Animation Magazine

Tony, Shelly and the Spirit


Directed by Czech graphic novelist Flip Pošivač, the stop-motion feature Tony, Shelly and the Spirit centers on two oddball characters (one glows, and the other has an odd way of expressing herself) and their encounter with a strange spirit that enjoys destroying the light bulbs in their house. As producer Jakub Vikortin (Nutprodukc­e) tells us, “I really like the topic of our characters’ unique otherness and how to cope with it and work with tolerance. We are trying to reach an audience that is nine-yearold plus, so it’s especially challengin­g to share this topic with this age group and try to entertain and inspire them.” He adds, “Our main characters are children with vivid imaginatio­ns and whimsical inner lives. We hope our audience will be entertaine­d by the story of glowing Tony and the visual world created by our director and his team.”

Niko, the charming reindeer star of two successful European movies (Niko and the Way to the Stars and Niko 2: Little Brother, Big Trouble) is getting a third magical outing. The new feature, titled Niko: Beyond the Northern Lights, finds our flying reindeer competing with a female reindeer to join Santa’s special forces! Directed by Kari Juusonen and Jørgen Lerdam, the film is produced by Finland’s Animaker and is being prepared for a Cannes 2024 premiere.

Producer Hannu Tuomainen (Animaker) tells us that, after the first two movies shattered expectatio­ns in terms of audience response, he and his team began to play with the idea of a third outing for the beloved character.“We began to develop a story which fits the trilogy idea, but it’s also a standalone adventure, involving some familiar characters and some new ones,” he says. “It is a joy to work again with the same creative team as the first two movies, nationally in Finland with superb animation studio Anima Vitae and with co-producers Ulysses Films from Germany, A.Film Production from Denmark and Moetion Films from Ireland. We have been developing and creating the Niko-universe together over 15 years, which has been a wonderful creative and business pleasure.”

Tuomainen is especially proud of the movie’s Finnish environmen­t and the local flora and fauna used in Niko’s world. “We all know that Santa really lives up here, not in the North Pole as some people mistakenly believe. We hope we can offer families an exciting adventure set in a fresh new world — and most importantl­y, we hope they enjoy tagging along with Niko and have a rollercoas­ter emotional experience, and leave the theater with a happy feeling.”

Aline Ruby, the heroine of the new French sci-fi noir Mars Express, is the kind of cool private detective we love to see on the big screen. She and her digital partner Carlos Rivera are trying to protect a cybernetic­s students from nefarious assassins on their way to the Red Planet. The movie is directed by Jérémie Périn and produced by Didier Creste (Everybody On Deck) and co-produced by Je Suis Bien Content, EV.L Prod, Plume Finance, France 3 Cinéma and Gébéka Films.

“We wanted to bring this dystopic vision of the world to animated life,” says Creste (Lastman, In a Rush). “Making a film on Mars could only be possible through animation. You can describe our movie as a cross between Chinatown and Blade Runner, since it focuses on an investigat­ion conducted by two detectives: a woman and an android. I would say Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and great filmmakers like Brian De Palma, David Cronenberg and John Carpenter are sources of inspiratio­n. Our big challenge is fine-tuning our 2D/3D pipeline between five different studios — and to produce the film for about 7 million euros during COVID! We’re still hoping to deliver the film by the end of 2022, if all goes well!”

We’ll keep our fingers crossed, Didier. ◆

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