Animationweek a global creative hub Mon, 14 May 2018 14:36:49 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 “Der Traumzauberbaum” Mon, 14 May 2018 14:36:25 +0000 Der Traumzauberbaum

(Status: in development)


In a magical forest, there stands a tree that grows dreams as its leaves. Two lovable wood sprites live in harmony in the treetop, until a cootie arrives and turns everything upside down. The tree’s inhabitants will need to team up to prevent a catastrophe and save the dreams.

Der Traumzauberbaum (The Magical Dream-Tree)
Director: Theresa Strozyk
Authors: Monika Ehrhardt-Lakomy (Adaptation from Der Traumzauberbaum by Monika Ehrhardt-Lakomy)
Producer: Anna Guddat (Schiwago Film GmbH, Germany)
Format: Feature 70’
Target audience: Family Entertainment
Technique: 3D digital

Animationweek attended Animation Production Day (a part of The Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film 2018) this year for the first time. 48 animation projects were selected and over 700 pre-planned, one-to-one meetings were conducted to find co-production partners, distributors, and broadcasters.

I was able to meet an aspiring film project Der Traumzauberbaum and hear about it from the producer, Anna Guddat and the director, Theresa Strozyk.

Der Traumzauberbaum is a film project based on very famous narrative songs of the same name in Germany, which were released in 1981. Since then, the story has been catching the hearts of a lot of children and their parents for a long time, not only in Germany but also in other European countries, such as Switzerland, Austria and Poland. The LP/CD of the narrative songs has sold over five million copies in Europe. Live stage shows based on the songs are constantly sold out. Lots of kindergartens and primary schools are named after Der Traumzauberbaum characters.

Interview with Anna Guddat and Theresa Strozyk

Hideki Nagaishi: How did the project start?

Anna Guddat: Like a gift from the heavens, the author of the original, Moni Lakomy, gave us the rights to put her work on the big screen. Since Theresa and I were both raised with these beautiful songs, we had easy access to this content. We are happy and proud to work on this cute, little universe of the magical tree and its inhabitants, and we enjoy every moment we spend on Der Traumzauberbaum.

Hideki Nagaishi: Could you please let us know about the story and main characters of the original songs, briefly?

Theresa Strozyk: The original story of the record features two wood spirits as the main characters who take care of the leaves of the tree, which are the dreams. They have a magical tuning fork that can activate the leaves and make the dreams fly to their receiver, the children. Each leaf contains a song, and each song tells an individual story, featuring many funny characters.

The script needs to integrate the well-known songs into the story of the two wood spirits. The original story already held the passage of the two wood spirits angering the grumpy cloud shepherd, who is responsible for the rain and the little river. Consequently, the magical tree is running out of water and once it runs out, all its colorful leaves – the dreams – will dry up and turn into nightmares. The two wood spirits have to soothe the cloud shepherd to get the rain back and save the magical tree. Respecting nature and the environment are themes which are becoming more and more prominent these days.

Hideki Nagaishi: Will the film follow the original story faithfully, or will some original elements be added to the film?

Anna Guddat: The original creators of Der Traumzauberbaum produced as of now four sequels, and within the sequels and the live stage performances, a new heroine was added to the story: Agga Knack, the wild dream cootie, which is massively popular with the audience. Since she wasn’t part of the original story of 1981, we wished to add her to the script, as she brings in great potential as an antagonist. This influenced the entire dramatic composition of the original story.

Hideki Nagaishi: How are you developing the visuals for the film?

Theresa Strozyk: We can start from scratch, because the story of Der Traumzauberbaum has never been featured in a children’s book or any movie. We don’t have to consider any older designs for our characters. There is the very well-known cover of the record, and we will take that into consideration, but apart from that, there are no visuals that we have to follow, so we can create a unique world for our movie.

We would like to combine 2D and 3D animation. The tree and the wood spirits will be done in 3D animation; we are very excited to create the inside of the treetop, the living space of the two wood spirits. And of course, creating the wood spirits will be a lot of fun. The songs will be showing a different artistic style, as we are planning to use 2D techniques to make the dreamworld stand out.

Hideki Nagaishi: What is the unique selling point of the project?

Anna Guddat: That is for sure the quality of the songs, which are, by now, handed over to the third generation. Not only by composition, but also by the quality of the lyrics. They prove that, by still being played in kindergartens and kids spaces throughout Germany, they didn’t lose a single bit of charm within the past 40 years!

Theresa Strozyk: I think the idea that there is a magical tree that grows dreams is very poetic and very unique. Its a surprise that it has not already been done before in an animated movie. And of course, animation and music are always a winning combination.

Hideki Nagaishi: Could you please let us know what stage your project is at now? And what kind of support, such as co-production partner or distributor, are you looking for?

Anna Guddat: We are in the script development. We guess we need one more draft before being able to access development funding. We would like to find regional partners for character and set design. Later, we are aiming to access media funding to finance the teaser for marketing and financing reasons. We already have our distributor attached, and we are currently negotiating with other partners from the industry.

Hideki Nagaishi: Could you please let us know the attractiveness of APD from your experience?

Anna Guddat: APD is a great experience, because access to the players of the industry is so efficient. Also, coming from live action, I am overwhelmed by the very smooth atmosphere within this convention. We fully enjoy participating at APD!

Final Space: an Epic Sci-Fi Comedy Wed, 09 May 2018 17:20:13 +0000

Final Space, a new sci-fi comedy that started airing in North America in February, will come to Germany on 15th May. The show was created by independent filmmaker Olan Rogers, and is based on the YouTube series Gary Space, also created by Olan. The series was co-developed with David Sachs. Conan O’Brien is participating as one of executive producers and voice actors. His company, Conaco, is listed as a production company.

Final Space is a new comedy about the adventures of Gary, a space-faring commander (but actually, he is a prisoner) and his sidekick Mooncake, a very cute alien with the ability to destroy planets. Together, along with many other characters they will meet, they will unravel the mystery of the end of the universe.

Creator Olan Rogers and actor Coty Galloway (voice actor of Avocato) visited the 25th Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film, one of the biggest animation festivals in the world. The Animationweek editorial team could have the precious opportunity to hear behind the story of the hot new animated series. I’m excited to share their words with you.

Left: Olan Rogers; Right: Coty Galloway

Interview with Olan Rogers and Coty Galloway

Trayton Scott: Where did the initial idea of the show come from?

Olan Rogers: It started off as a proof-of-concept on YouTube, and essentially we worked on it for about 5 months. Before that, the inception of the idea was another little YouTube series called Gary Space, and that was back in 2010. Essentially, from that proof-of-concept, we brought on a producing partner Conaco, which was Conan O’Brien’s company, and they essentially came on as those producing partners, and we were able to come up with a pitch and take it out, and the rest is history.

Trayton Scott: How did Conan O’Brien get involved with the show?

Olan Rogers: Apparently, I guess an intern or one of his people that worked at his company was just up really late at night, Kramer I believe, and he saw Final Space. He sent an email to Conan’s 2 executive producers that oversee a lot of original content, and apparently this guy just never talks, so it was a rare occurrence that he would even send an email, so they’re like: “Oh, I guess we’ll have to check this out.” The moment they checked it out, it was when they came on board.

Trayton Scott: How did you gather the initial crew for the show?

Olan Rogers: The cast side of it was pretty fluid. It was the moment we got Fred Armisen, who was on Portlandia and Saturday Night Live, everybody else just came on board. We put out what was essentially an offer, and they accepted it. The crew was gathered from a lot of BoJack Horsemen storyboarders and directors, just because it is done under the same company named ShadowMachine, so it was just through them, that they pulled all their talent that works with them.

Coty Galloway: I’ll go on record saying this: David Sachs and Olan Rogers did an excellent job creating these amazing scripts, so I think the excellent cast that came on and read these great scripts, had said: “Well, I got to be attached to that in some way”. That’s my theory.

Thinking as an actor, how other actors may think, would be that when you see these amazing things, you gotta be a part of it somehow. I really think that they read something spectacular, and the scripts are really good, if you get the chance to read it, I hope you can, because it is a blessing.

Trayton Scott: How was the original pilot on YouTube put together?

Olan Rogers: A digital company, New Form, is funding a lot of online creators’ passion projects, and they gave me about $20,000, which was the smallest amount, out of the pool that they gave money to all the creators, because they didn’t think animation was going to do anything for them. We ended up taking that budget and basically farming it out to this Australian animation company called Studio Joho, and it is these two Australian guys, who are so talented, but they had never done anything like this. It took a little bit of telling them exactly what I wanted to do. After we did that, they immediately got it and they knocked it out of the park.

Trayton Scott: You have made some original YouTube shorts, what was it like transitioning to working in a TV series?

Coty Galloway: Amazing! I started off as an actor in the YouTube realm. It’s a great avenue, for creating things, and Olan being a major creator in the field of it, it’s definitely a bigger-picture type mindset. You start things, you’re having fun, you’re creating your own things, you start to see the bigger picture, you want the growth and the progression, it’s all work. There’s not a lot of money in that thing, but you gain knowledge and wisdom in how to do things, how to fail, how to get up. Especially as an actor, you see a lot of different things, and now I’ve been fortunate enough to grow and progress and grow in my career, seeing the TV side of everything. I learned a ton, so I’m very blessed to get to work with a guy like Olan Rogers.

Olan Rogers: Well I did online for a decade or more. That’s always been the game plan, to get off online into TV. With YouTube, you have nobody giving you notes, you don’t really have to impress anybody except for yourself. With TV, you have executives, you have the network, you have the company… It’s a whole production, and it’s a monster, so in that aspect, it’s more compromised. You’re compromising a little bit here and there to basically take everybody’s insight.

Coty Galloway: Coming from YouTube to now being on TNT comedy, 11pm, May 15th, in Germany! It’s quite amazing, right?

Trayton Scott: What is the process in coming up with the gags in the show?

Olan Rogers: Usually when we’re writing, the best joke wins. A lot of it is inspiration from movies, whatever makes us laugh, and we put a gag or a spin on that. it essentially just what makes us laugh.

Coty Galloway: Like Mooncake!

Trayton Scott: I think the series had great action sequences. Who is/are the key people behind the action sequences?

Olan Rogers: First off, that started off in the writing phase, so we had to essentially write what those action scenes were, and from there, the storyboarders would take it and put their spin on it, and the directors would do a pass, and then we would send it out to Jam Filled, and they would animate the thing. It’s so many steps, not just one person did just the action scenes, it was probably 100 more people doing each action scene.

Trayton Scott: Do you have any advice you would like to give to creators who wishes to create an animated series?

Olan Rogers: It’s essentially persistence, and making what you always wanted to see. For Final Space, it was something that I always wanted to see, which was this early Toonami or Dragon Ball Z reboot. Making something that had a continuous story and you saw these characters grow, but had genuine emotion, and heart, and action, and comedy and drama. I think that doesn’t need to be every cartoon. you can have these absurd, hilarious cartoons, you can have anime, and all that stuff. That’s the beauty of animation, it’s as big as your imagination. Just dream big and go for it!

Coty Galloway: Never give up. Persistence outweighs resistance.

What is CARTOON 360? Fri, 04 May 2018 11:35:49 +0000 The fifth edition of CARTOON 360 will take place from 28th to 30th May 2018 at Le Palais de la Bourse in Lille, France. CARTOON 360 is a pitching event for animation producers who wish to develop their animation projects into a transmedia brand. Producers will be able to pitch their transmedia animation project in front of a panel of 30 experts from various digital industries, and receive feedback from them.

Animationweek will attend CARTOON 360 as press this year for the first time. To learn more about CARTOON 360, we interviewed Yolanda Alonso, CARTOON 360 director, via email.

Interview with Yolanda Alonso

Animationweek: How and why did CARTOON 360 start?

Yolanda Alonso: CARTOON 360 started in 2014 as it became clear that more and more animation projects were presented at the Cartoon Forum and the Cartoon Movie with a cross-media approach. We also know that animation companies which develop brands rather than single projects have a stronger market position, and going digital and cross-media is a brand necessity.

So we felt there was a need to launch a new event to help producers focus on the multi-platform strands of their animation projects.

To accelerate the development of these projects in terms of content, production and financing, animation producers also need to be able to meet players of the creative and multi-platform industries who were looking to co-develop such projects and bring expertise to them on these new digital markets.

So the event, conceived for animation producers as the next step after the Cartoon Forum and Cartoon Movie, also quickly welcomed newcomers to the animation industry and players of other sectors wishing to work with animation professionals on the larger exploitation of animation brands.

We were lucky to meet the support of Creative Europe/MEDIA Programme and of other public national institutions to launch the first event in 2014 in Munich, then for 3 years in Barcelona and now for 4 years in Lille in the Region Hauts-de-France.

Animationweek: What outcomes has CARTOON 360 achieved?

Yolanda Alonso: 

  • The need to meet and exchange on how animation producers can bring their transmedia properties on a multi-content, multi-platform and multi-format market which is not evolving, global in terms of audiences but limited in terms of financing.
  • An understanding that producers need to determine the first entry point (main platform) for their brand to develop stories across the other ones with a strategy in mind as all platforms have their own ecosystem
  • An understanding that producers need to ‘tick’ less platforms to devote more time on a limited number of chosen ones
  • An understanding that producers need to create partnerships with actors from these other platforms as they don’t have the time nor knowledge to do that themselves. That’s why the experts’ value at Cartoon 360 is high.
  • The consolidation of a growing and very participative network of experts coming from interactive writing, game development, digital publishing, broadcasting and financing
  • A greater diversity than we expected in the projects submitted in terms of content, format and audiences where TV or film is not necessarily the first entry point into the property; hence the need to enlarge the expertise fields
  • The presence of more broadcasters and their digital departments every year as they remain the main financiers of animation programmes with public funders
  • The presence this year of more VR and AR projects than before and private financiers who are interested in animation as a growth sector

Animationweek: What information or knowledge can animation producers who pitch their projects gain from Cartoon 360?

Yolanda Alonso: Each project is assigned 5 experts who prior to the event work on the content and platform indicated in each file: to improve, provide solutions and practical advice to reach the producer’s objectives. The experts’ input is communicated back to the producers who in turn can embed these comments in their final and public presentation at the event. So producers can collect quite a lot of very valuable and practical information to go ahead with their project with the ‘missing links’ hopefully filled by the feedback received from experts. They can improve the content creatively and understand quickly where their present project lies in its many developments. They can then re-adjust.

Then on site and just following their pitch, an interactive session takes place between the producer and his/her 5 experts. It’s a time of exchange and more focused panel talks.

A novelty this year is that the producers who come and pitch will benefit from some Extra Time (as in the Cartoon Forum and Cartoon Movie) of 30 minutes after their pitch. This space and time are given to help producers prolong their exchanges with the other experts in attendance and the participants who hopefully can come forward with partnership opportunities.

Another novelty is that we will also ask all the experts and financiers attending the event to ‘assess’ the project as it was pitched to them: strengths, weaknesses, and the way forward.

Additionally, any participant whether she/he comes to pitch or just as simple participant can discover these new animation transmedia programmes, and start forging professional links. It’s a platform where animation producers meet digital stakeholders.

Animationweek: How are you selecting the experts from various digital industries and what kind of advice or support will they provide for producers?

Yolanda Alonso: They are key to the event, and we are able to select ‘the best’, because of our extensive contact base within the industry – we are 30 years old! And because of our exchanges at our own events (7 a year) and other professional events we attend.

A few experts and producers also recommend other experts.

We try and renew one third of the experts each year, but need to keep a hard core of experts, very familiar with the projects and market demands as we need to make the event evolve too.

In terms of support, please see above. Often, they tend to bring down the number of platform choices, talk of how audiences are consuming digital programmes and what they will pay for them (apps, games, books), give creative input to content and help find ways to secure finance and partnerships.

Animationweek: What kinds of animation producers or projects do you want to have attend CARTOON 360?

Yolanda Alonso: Our policy is to welcome any producer or digital stakeholder to Cartoon 360, whether they have a 360 degree project to pitch, or a project they wish to develop but are not sure as to how and with whom!

We strongly encourage overlapping sectors from video games, apps, publishing, licensing and merchandising, AR and VR, to attend, meet and discuss opportunities to create new transmedia programmes for audiences of any age.

The future is now and Europe can aggregate all the talent and money needed to achieve a leading position in this field.

Animationweek: If the main animation project is progressing well, would the producer attend CARTOON 360, even though their transmedia projects are at a very early stage, like having no business partners who develop transmedia content? Or are there any policies about when producers can apply for CARTOON 360, depending on the progress of the project?

Yolanda Alonso: As we said, it is still in the early stages, so any animation project at any stage can submit as long as the project is developed on at least 2 distinct platforms. However, for the added value of experts’ advice to be fully effective, projects need to include enough material for them to be able to give meaningful insights.

The objective of Cartoon 360 is also to help producers find business partners at the event, among experts, and other professionals in attendance (200 altogether).

All this takes time but hopefully some of the projects presented at the event were completed.

Animationweek: Could you please let us know your future vision of CARTOON 360?

Yolanda Alonso: Our objective is to help producers accelerate the transition of their animation projects from linear to digital. Our proposal is to ‘coach’ them along the way from project acceptance to public presentation at Cartoon 360.

We also want them to find the right partners for their transmedia animation programmes and create co-productions and partnerships with other stakeholders that can help them finance and reach platform exploitation.

We also wish to have more financiers attend the event and are very happy that the Investment Fund from La Fabrique des Formats has chosen Cartoon 360 to reward 2 projects with development/pilot aid of between 25000 to 50000 EUR each.

ITFS 2018: Award Winners Wed, 02 May 2018 09:33:16 +0000 The 25th Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film (ITFS 2018) ended on 30th April.This year, the number of visitors totaled about 95,000 across the venues of ITFS. You can find the winners of diverse competitions.

Award Winners

International competition

Grand Prix: Cat Days (Germany, Japan 2017)
Director: Jon Frickey
Producers: Jon Frickey, Takashi Horiguchi

Lotte Reiniger Award for animation film

Enough (UK 2017)
Director: Anna Mantzaris
School: Royal College of Art

Enough © Anna Mantzaris


On Happiness Road (Taiwan 2017)
Director: Hsin-Yin Sung
Producer: Sylvia Feng
Production: On Happiness Road Productions Ltd.

Tricks for Kids Shorts

Coco’s Day (Russia 2017)
Director: Tatiana Moshkova
Producers: Mikhail Aldashin, Boris Mashkovtsev

Tricks for Kids Series (national)

Animanimals – Sloth (Germany, 2018)
Director: Julia Ocker
Production: Studio FILM BILDER

Tricks for Kids Series (international)

Hey Duggee – The Tadpole Badge (UK 2016)
Director: Grant Orchard
Production: Studio Aka

Young Animation – Award for the best student film

Sog (Germany 2017)
Director: Jonatan Schwenk
Producer: Jonatan Schwenk
School: Kunsthochschule Kassel

The FANtastic Prize

Oh Mother! (Poland 2017)
Director: Paulina Ziolkowska
Producers: Piotr Furmankiewicz, Mateusz Michalak
Production: FUMI STUDIO
School: The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School – Lodz Film School

Amazon Audience Award

Hybrids (France 2017)
Directors: Florian Brauch, Matthieu Pujol, Kim Tailhades, Yohan Thireau, Romain Thirion
School: MoPA

SWR Audience Award

Negative Space (France 2017)
Directors: Ru Kuwahata, Max Porter
Producers: Edwina Liard, Jean-Louis Padis, Nidia Santiago
Production: Ikki Films

Trickstar Business Award

Project “House of Broken Hearts”
Production: Studio Pupil (The Netherlands)

The next Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film will take place from 30th April to 5th May, 2019.

You can find more information from the official Festival website linked below.

La Poudrière: the world renowned animation school specialized in directing animated films Tue, 01 May 2018 14:32:59 +0000

La Poudrière, an animation school located in Valence, France, and created by the animation studio Folimage, is one of the most prestigious animation schools in the world, which uniquely offers courses aimed at those who would like to be animation directors. Their educational program is distinctively developed to meet the needs of those who wish to become directors of animated films, as well as animation studios that want talented people who can start directing right away. To name a few, renowned graduates include Remi Chayé, (the director of Long Way North) and Benjamin Renner (the director of Ernest and Célestine and Le grand méchant renard et autres contes, César 2018 for best animated feature film).

Their tailored program meeting personal needs and the focus on storytelling is one of the distinguishing features of the school. Because of the rigorous selection, the number of students who are admitted to the course is very limited, with an average of nine students per year. Selected students have great artistic diversity. They are given plenty of opportunities to flourish their potentials and artistic talents in the two years at La Poudrière.

Students are asked to work in similar conditions as professionals in their two years at the school. For example, they are given different constraints that you would have in real life, such as a firm deadlines, themes, and techniques. Emphasis on storytelling in the course program would help students direct a film that would reach the heart of the audience. This is why graduates are equipped to start their professional career as film directors, right after graduating the school, and are regarded as indispensable talents in the industry.

I sat together with Annick Teninge, the director of the school, to learn about the the history, the uniqueness of the school, and how they are nurturing talents for the future animation industry. Also, I learn from Laurent Pouvaret how the teaching staff are carefully selected to meet each student’s needs.

Annick Teninge

Laurent Pouvaret

Created from the idea of Jacques-Rémy Girerd

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you please give us the background story of La Poudrière? How was it all started?

Annick Teninge (AT): La Poudrière is a very unusual school, since it was created on the initiative of a production company – Folimage – not by the State or by private or commercial companies.

It was the idea of Jacques-Rémy Girerd, who set up his studio Folimage over 30 years ago. He decided to create this school because back then, at the Folimage studio, there were lots of young talent who came, like Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Félicioli and others, who would work in the studio when the first TV series were being made. Alongside their work on the series, they would continue to learn the work of a film director by making short films.

But then, the animation industry became much more developed in the 80s in Europe and especially in France, thanks to all sorts of economic reasons and financial support, etc. The production activity became much more compact. Jacques-Rémy Girerd realized there was no more time to train new directors properly. The system of apprenticeship, whereby you would learn the job with your senior, was no longer possible in such fast production cycles.

There were great schools in France – there still are, schools with a great reputation such as Les Gobelins, Supinfocom for 3D, and others. But there was no school where you could specialize in directing films. That’s how La Poudrière was born more than 15 years ago.

The starting point was to create an international school, or at least, a European school, with few students. We have, on average, nine new students per year, people who have already been trained in animation techniques.

Also, it’s a school with a further education status, so that aside students on an initial training, professionals are able to go back to school as trainees receiving vocational education.

Learning every aspect of directing an animated film

HN: Could you please describe what the uniqueness of the school is?

AT: The uniqueness of our school is the fact that students get an opportunity to study the art of animation filmmaking, full-time. They work very hard for two years, focusing on learning storytelling, writing, staging, editing, music and sound design. By the time they graduate, they have a real head start, as they’re able to manage complex projects and to contribute to the quality of French animation.

During the two years, we have a very structured curriculum, but we make sure we don’t impose standards. We don’t have any teachers here. There is a head of studies, Laurent, who comes up with a curriculum and then, we bring in professionals. Our students get to meet around 80 different professionals throughout the year. So there is no format.

And this is why we only have nine students per year. That way, they get very personal training, even if they are all following the same curriculum.

Another thing which distinguishes us as a school, is that right from the start, we focus heavily on storytelling. This doesn’t mean that we’re not interested in experimental films and more original formats, but simply we consider that learning to direct requires a strong knowledge of how to tell a story – even if it isn’t told in a traditional way – and then seeing that you can move the audience with the way you direct. Students can move on to more experimental films later, but to start with, we want to make sure they learn the basics.

The first year of the school

HN: How is the school course structured?

AT: The first and second years are very different. Basically, we have three terms per year. Unlike the French educational calendar, which is peppered with holidays, we start in September, stop for Christmas. We then have a break in April and wrap up in July. So that’s three blocks.

The first term: working on different skill sets

AT: The first term of the first year is devoted to doing lots of very short exercises.  Since people are coming from very different backgrounds, they don’t necessarily all have the same skill set, so we break down the job of a director into small chunks. For example, they’ll spend two days doing an exercise in animation, then two days doing sound work, another couple of days working on editing, sound recording, filming actors to learn about framing, etc. We come up with all sorts of exercises, which gradually gives them a clearer understanding of each and every aspect of the job as a film director.

The second term: making a one minute film in professional working conditions

AT: In the second term, they get to make their first film. They’re required to apply what they’ve learnt during the first term and need to keep their film to one minute maximum. Since we are training them for the professional world, if their film isn’t finished within the allocated time, they have to stop and move on to the next exercise.

From the very beginning, we try to prepare them to professional working conditions. Unless you have a patron, you’re always going to have to work around a set of constraints. These are the conditions we’re preparing them for. So there is a framework for each exercise – either a theme, the length of the film, the planning, or technical constraints – they must learn to follow the rules right from the very beginning. But within that framework, they have a lot of artistic freedom. They can select the technique they want to use, the way they want to tell the story, their genre, as long as they follow the set of constraints.

We set a different theme each year. Last year, it was “A window into the future”. This year, it’s “Monsters”. If a film has a strong narrative, it’s easier to tell if the direction works. Do the viewers understand the story? That’s the initial phase. The next step is to figure out whether the story has moved them.

We give them technical means for their films and ask them to present a dossier, so we can green-light their projects. Then, they work on the schedule, the budget with Laurent, who supervises them – they get an allocation for technical support with compositing, for example, or a director of photography if there’s a lot of volume (puppet films), or an editor as it’s compulsory for their films to be edited by a professional, and to fit into the one minute allocation.

If they go over one minute, we just cut. They’re responsible for the way they use the budget. They can choose to use it for music, compositing, etc. but they know it’s limited. They have to make the most of it.

learning scenes

learning scenes

The third term: experiencing co-production

AT: After this second term, it’s a complete shift. We go back to the writing process. We open up to outside candidates for applications from Europe – we’re linked to European programs. At this point, we return to the writing process, after having experimented with film and we get participants to focus on another format than the short. This is when they first get to work on series.

HN: What do you mean when you say the applications are open to outside candidates? Is it for funding?

AT: For this program in particular, we get funding from MEDIA who offer financial support for mobility. So we host young European professionals who are interested in learning how to make series. They work in groups to develop series concepts.

HN: Are the projects ever completed?

AT: That’s not the aim. We’re really here to train, so it’s very different. It’s all about team work. We only get them to work on the very early stages of development since they have little time. There’s no production involved. It’s about focusing on writing and concept development. We mix nationalities. You’ll see, there are four groups here. Two of them are working in French, and the other two in English. Each group works on two exercises. One is to adapt a children’s book into a TV special. The other consists in early stage development of a concept for a TV series based either on a children’s book or on an original idea.

Participants have three weeks to write the screenplay for the TV special – that’s what they’re finishing this week. Then, they have seven weeks to work on the concept. If anyone lacks interest in any of the projects, we’ll try to come up with another project, but generally participants are very interested in these exercises, so we mix the two.

They work in French and in English.

They work on a TV special as if they were in the industry. A normal format would last 26 minutes, but it’s much too ambitious for them, so we ask them to produce a 13 minute special.

HN: So, in the third term, they would focus on a 13 minute TV special for three weeks, then for seven weeks, on a TV series concept which could be the adaptation of a book or an original idea.

AT: For this project, we work with a Danish school, the Animation Workshop in Viborg.

HN: That’s one of the schools they collaborate with in the third term.

AT: We wanted this project to feel like our students were part of a European coproduction. So at one point, once they’ve developed the concept a little, each group selects a representative who goes off to Viborg for a week to supervise the animation that the students out there produce over the course of a week. Now, that’s particularly interesting because they need to learn to communicate from a distance and to prepare the work in advance. That’s something they haven’t done so far because they have been working alone on shorts.

“The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily” Mon, 23 Apr 2018 15:14:21 +0000 The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily

(Status: in production)

The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily
Director: Lorenzo Mattotti
Authors: Thomas Bidegain,
Jean-Luc Fromental & Lorenzo Mattotti (Adaptation from La Famosa invasione degli orsi in Sicilia by Dino Buzzati)
Producers: Valérie Schermann & Christophe Jankovic (Prima Linea Productions, France)
Co-Producers: Nicola Giuliano (Indigo Film, Italy) / Aurélie Rouvière (France 3 Cinéma, France)  / Pathé films (France)
Target audience: Family
Technique: 2D digital / 3D digital


Tonio, the son of the King of the bears, is being kidnapped by some hunters in the Sicilian mountains. King Leonce decides to invade the land of men and finally succeeds finding his son. But bears are not meant to live in the land of men…

The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily was the project which gathered the most interest from attendees in Cartoon Movie 2018. It is a fascinating new film project based on an old Italian childrens book written and illustrated by a historically famous, multi-talented Italian artist Dino Buzzati. Lorenzo Mattotti, a famous Italian comic artist as well as an illustrator, is writing and directing the film. You can find Lorenzo’s illustrations in some back issues of famous magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Vogue, The New Yorker, Le Monde and Vanity Fair. We could hear the story behind the attractive project from the producer, Valérie Schermann.

Interview with Valérie Schermann

Animationweek: Could you please briefly let us know the attractiveness and uniqueness of this film for our global audience?

Valérie Schermann: The story by Buzzati has not aged at all, because it fundamentally is based on the relationship between father and son, and is also an ecological fable. It is a realistic awakening of the world, so it is serious, funny and marvelous at the same time. The drawings by Mattotti are very powerful, and we feel it is universal. Every child in the world could enjoy this film, regardless of their cultural background.

Animationweek: When and how did you decide to make a film based on the book that was published in 1945?

Valérie Schermann: It was nearly 10 years ago, when Lorenzo Mattotti mentioned to us that if he made a film of the book, it would be this one. We began work on this project in 2013, once Mrs. Buzzati, with a lot of enthusiasm, granted us the adaptation rights, as a result of her conversations with Lorenzo.

Animationweek: The visuals you showed us during your presentation were really great and I could imagine that the completed film would guide us to a captivating fantasy world. How are you developing such attractive visuals of the universe of the film?

Valérie Schermann: The images in the film were based upon Buzzati’s own drawings. Mattotti wanted to pay tribute to the original visuals. Then the team in our studio, who made The Red Turtle (2016), took on the preparation work from Mattotti, and with him, developed an exceptional visual universe.

Animationweek: In the film, there are some original characters, who don’t appear in the book. Could you please briefly let us know the process of making those new characters?

Valérie Schermann: In the book, there is a narrator who brings a lot to the story, but we could not incorporate a voice-over throughout the entire film, therefore the script writers created a minstrel character, accompanied by a little girl. They seek shelter in a cave for the night, but they wake up an old bear, to whom they will tell the famous story about the Invasion of the Bears in Sicily. Everything which happens in the cave was invented by us for the film.

Animationweek: What stage your project is at now? And what kind of support, such as co-production partner or sales agent or distributor, are you looking for?

Valérie Schermann: We are ready to finish the animation and will deliver the film in March 2019. Our international distributor, Wild Bunch, will start selling the film to the next Cannes Festival 2018.

“The Extraordinary Voyage of Marona” Fri, 20 Apr 2018 05:14:41 +0000 The Extraordinary Voyage of Marona

(Status: in production)

The Extraordinary Voyage of Marona
Director: Anca Damian
Anghel Damian
Anca Damian (Aparte Film, Romania)
Co-Producers: Ron Dyens (Sacrebleu Productions, France) / Tomas Layers (Minds Meet, Belgium)
Target audience: Family
Technique: 2D digital / 3D digital / Drawing / Painting


A victim of an accident, a small female dog is remembering her life, and her different masters that she has unconditionally loved. With her unfailing empathy, her story is a contemporary tale of love.

The Extraordinary Voyage of Marona is an animated film project that invites you to a very unique and fantastical visual world. It was pitched during Cartoon Movie 2017 and returned to Cartoon Movie 2018 with new visuals. They showed some animations, which were work-in-progress, and all of them were very impressive. The movement of characters, composition, and camera work of each scene are totally free from the rules of our real world. I felt that I could dive into Marona’s story and her experiences more deeply and directly. The completed film will be promising. I heard from Anca Damian, the author, director and producer of The Extraordinary Voyage of Marona about how this fascinating animation is developing.

Interview with Anca Damian

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Where did the initial idea of the story come from?

Anca Damian: The story was inspired by a true story: I saved a female dog, who actually is now named Marona, in 2014 in the streets of Bucharest, Romania. I tried to find someone who would foster her, as I have a male dog and she was in that period where she could get pregnant. She is a very special dog and changed every family where she was kept for some weeks. I was doing my film The Magic Mountain (2015) at that time, so that I was very busy and needed to travel a lot and also take care of my dog. But I couldn’t disappoint her, so I really took care of her till she was adopted (and even afterwards). This experience is the source of the script for The Extraordinary Voyage of Marona. The script was written with the huge help of my son, Anghel Damian.

HN: How did you develop the whole story with many interesting characters and very original artistic visuals?

Anca Damian: The ingredients for my story which I believe are emotion and humor. The animators of our project told me after they know me that I always break the drama with a joke, such as with life, and is paradoxical for me.

Regarding to the visuals, I approached Brecht Evens, who could define the characters with his strong visual style. Brecht introduced me to Gina Thorstensen and Sarah Mazzetti, two brilliant illustrators, who are working on the backgrounds of the film now. Except for Gina, who has worked as visual artist for music clips, Brecht and Sarah hadn’t had any experience of working on animation. So, they are bringing a fresh visual approach to this film with their fantastic individual talent.

I always work with a visual concept and references, but while collaborating with true big artists, I always receive more from their touch and… That can’t be explained in words. But it is just brilliant.

HN: Could you please let me know how are you developing very unique actions of characters, screen compositions and camera actions? Those are really fantastic.

Anca Damian: My way of working is based on having small animation teams, and I try to involve artistically each animator. I dedicate a particular character to each one and develop the character with them. We discuss with references to push each character further, to make them stand on their own. We talk to each other for each shot in all stages of the animation. I give feedback to each animator and I get input from them. I am grateful for their artistic involvement, and then wonderful energy starts to develop between us. These make the project come alive.

To start with, the animator Dan Panaitescu is in charge of one of the main characters, Manole, the acrobat. He is a brilliant animator, very creative and productive. I deeply appreciate him as an animator and as a person. The red lines in the visual design concept of Manole by Brecht, were the energy of the character and we needed to define how he moves and how he is. When I found the serpent acted by Bob Fosse in The Little Prince (1974), this reference opened the door to give Manole this fascinating character and life in the animation.

The animators for the three ages of Marona (each time she is with three different masters: Manole, Istvan and Solange) are Claudia Ilea, Marjorie Caup and Mathieu Labaye. Hefang Wei and Paul William are the animators for Istvan. Nicolas Rolland animates Istvan’s mother. Chloe Roux animates Solange. Martzofel – the cat – is animated by Jon Boutin. The animator for Solange’s mother is Stephanie Cadoret. Jerome Daviau is responsible for the Grand Father. And the team for the sets are Sergiu Negulici, Alizee Cholat, Jimmy Audoin, Michael and Frederic Palmers. It is a team spread across Europe: Romania, France, Belgium, Norway and Italy. The film will gather each individual contribution in a whole that I love to orchestrate. A lot of work, but very rewarding and fun.

“Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles”: Interview with Salvador Simó Fri, 13 Apr 2018 12:42:50 +0000 Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

(Status: in production)

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles
Director: Salvador Simó
Authors: Eligio Montero and Salvador Simó (Adaptation from Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas by Fermín Solís)
Art director: José Luis Ágreda
Animation director: Manolo Galiana
Producers: Manuel Cristóbal (The Glow Animation Studio, Spain) and Bruno Felix (Submarine, Netherlands)
Target audience: Young Adults / Adults
Technique: 2D digital

We interviewed Manuel Cristóbal, the producer of the film project Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles, at Cartoon Movie 2017 ( And the team of the project came back to Cartoon Movie 2018 with big progress of the project. They showed us some scenes, which are already animated in color, and some other scenes as animatic. We could see Buñuel’s unique characteristics and his psychological conflict in the scenes and made us anticipate the completed film, which is planned to release in Spain this year.

We could hear more about the film from Salvador Simó, the director and scriptwriter of the film after their presentation at Cartoon Movie 2018.

Animationweek: Could you please let us know your first impression of the original graphic novel?

Salvador Simó: The original graphic novel explains where Luis Buñuel shot the documentary Terre sans pain (1933) and his approach to the film. And what we thought was that we want to try to make a simple friendship story between Luis Buñuel and Ramón Acín based on that. We didn’t want to make a documentary. We wanted to make a fiction story to show all about Luis with our own way, so that we made the main story of our film simple. It’s a simple friendship story and we use Luis’ adventure of shooting a film to tell the story. So, we used the story of the comic as a solid starting point to develop our film.

Animationweek: During the presentation, you said that you used the simple visual design on purpose. What is your aim with the simplicity of the visuals?

Salvador Simó: The story of the film is very powerful, so that we want to tell the very strong story in the most effective way. We tried to find our own way and simplifying not only the visuals but also the concept and what we want to tell.

Animationweek: Luis sees some illusions in the film. How do the illusions connect with him?

Salvador Simó: Basically, he is struggling with his past and his character. He tries to find his own way to tell stories, and he goes the way of Dali when he makes Un Chien Andalou (1929) or L’Age d’Or (1930) together with Dali. Their films are becoming more visual and they start to use surrealism. And his works and his character create for him a huge conflict, and it also brings him back to the conflict of himself with his past, his father and his childhood, which really strongly impacted him when he was a child. All these things connect to the illusions and it is a process of the rebirth of Buñuel. So, we say Las Hurdes was the place where he was born as a Buñuel.

Interview with the managing director of ITFS 2018 Thu, 05 Apr 2018 09:31:09 +0000 Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Films (ITFS) 2018 is approaching. As a special article before ITFS 2018, Animationweek interviewed Prof. Ulrich Wegenast, the managing director of ITFS 2018, to learn more about the upcoming big international animation festival. He kindly answered to our questions in detail and uncovered some exciting information about this year’s program. We believe that his words would help you understand more about the festival to make the best use of ITFS 2018.

Interview with Ulrich Wegenast

Animationweek: There are some very famous and important animation festivals in Europe, such as the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, Animafest Zagreb, and ITFS. What is the position and role of ITFS, and what makes ITFS stand out among them?

Ulrich Wegenast: With more than 90.000 spectators, the ITFS is the biggest audience event for animation in Europe. The combination between ITFS and the business platform “Animation Production Day”, “FMX – Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Immersive Media” and the “Spotlight Festival” (festival for commercials and communication) is unique and reaches more than 6.000 professionals. ITFS features the connections between animation and VFX, games, art, architecture and live performances.

Therefore, we reach new partners and target groups in the field of culture and economy (especially IT and automotive industries), which differ from the classical animation audiences and distribution channels. We have a special focus on animation and spatial communication (architecture, scenography, interactive installation).

Animationweek: ITFS 2018 is a very big festival with many and diverse programs, so could you please give us an overview of ITFS 2018, from your viewpoint?

Ulrich Wegenast: The focus will clearly be on the 25th Anniversary, where we look back to the festival’s past, accompanied by a special film program and an anniversary publication. The region of Stuttgart will once again become the global center of animated films in the spring of 2018 for six days and nights. The city center will turn into a huge Festival Garden with an Open Air Cinema next to the Festival Cinema.

Besides to all those fantastic movies that can be seen during the festival, there will also be a framework program with different focuses. Even if the focus is on animated films, the ITFS has been interfacing animation with other media in the past few years, and so we set up the GameZone at the Art Museum where the latest game trends can be experienced. Also, the connection between music and animation will be made this year, so we invited Chad VanGaalen from Canada, as his work is representative for the combination of both music and animation. A special event will be the Live Cinema Theatre by sputnic/Dortmund Theatre, with the play The Futurologic Congres by Stanislaw Lem, with live actors and live animation.

We have various In Persona-Shows (retrospectives) with animators like Priit Pärn, Ivan Maximov, and Florence Mihaile and studio presentations by Cartoon Saloon (Kilkenny), Atom Art (Riga), Superprod (Paris), Foam (Berlin), Laika (Portland) and others. And the feature films The Isles of Dogs and Early Man will be presented with special “Making-ofs”. Six from eight feature films from the competition are German or World premieres.

Above all, there will be several activities for children at various venues.

Animated Games Award

Animationweek: What kind of benefits do the general public and professionals get in attending this festival, do you think?

Ulrich Wegenast: The Festival presents a full, up-to-date spectrum of animated film-making and its intersections with visual effects, architecture, art, design, music and games.

The ITFS offers a platform to directors, production companies and distributors where they can showcase their films and transmedia projects to an interested, broad audience and numerous industry representatives.

The general public gets to watch selected movies, be it a full-length feature or short films in the Festival Cinema. The Open Air cinema is accessible for everyone and has become a constant in Stuttgart’s appearance during the spring time, and it gathers people. This year we will present, amongst others, the Oscar-winning Disney animation Coco and Oscar-nominated movie Loving Vincent, and I’m already convinced that this screening will be one of this year’s highlights.

For professionals, we have great opportunities in the context of Animation Production Day where more than 40 projects will be featured. Companies like Amazon or Disney are attending APD as well as all German broadcasters, and most of the European TV stations dedicated to animation.

In the context and through Trickstar Business Award (sponsored by the Region of Stuttgart), we are discussing new business models with our partner Studio 100, as we are offering opportunities for you German creatives. In our workshops, we are dealing with the relation of Graphic Novels and animation, the role of VR-storytelling, and have a lot of case studies in screenplay writing for animation. So for professionals, the ITFS is not only an event to connect, but also to learn.

The Open Air cinema

Animationweek: What do you think of the current trend of the global animation industry? And how does the programs of ITFS 2018 react and reflect to that?

Ulrich Wegenast: Indeed, there’s still a lot of interest in VR and Augmented Reality. More importantly for the global animation industry is the role and development of new online platforms like Amazon and Netflix and players like Google/YouTube or Vimeo. We see that the old economy, like the auto industry or mechanical engineering, which is very strong in the region of Stuttgart, with companies like Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Bosch or Trumpf, is becoming more and more interested in animation, games, and VFX, in terms of marketing, communication, and also workflow! Anyhow, we also see a renaissance of old animation techniques like stop motion and the importance of classic cinematic storytelling.

A huge inflatable pavilion named “Lichtwolke (light cloud)”

Animationweek: Could you please let us know your future vision of ITFS?

Ulrich Wegenast: Our vision is to expand the global idea and the endless creativity of animation to other disciplines. Today, animation is omnipresent, but people are not really aware of it. Therefore, we want to create a transdisciplinary event with animation in its center. Animation can bring together classical art forms, like opera, and new technologies, like AI. Our future has already started and we construct a huge inflatable pavilion named “Lichtwolke (light cloud)”. In “Lichtwolke” you can experience animation, games, architecture and VR as an immersive architectural event. The title of the exhibition is “Welten bauen” (creating worlds).

“Dragonkeeper”: Interview with Manuel Cristóbal Tue, 03 Apr 2018 08:55:44 +0000 Dragonkeeper

(Status: in development)

Directors: Ignacio Ferreras and Jian-Ping Li
Authors: Ignacio Ferreras, Rosanna Cecchini, Pablo Castrillo, Carole Wilkinson and Xiamping Wang (Adaptation from Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson)
Producer: Manuel Cristóbal (Dragoia Media, Spain)
Target audience: Family
Technique: 3D digital


In ancient China, dragons were once friends of men, but men’s greed and lust for power ended their alliance, and these wise and magical creatures were hunted down by the Empire. Years later, in a remote fortress, a young slave girl named Ping strikes up an unlikely friendship with Long Danzi, the last of the imperial dragons. Learning the power of Qi, Ping helps the dragon escape from captivity and together they journey across the Empire in order to save his lineage, chased by the Emperor’s men and pursued by even darker powers. Based on the acclaimed first novel of the Dragonkeeper trilogy by Carole Wilkinson.

Experienced Spanish producer Manuel Cristóbal’s new studio Dragoia Media is developing an animated feature film titled Dragonkeeper. It is based on a popular novel series of the same name, written by Australian author Carole Wilkinson, which have sold millions of copies worldwide. We can experience an epic adventure across ancient China with a young Chinese girl and a dragon within the film. What they showed us during their pitch were a great fusion of Western culture and Asian culture, and I felt that this universal film could be a successful example of international co-production between the West and East. I asked Manuel behind the story of their well-managed international project.

Interview with Manuel Cristóbal

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): How did the project start?

Manuel Cristóbal: I discovered the novel at the Bologna Children Book Fair, but it was not the right moment for the project at that time. Some years later, I presented the project to Larry Levene, my partner at Dragoia Media, and we decided to go for it, given the new situation with China in which co-productions were being encouraged. Also, the Chinese market was exploding and we both felt it was a great story that was worth the effort. We had the support from Atresmedia and Telefonica from day one and we also had development support from the MEDIA Programme.

HN: What was your first impression of the original book series?

Manuel Cristóbal: Carole Wilkinson is a great writer and she managed to create two characters like Ping, the slave girl, and Danzi, the dragon, that are unique but recognizable. That is also why we acquired the rights for the three novels of the Dragonkeeper trilogy, we know there is more than one film in them. At the moment, we are focused on doing the best film possible, but we know we have the right material to continue.

HN: Could you please let us know your journey on welcoming Chinese partners to your international project?

Manuel Cristóbal: The journey was led by my partner Larry Levene, he has a lot of experience with China. After exploring several possibilities, we reached an agreement with China Film Animation. We are very proud to have such great partners and we feel at home when we go to China Film Co. They did an excellent job distributing Kung Fu Panda 3, and we hope they will do even better with Dragonkeeper.

HN: Regarding to the creative side of the project, what sort of benefits are you receiving so far from teaming up with a Chinese studio and Chinese artists?

Manuel Cristóbal: Dragonkeeper has to be a natural collaboration in order to aim for the challenge both partners want to achieve, and that is having a film that works both inside and outside China. The benefit is, to have what is relevant for them in the project, and what would be exotic for a western audience, it takes a lot of time and commitment from both sides, but it is totally worth it.

HN: What do you think are the unique sales points of the story and visuals of the film?

Manuel Cristóbal: Dragonkeeper is an adventure film that takes places in an epic and magical China that is not normally seen on screen. We think it will surprise and engage the audience, no matter where they are.