’s un­con­ven­tional su­per power be­comes his abil­ity to di­rect his anger into some­thing pos­i­tive — a way to mo­ti­vate him­self to do some­thing pow­er­ful to de­feat piggy in­trud­ers. And Chuck’s su­per speed be­comes the im­pe­tus for an homage that au­di­ences who love su­per hero sto­ries will def­i­nitely re­mem­ber.

Per­haps one of the most fa­mous VFX se­quenc-

TRich buy­ers bulk up to com­pete with Dis­ney but no one knows what the post-Katzen­berg DreamWorks will look like. By Tom McLean.

he an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try woke up April 28 to a new land­scape, learn­ing in the morn­ing hours that NBCUniver­sal and its par­ent com­pany, Com­cast, had bought DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion in a deal val­ued at about $3.8 bil­lion.

Ru­mored for a few days, the news that the trans­ac­tion was com­pleted was it­self a bit of a sur­prise given then num­ber of suit­ors — among them Has­bro and the Ja­panese con­glom­er­ate Soft­Bank — that had pre­vi­ously come close to buy­ing DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion.

The deal will see DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion be­come part of the Uni­ver­sal Filmed En­ter­tain­ment Group, which in­cludes Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures, Fan­dango, and NBCUniver­sal Brand De­vel­op­ment.

DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion founder Jef­frey Katzen­berg will re­main in charge through the end of the year, when the trans­ac­tion is ex­pected to close. Af­ter that, he will be­come chair­man of DreamWorks New Me­dia, which will be com­prised of the com­pany’s own­er­ship in­ter­ests in Awe­some­ness TV and NOVA. Katzen­berg will also serve as a con­sul­tant to NBCUniver­sal.

As for DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion it­self, NBCU CEO Steve Burke in a state­ment said that Chris Meledan­dri, who heads the com­pany’s other an­i­ma­tion brand, Il­lu­mi­na­tion En­ter­tain­ment, will steer the ship.

“We have en­joyed ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cess over the last six years in an­i­ma­tion with the emer­gence of Il­lu­mi­na­tion En­ter­tain­ment and its bril­liant team at Il­lu­mi­na­tion Mac Guff stu­dio,” said Burke. “We are for­tu­nate to have Il­lu­mi­na­tion founder Chris Meledan­dri to help guide the growth of the DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion busi­ness in the fu­ture.”

Com­cast’s mo­tives for buy­ing DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion have been at­trib­uted to its de­sire to com­pete in the fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness on par with Dis­ney, which is a jug­ger­naut in the space with its Pixar, Lu­cas­film and Marvel brands. The deal also is af­ford­able for Com­cast, which is val­ued at $150 bil­lion and had raised plenty of cash for its failed 2014 at­tempt at ac­quir­ing Time Warner.

An­a­lysts say much of the ap­peal for Com­cast is the DreamWorks fran­chises, which range from Shrek and Mada­gas­car to How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda. But it also in­cludes rights to a lot of char­ac­ters, such as the Clas­sic Me­dia li­brary DreamWorks ac­quired in 2012, and the ro­bust deal DreamWorks has to sup­ply 300 hours of orig­i­nal con­tent to Net­flix.

“This was not a deal that we needed to do, but it’s the deal I’d al­ways hoped would come along,” Katzen­berg told em­ploy­ees at a com­pany meet­ing a few days af­ter the deal. “Not only are we pass­ing the ba­ton to a com­pany that un­der­stands and val­ues our brand, but it’s also a place that will nur­ture and grow our busi­nesses to their fullest po­ten­tial.”

Ex­ecs on the Com­cast side say NBCUniver­sal plans to op­er­ate DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion and Il­lu­mi­na­tion En­ter­tain­ment as sep­a­rate arms over­seen by Meledan­dri — much like how John Las­seter and Ed Cat­mull over­see both Pixar and Dis­ney Fea­ture An­i­ma­tion for the Mouse House — and that the com­pany would re­main in Glendale.

But with­out ex­ecs as charis­matic or in­spir­ing as Las­seter or Katzen­berg, it’s more of an open ques­tion as to whether DreamWorks can re­main a sep­a­rate, dis­tinct unit within the NBCUniver­sal ma­chin­ery.

For those who work at DreamWorks, there is, of course, a lot of un­cer­tainty. DreamWorks is a union op­er­a­tion, while Il­lu­mi­na­tion is not. DreamWorks op­er­ates in house, while Il­lu­mi­na­tion works with France-based Mac Guff. Il­lu­mi­na­tion also has had suc­cess mak­ing movies for about half the bud­get of DreamWorks pic­tures while still gross­ing in the same range at the box of­fice.

It’s likely there will be some con­sol­i­da­tion along the way that will re­sult in lay­offs, but the ex­tent of any lay­offs and which jobs they’d af­fect is at this point pure spec­u­la­tion.

DreamWorks has Trolls set as its next re­lease, fol­lowed in 2017 by Boss Baby, Cap­tain Un­der­pants and The Croods 2, with Lar­rikins and How to Train Your Dragon 3 fol­low­ing in 2018. As such, it may take years be­fore the real im­pact of this deal on what au­di­ences see on screen will be felt. [

VDreamWorks taps a pair of die-hard fans to re­vive the cult clas­sic 1980s im­port for the new Net­flix orig­i­nal se­ries By Tom McLean.

oltron was al­ways an un­likely hit.

Orig­i­nally a se­ries in which episodes of the early 1980s Ja­panese se­ries Beast King GoLion were re-edited into com­pletely new sto­ries, Voltron: De­fender of the Uni­verse was a smash when it hit syn­di­ca­tion in 1984-85 and cre­ated a gen­er­a­tion of die-hard fans.

While the prop­erty has been re­vived and re­vamped a num­ber of times over the years, it fell into the purview of DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion when it ac­quired rights-holder com­pany Clas­sic Me­dia in 2012. Now, with its over­all deal with Net­flix, Voltron re­turns June 10 in a new se­ries ti­tled Voltron: Leg­endary De­fender that reimag­ines the orig­i­nal syn­di­cated se­ries for a new gen­er­a­tion.

“It’s been a fan fa­vorite for over 30 years and had a deep mythol­ogy as part of its un­der­pin­nings,” says Margie Cohn, head of tele­vi­sion for DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion. “That foun­da­tion lent it­self to mak­ing some­thing big­ger.”

To reimag­ine the se­ries, DreamWorks tapped ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers (and Voltron fans) Joaquim Dos San­tos and Lau­ren Mont­gomery, veter­ans of The Leg­end of Korra and Avatar: The Last Air­ben­der.

“One of the things we’re try­ing to achieve is a show that’s awe­some re­gard­less of whether you have nos­tal­gic feel­ings for it or not,” says Dos San­tos. “It had a lot of re­ally cool con- cepts, re­ally out-there con­cepts at the time, and it played on this big team­work theme that I think re­ally hit home for a lot of kids grow­ing up in that era.”

But au­di­ences are more so­phis­ti­cated in 2016 and most of the view­ers who will stream the se­ries over Net­flix will have never seen the orig­i­nal, in which five col­or­ful lion-shaped space­ships com­manded by young pi­lots merge to form the gi­ant sword­wield­ing ro­bot war­rior Voltron. Mont­gomery says watch­ing the show as an adult re­vealed all kinds of flaws in the show, which made it more im­por­tant for her and Dos San­tos to fo­cus on what works, what they loved about it as kids.

“I re­mem­ber a much more dra­matic show,” says Dos San­tos. “I re­mem­ber a show that had these crazy stakes and then when you go watch it as an adult you’re like, oh, wow, it was this rinse and re­peat thing of the week. ... We

Mega Man, Mega Man Ben 10, Gen­er­a­tor Rex Big Hero 6, Mega Man, ting the tone with sleek changes to freshen up his iconic ar­mor, hel­met and weapons.

“Much like the show, it’s lit­tle tiny tweaks that hap­pen all over it that give it, hope­fully, a shot in the arm that feels fresh,” says Rouleau. “It most def­i­nitely has an ac­tion-ad­ven­ture feel to it with a good help­ing of com­edy.”

Among the new el­e­ments is a se­cret iden­tity for Mega Man, who will be seen as Aki, a ro­bot boy go­ing to school and liv­ing a nor­mal life with his sis­ter, in­ven­tor fa­ther and dog, Rush. All this takes place in the new lo­ca­tion of Sil­i­con City, which is a key el­e­ment in the show, Sea­gle says.

“We wanted a kind of fu­ture en­vi­ron­ment where ro­bots and hu­mans live to­gether al­most seam­lessly,” he says. “There’s some­thing that hap­pened in the past, with a kind of a great ro­bot war that went on, and we don’t re­ally ad­dress that right off the bat.”

The sto­ries see Sil­i­con City en­dan­gered by renegade ro­bots and hu­mans, and Aki trans­forms to Mega Man to stop them.

Other twists added to the new se­ries in­clude: When Mega Man ab­sorbs a power from an­other ro­bot or ma­chine, he may also take on some of its per­son­al­ity traits. He also will have a char­ac­ter called Mega Mini, which is a tiny com­po­nent that lives in­side of Mega Man and pops up to give him in­for­ma­tion about how well — or not — his ro­botic body is hold­ing up in any given cri­sis.

Mega Man also has a deep rogue’s gallery of vil­lains, many of which will re­turn as slightly dif­fer­ent ver­sions of their for­mer selves, Sea­gle says. “Some of the names are fa­mil­iar, some of the abil­i­ties are the same, but it’s all been re­designed,” he says.

The show’s pos­i­tive out­look and com­bi­na­tion of straight­for­ward ac­tion-ad­ven­ture and com­edy has made the show a very sat­is­fy­ing one to work on for Rouleau.

“There are so many things that are very dark, ironic, cyn­i­cal,” says Rouleau. “This one is most def­i­nitely not — and it’s hon­est in its op­ti­mism.” [

As a ju­nior mem­ber of the Ba­boon team, I as­sisted on the set of a re­cent, to-be-an­nounced Eu­ro­pean fea­ture that the Ba­boon crew had done a com­edy rewrite of, and for which Ba­boon’s Mike de Seve was di­rect­ing some of the voices.

I got a chance to speak to some of the ac­tors be­hind the scenes about the voice process. One such ac­tor was Erica Schroeder, from such leg­endary shows as Poké­mon, YuGi- Oh!, One Piece, Winx Club and Teenage Mu­tant Ninja Tur­tles.

In my last in­ter­view with her for An­i­ma­tion Mag­a­zine, she talked about how to find the emo­tional be­liev­abil­ity in even the most car­toony char­ac­ter, draw­ing on such clas­si­cally New York act­ing styles as Meis­ner.

But for the spe­cific craft of an­i­ma­tion voice act­ing, Schroeder looks to her tech­ni­cal train­ing as well.

Feel the Mu­sic Schroeder re­ceived a Bach­e­lor of Fine Arts in act­ing from New York Uni­ver­sity with a con­cen­tra­tion in mu­si­cal the­ater, and she says these skills help her im­mensely, help­ing her un­der­stand the mu­si­cal­ity of voice act­ing.

“If you ask any an­i­ma­tion voice di­rec­tor what types of per­form­ers they pre­fer to work with, I’d say 99 per­cent would say singers, mu­si­cal the­ater per­form­ers,” says Schroeder. Why? “Be­cause we un­der­stand mu­si­cal com­edy. It’s very sim­i­lar. It’s large. It’s a big type of per­for­mance.”

It’s this big, ex­pres­sive style that Schroeder brings to the sound booth. “I was a ‘swing’ on Broad­way in Jane Eyre, mean­ing I played eight dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, and some­times two or three of them were in the same show at al­most the same time.” Jump­ing in and out of cos­tumes, mu­si­cal numbers, and per­son­al­i­ties is the per­fect prepa­ra­tion for the fast-paced ef­fi­ciency that work in a sound booth de­mands, she says.

Talk­ing to Schroeder, it be­comes clear that there’s a pre­ci­sion and tech­ni­cal­ity that un­der­lies that kind of ex­pres­sive­ness. Just as there must be a real emo­tional ba­sis for ev­ery char­ac­ter, there’s also a tech­ni­cal ba­sis: dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter types have dif­fer­ent vo­cal ranges, tex­tures and res­o­nances. The techni- cal pre­ci­sion that mu­sic train­ing teaches helps the per­former in­stinc­tively rec­og­nize what dif­fer­ent pitches do for dif­fer­ent roles, and how to con­trol the res­o­nance of your voice to hit those pitches.

“There’s lots of dif­fer­ent ways you can mod­ify — you can make some­thing more nasal, you can make some­thing more chest res­o­nant,” Schroeder says, shift­ing reg­is­ters as she acts out dif­fer­ent voices. Trained voice ac­tors can switch at the drop of a hat be­tween chip­munk highs and whale-song lows. “You can make some­thing more scratchy or flutey; you can add tex­ture in so many dif­fer­ent ways – you can put the sound bi­lat­eral, for­ward, back.”

The Need for Speed Do­ing voices for a whole movie is a marathon — but that doesn’t mean a lit­tle sprint­ing can’t help. When I got to wit­ness the ac­tors work, on the rare oc­ca­sion a per­former was strug­gling in the booth, voice di­rec­tor Mike de Seve would of­ten in­struct them with the same piece of ad­vice: “just give me three quick ones in a row,” mean­ing three spon­ta­neous vari­a­tions on the line.

It’s a de­cep­tively sim­ple tech­nique, but it works on a few lev­els. First, speed’s es­sen­tial to com­edy — au­di­ences are more likely to laugh if they’re just keep­ing up with the char­ac­ters than if they’re wait­ing for the char­ac­ters to catch up with them. Sec­ond, the rapid de­liv­ery helps get ac­tors out of their heads, es­pe­cially if it’s a line that they’ve been mulling over or dis­cussing for a while, since con­flict­ing feed­back among the var­i­ous di­rec­tors and pro­duc­ers, as well as in­ter­nal de­lib­er­a­tion, can build up and cre­ate a block to nat­u­ral act­ing. And fi­nally, do­ing mul­ti­ple takes of the same line in suc­ces­sion en­cour­ages ac­tors to vary their de­liv­er­ies, giv­ing di­rec­tors a wide range of takes to choose from.

“I usu­ally let the ac­tor know what emo­tion the line is meant to con­vey, if they’re new to the scene, then let them in­ter­pret that,” says de Seve. “Then, if their per­for­mance feels close to what we were look­ing for, I of­fer a quick ad­just­ment, and they try again. Usu­ally that does the trick. If not, some­times we just sug­gest they freestyle and see what comes out, other times we’ll even do mi­cro­surgery, just ask­ing them to touch up a few words in the line, punch those in.”

Speak­ing to Schroeder in the stu­dio, I got a sense of the many con­cerns voice ac­tors have when ful­fill­ing a role. They have to adapt their voices to con­vey some­times dozens of dif­fer­ent and of­ten ridicu­lous char­ac­ters, but stay emo­tion­ally real for each one. And to keep up with the rapid pace of record­ing, they have to be able to pull out a voice or emo­tion at the drop of the hat, do it right, and turn around to do some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

It’s metic­u­lous pro­fes­sion­al­ism and stud­ied ex­per­tise, as well as wild ex­pres­sive­ness and the abil­ity to not take one­self too se­ri­ously, that help keep an ac­tor grounded so they can de­liver such vi­brant, mem­o­rable per­for­mances. Ba­boon An­i­ma­tion is a U.S.-based col­lec­tive of Os­car-nom­i­nated, multi-Emmy win­ning an­i­ma­tion writ­ers with cred­its on dozens of the most iconic an­i­mated shows world­wide.

236 films from 85 coun­tries made the cut for the 2016 of­fi­cial se­lec­tion. Women made 34 per­cent of short films in this year’s com­pe­ti­tion.

In com­pe­ti­tion: 9 fea­ture films 54 short films 28 TV se­ries/spe­cials 49 com­mis­sioned films 54 grad­u­a­tion films Out of com­pe­ti­tion: 11 fea­ture films 31 short films

Fes­ti­val Facts Michele Lemieux pays tribute to French an­i­ma­tion in the poster for this year’s fes­ti­val, the 31st edi­tion.

For the first time, the fes­ti­val will pay tribute to French an­i­ma­tion with 13 pro­grams and five doc­u­men­taries that will ex­plore the topic by look­ing at how it is per­ceived in var­i­ous places out­side of France.

A panel dis­cus­sion on French an­i­ma­tion from the 1980s through to­day is set for June 14 and will be based on Do­minique Puthod’s book Le Fes­ti­val in­ter­na­tional du film d’an­i­ma­tion: 50 ans d’une his­toire ani­mee. It will fea­ture speak­ers in­clud­ing Puthod, Jack Lang, Marc du Pon­tavice, Jac­ques Bled and Kristof Ser­rand.

When An­i­ma­tion and Ad­ver­tis­ing Col­lide is a spe­cial pro­gram that will in­clude a show­case of 75 years of an­i­mated ad­ver­tis­ing fea­tur­ing the works of Richard Wil­liams, Pierre Cof­fin, Nick Park and Bill Plymp­ton.

France’s tra­di­tion of col­lab­o­ra­tion with Korea will be spot­lighted with Seoul Sta­tion in the fea­ture film com­pe­ti­tion, as well as two pro­grams of short films from Korea and a look at the work-in-progress project The Shaman Sorcer­ess.

An hon­orary Cristal Award will be pre­sented to Di­dier Brun­ner, head of Fo­li­vari and pro­ducer of such films as Ernest & Ce­les­tine, Kirikou and The Triplets of Belleville.

The Red Tur­tle, with di­rec­tor Michael Du­dok de Wit (Open­ing Cer­e­mony); Bel­ladonna of Sad­ness, by Ei­ichi Ya­mamoto; Nerd­land, by Chris Prynoski; Louise, by Jean-François Laguionie; and Find­ing Dory, with di­rec­tor An­drew Stan­ton and pro­ducer Lind­say Collins.

Mas­ter­classes Bruno Coulais: The César-win­ning com­poser will talk about how to put a film­maker’s im­ages to mu­sic while pre­serv­ing your own mu­si­cal style.

Guillermo del Toro: The mas­ter film­maker will present his up­com­ing project Troll­hunters, a DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion se­ries com­ing this fall to Net­flix.

John Kric­falusi: The car­toon­ist who ush­ered in the cre­ator-driven car­toon era of the 1990s with Ren & Stimpy will pre­miere his Kick­starter-funded short Cans with­out La­bels and show other rarely seen car­toons he has di­rected.

Keynotes Peter Lord and David Sprox­ton, Aard­man An­i­ma­tions, U.K. Ea­monn But­ler, Ci­ne­site, U.K. An­thony Roux, Ankama, France

Mak­ing-of Pre­sen­ta­tions The Dorks, France Ro­bot Chicken, USA

Works in Progress TV: Sa­mu­rai Jack, The Big Bad Fox Fea­tures: White Fang, In This Cor­ner of the World, Trolls, Sa­hara, The Shaman Sorcer­ess, Zom­bil­le­nium, Funny Lit­tle Bugs. [

Spain, France — Pe­dro Rivero, Al­berto Vázquez

This fes­ti­val circuit hit is about two teens, Bird­boy and Dinky, who sur­vive the eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ter that dev­as­tated their is­land. Bird­boy is deeply af­fected by the death of his fa­ther and eaten away by angst. Dinky de­cides to take off on a risky jour­ney in the dark and hos­tile world and in­vites his bird friend to come along. The film re­vives the world of Bird­boy from a short that screened in com­pe­ti­tion at Annecy in 2011. South Korea — Sang-ho Yeon

Part of the fes­ti­val’s fo­cus on the an­i­ma­tion ties be­tween France and Korea, this tale brings the zom­bie phe­nom­e­non to an­i­ma­tion in a blend of hor­ror and so­cial re­al­ism. Yeon is slated to at­tend the fes­ti­val — his third ap­pear­ance at Annecy. Rus­sia — Maxim Volkov

Wizart’s most-re­cent fea­ture tells the tale of ri­val camps of an­i­mals who get a les­son in how to get along af­ter wolf leader Grey is mag­i­cally trans­formed into a ram. Read our in­ter­view with the pro­duc­ers on Page 28 of this is­sue of An­i­ma­tion Mag­a­zine. Canada — Ann Marie Flem­ing

Rosie Ming, a young Cana­dian poet, is in­vited to a poetry fes­ti­val in Shi­raz, Iran, where she is con­fronted by many truths about the fa­ther she thought aban­doned her as a small child. “It show­cases a lot of dif­fer­ent an­i­ma­tion styles and artists,” says film­maker Ann Marie Flem­ing, the in­de­pen­dent Cana­dian an­i­ma­tor best known for her Stick Girl al­ter ego. “It’s a very timely piece ... about im­mi­gra­tion, di­as­pora and the chang­ing tides of history. I think peo­ple are more in­ter­ested than ever in Ira­nian cul­ture. And the mes­sage of the film is uni­ver­sal, about un­der­stand­ing and ac­cep­tance.” [

(France) Direc- (Croa­tia/Ser­bia)

While the Annecy fes­ti­val and MIFA mar­ket cel­e­brate the best in new projects from around the globe, it’s hard to down­play the ma­jor role that French an­i­ma­tion plays. Cy­ber Group Stu­dios is one of the lead­ing pro­duc­tion houses in the coun­try, and this year has more projects of greater es­thetic di­ver­sity in the works than ever be­fore.

Ac­cord­ing to Chair­man and CEO Pierre Siss­mann, Cy­ber Group is in pro­duc­tion on four se­ries: sea­son three of Zou for Dis­ney, The Pi­rates Next Door for France Tele­vi­sions (based on the award-win­ning U.K. kids’ book by Jonny Dud­dle), Gil­bert & Al­lie (co-pro­duced with Ire­land’s Brown Bag Films and Dis­ney Chan­nel EMEA) and Mirette In­ves­ti­gates. The stu­dio will soon be­gin work on three other pro­duc­tions, in­clud­ing the sec­ond sea­son of Mini Ninjas in co-pro­duc­tion with TF1.

Mirette In­ves­ti­gates (52 x 11) is a 2D an­i­mated se­ries aimed at ages 6-10, which fol­lows a 10-year-old girl with a pas­sion for solv­ing mys­ter­ies, ac­com­pa­nied by her “catssis­tant” Jean-Pat. Broad­cast­ing part­ners in­clude TF1, VRT and TV Catalunya, and Cy­ber Group has teamed up with app de­vel­oper KD Pro­duc­tions to pro­duce an in­te­grated, in­ter­ac­tive se­ries. “It’s a very ex­cit­ing project, it’s the first time we’re do­ing this,” says Siss­mann. “Right now, we are in the mid­dle of pro­duc­tion of the se­ries and de­vel­op­ing the apps for the tablet, so that kids will be able to con­nect si­mul­ta­ne­ously.”

The Next Wave Cy­ber Group also has some 10 se­ries con­cepts in de­vel­op­ment, span­ning tar­get au­di­ences and an­i­ma­tion styles. One of these, En­chanted Sis­ters, will be in­tro­duced to se­lect broad­cast­ers at MIFA along­side Mirette. Siss­mann says the stu­dio will have a longer for­mat trailer to show — al­most a mini episode — and will also present the se­ries at Car­toon Fo­rum in Toulouse this Sep­tem­ber.

“It’s our first full, tra­di­tional 2D se­ries,” says Siss­mann. “It’s ab­so­lutely gor­geous.” The kids 5-8 tar­geted show is Cy­ber Group’s first col­lab­o­ra­tion with The Jim Hen­son Com­pany, and based on the lat­ter’s suc­cess­ful book se­ries. The Sis­ters are “na­ture’s roy­alty,” em­bod­i­ments of Spring, Sum­mer, Au­tumn and Win­ter who work with Mother Na­ture to cre­ate a har­mo­nious world. Siss­mann points out that while it’s a girl-driven se­ries, the En­chanted Sis­ters’ elemental friends even out the ap­peal.

“It’s re­ally about the boys and the girls get­ting to­gether and fig­ur­ing out the best way to have a de­cent en­vi­ron­ment and de­cent world, and ba­si­cally pass one sea­son to an­other, bal­anc­ing the equi­lib­rium of the planet,” Siss­mann says. “It’s a beau­ti­ful se­ries — lots of spe­cial ef­fects, lots of great sto­ries. You could say, a lit­tle bit of magic.”

An­other ex­cit­ing project that will de­but at mar­kets soon is Menino and the Chil­dren of the World, a co-pro­duc­tion with Di­dier Brun­ner’s Fo­li­vari that is be­ing di­rected by 2016 Os­car nom­i­nee Alê Abreu ( The Boy and the World). The an­i­ma­tion houses are work­ing with a to-be-an­nounced doc­u­men­tary film com­pany to cre­ate a 52 x 7 hy­brid se­ries that stars an an­i­mated char­ac­ter who trav­els the world to meet real chil­dren and find out about their unique ways of liv­ing.

Cy­ber Group is pre­par­ing a pi­lot episode in which the ad­ven­tur­ous Menino vis­its Siberia, which will def­i­nitely be ready by MIPCOM, says Siss­mann. In the first sea­son, he will make stops across Asia, Latin Amer­ica, North Amer­ica, Eu­rope and Africa. “Ba­si­cally, it’s an en­counter be­tween this char­ac­ter and var­i­ous chil­dren, so that we can show chil­dren of the world the di­ver­sity that ex­ists among other chil­dren who have other pre­oc­cu­pa­tions than they have, live dif­fer­ently, but nev­er­the­less are chil­dren,” he ex­plains, adding that Menino is Cy­ber Group’s first an­i­ma­tion/live-ac­tion hy­brid pro­duc­tion.

The com­pany will also be shop­ping its am­bi­tious CG Zorro The Chron­i­cles se­ries at MIFA. The swash­buck­ling show con­tin­ues to spread across the globe, hav­ing re­cently closed ma­jor deals with broad­cast­ers in China and the United States.

Grow­ing Strong While Siss­mann was not at lib­erty to dis­close all the de­tails of Cy­ber Group’s lat­est de­vel­op­ments, it’s clear that 2016 will go down as a ban­ner year for the stu­dio. “It’s a pretty ex­cit­ing time, be­cause we’ve never had so many se­ries in pro­duc­tion and so many se­ries in de­vel­op­ment,” says the long-time an­i­ma­tion pro.

“We are now go­ing from tra­di­tional 2D, to full CGI, to a mix­ture of 2D and 3D, to dif­fer­ent tech­niques in 2D, dif­fer­ent tech­niques in CGI, which en­ables us to re­ally give credit to the pro­duc­tions. At the be­gin­ning, you know, 10 years ago we started with only CGI and this was the only thing we knew how to do, and to­day to have a team which is ca­pa­ble of any­thing. … Of course, it has to fit broad­cast­ers’ needs, they have to like what we do, but we are not tamed by any tech­ni­cal is­sues.”

In ad­di­tion to work­ing hard to broaden Cy­ber Group’s tech­ni­cal and cre­ative horizons and win­ning over col­lab­o­ra­tors like Jim Hen­son Co., Brun­ner and Abreu, Siss­mann says an im­por­tant part of the stu­dio’s plan has been bring­ing an­i­ma­tion work back home. Cy­ber Group be­gan re-lo­cal­iz­ing pro­duc­tion of Zorro and Mini Ninjas three years ago. They cur­rently work with three French stu­dios: Blue Spirit and 2d3D in An­gouleme are work­ing on Pi­rates Next Door and Gil­bert & Al­lie, re­spec­tively, and Mont­pe­lier’s Dwarf Labs is tack­ling Zou sea­son three.

Cy­ber Group has also brought an­i­ma­tors in­house to han­dle some small parts of its pro­duc­tion — an ini­tia­tive it hopes to scale up as it con­tin­ues to grow and thrive. Siss­mann points out that all this is made eas­ier by re­cent reg­u­la­tions and in­cen­tives from the CNC.

“I’ve been long­ing to do this for quite some time. When I was at Dis­ney — you know, I cre­ated and ran the Walt Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion Eu­ro­pean stu­dio, where we had up to 500 an­i­ma­tors. And what had al­ways struck me was the qual­ity of French an­i­ma­tion, and the ded­i­ca­tion and the cre­ativ­ity of French an­i­ma­tion.” [

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