Industry Report: Animation
The excellence of French animation, under the spotlight at Cannes
CANNES 2023: A panel discussed the successes of the "French Touch" but also the difficulties of financing arthouse feature-length animated films
French Animation is doing very well. On Tuesday 23 May, the panel entitled "Animation films: the excellence of French know-how", organised at the CNC beach at the Cannes Film Festival, discussed the current sector. Jacques Bled, founder of Mac Guff, acquired by Universal, explained the worldwide success of Super Mario Bros by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic: "the film was made at Studios Illumination Paris and broke the record for the highest first-week box office for an animated film". The French Animation sector is the third largest in the world after the United States and Japan, with a great diversity of authors, thanks to the successes born after Michel Ocelot's Kirikou, the quality of the schools, and also the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, which counted 13,000 accredited to the market in 2022.
Exports are another strength of the famous "French Touch", as Yohann Comte, an international distributor who set up Charades in 2018, reminds us: "We've been lucky: our company started out with Jeremy Clapin's I Lost My Body [+see also:
interview: Jérémy Clapin
film profile], sold internationally to Netflix, then with Little Nicolas - Happy as Can Be [+see also:
interview: Amandine Fredon and Benjami…
film profile] by Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre in 2022. Animation is a sure-fire export. And we still have room for improvement. The language of animation is universal, and that's one of the reasons for its international success.”
Amongst the 68 French projects supported by “La Grande Fabrique de l'image” announced at Cannes (350 million euros of state investment by 2030), twelve are animation studios. These include big names such as Xilam, Team To or Mikros, as well as more recent names such as Miam! et Fortiche. Jacques Bled, who sat on the tender committee, compares it to "the image plan for animation put forward by Culture Minister Jack Lang in 1984, which was at the origin of the support system that has accompanied the development of our companies for forty years".
Louis Clichy, a graduate of Gobelins and co-director with Alexandre Astier of Asterix: The Secret of The Magic Potion [+see also:
film profile] and Asterix: The Land of The Gods [+see also:
film profile], underlined the quality of French-style training before discussing the difficulties for an author of making a film outside the franchise and more adult: "Animation is still linked to childhood. My next project (The Corset, Eddy Production) is an auteur film for a wider audience than children. The members of the committees to which it was presented nevertheless showed the images to their children to get their opinions!"
According to Jacques Bled, "the situation is changing, because the platforms have multiple projects for animated series for adults. On the other hand, when it comes to feature-length animated films for the cinema, French TV channels are not taking any risks." This stalled situation is confirmed by producer Valérie Shermann (Akaba). "The channels invest very little in Animation for the cinema, three films a year on average. And when I propose a project to them, their first question is always: 'What age is it for?’ We're making Michel Hazanavicius's next film about the Shoah, The Most Precious of Cargoes, based on a story by Jean-Claude Grunberg. The financiers keep asking us if it's a film for children".
Budgets for theatrical animated features are now capped. Jacques Bled cited the examples of Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest [+see also:
film profile] by Michel Ocelot, produced for 12 million euros in 2006, followed by Dilili in Paris [+see also:
film profile] by the same director, financed ten years later for 6 million euros without any contribution from Canal+ nor France Télévisions: "the film attracted 700,000 spectators in France but its financial set-up was a pure nightmare". You can't produce an Animation film for less than 7 million euros, but it's impossible to exceed the 8 million euro ceiling," says Yohann Comte. “We often say that producing an Animation film is like jumping out of a plane without a parachute and trying to build your parachute before you get to the bottom."
(Translated by Margaux Comte)
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