Magazine article Variety

Euros Make Room for Youth-Skewing Toons

Magazine article Variety

Euros Make Room for Youth-Skewing Toons

Article excerpt

After years of excelling with grown-up offerings, producers target family and preschool market

Among the diverse range of animated projects on display at Lyon's 15th Cartoon Movie will be fresh answers to Europe's perennial challenge: How to face off against Hollywood?

In recent years, Euro toon talents have competed by skewing older, developing adult-targeted titles on smaller budgets (among this year's offerings are Sylvain Chomet's "The Triplets of Belleville" prequel "Swing Popa Swing" and Patrice Leconte's "Music"). However, the new trend suggests a rise in highly artistic family-targeted toons, up 20% to 35 of the total 56 movies pitched to potential co-producers in Lyon. The lineup even features four pre-school pics - an unusually high number for a film type usually confined to TV, says Cartoon Movie director Annick Maes.

"This could be a year of more family and commercial projects, different films with highly interesting designs and graphics," says Cartoon director general Marc Vandeweyer.

"There are very few super projects just reeking of commercialism at Cartoon Movie," says Philip Einstein Lipski of Denmark's Einstein Film ("Ronal the Barbarian"). "In general, arthouse for adults isn't really flying."

As Cartoon Movie begins, a select group of family-oriented Euro toons are clicking at the box office.

By mid February, 3D turtle toon "Sammy's Adventures 2" had made $42.1 million worldwide, while Scandi sequel "Niko 2: Little Brother, Big Trouble" (screening at Cartoon Movie) earned $19.3 million. Also in Lyon, "Tad, the Lost Explorer" has made $24.6 million in native Spain, topping $40 million worldwide.

Of artier family fare, Benjamin Renner's 2D water-colored 2012 Cannes hit "Ernest and Celestine" debuted Dec. 12 in France to a $6.9 million mid-February score. Another Les Armateurs production, Michel Ocelot's "Kirikou and the Men and the Women," grossed $9. 1 million.

As the many examples in Lyon show, Europe's familytoon surge reps a broad range of subjects, settings and techniques. For example, "Mermere" is an underwater sci-fi fantasy produced by France's Les Productions du Lagon; Marius Zwolinski's "Fennec," from Poland's Animoon, a noirish crime thriller featuring a desert rat detective; and Einstein Film's comedy "SS Martha" turns on a rusty old coaster of sailor slackers. …

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