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CARTOON MOVIE 2020

The collapse of Prima Linea sounds the alarm for European animation

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- Nominated for the Cartoon Tribute for European Producer of the Year for The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, the French firm has been forced to close due to toughening market conditions

The collapse of Prima Linea sounds the alarm for European animation
The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily by Lorenzo Mattotti

It’s a paradox which reflects the grave concerns currently sweeping through the world of European animation, whose principal actors are gathered together in Bordeaux, as we speak, on the occasion of the 22nd Cartoon Movie (running 3-5 March – read our article). Given the sector’s worldwide reputation for excellence, whether in terms of its schools, its extensive co-production network which spans the entire Old Continent, or, of course, the films it produces, as demonstrated by the victory at Cannes’ Critics’ Week and subsequent Oscar nomination of I Lost My Body [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jérémy Clapin
film profile
]
by Jérémy Clapin, the recent announcement of French studio Prima Linea Productions’ liquidation sends a particularly negative signal to industry professionals.

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Founded in 1995 by Valérie Schermann and Christophe Jankovic, Prima Linea has gone out on a high from a creative point of view with The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Lorenzo Mattotti
film profile
]
by Italy’s Lorenzo Mattotti. Unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival 2019 in the Un Certain Regard line-up, the film rounds off a back-catalogue of films which includes the likes of Zarafa, Wolfy, The Incredible Secret [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, Fear(s) of the Dark [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and U [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, not to mention The Red Turtle [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
which was executively produced by the firm. But the huge gap between ambitions when it came to Mattotti’s work (boasting a budget of almost €12m) and the movie’s overall box-office performance (233,000 admissions in France and less than 400,000 worldwide) ultimately forced pen to paper on Prima Linea’s death warrant. It’s an end clap which resonates dangerously with European producers who are faced with a shrinking market share in cinemas, where the abundant animation offering is dominated by American super productions whose financial resources (from the filmmaking stage through to marketing) are on an entirely different level to those enjoyed by European feature films. This situation is accentuated by a system of TV pre-financing which forces certain high-quality European works, originally geared more towards teenagers and young adults, to "alter" their content so as to widen their target audience to encompass younger viewers. This complicates the distributers’ task of positioning the film and heightens the risk of neither segment of the audience being fully satisfied with the product.

This squaring of the circle is hardly a reason for optimism, and no-one can guarantee that these streaming platforms’ high interest in animated content (Netflix’s pre-purchase of I Lost My Body testifies to this) will actually lead to them pre-financing works which, by their very nature, require considerable resources and take quite some time to make.

But not all is lost because, when it comes to European animated film, there is no shortage of projects, resources, experience or imagination - assets which will help the sector overcome these turbulent times as it waits for new funding and broadcasting models to take shape. Moreover, Valérie Schermann and Christophe Jankovic are showing no signs of throwing in the towel, despite the painful end to the Prima Linea chapter in their lives: the duo will be continuing their activities through the company 3.0 Studio (which notably worked on The Red Turtle), with La plus précieuses des marchandises - an adaption of the tale of the same name by Jean-Claude Grumberg, and Michel Hazanavicus’ first animated film - entering into production this year (a production steered by Ex Nihilo, with Les Compagnons du Cinéma acting as lead co-producer and StudioCanal taking on the role of secondary co-producer, as well as heading up distribution in France and international sales).

This year’s Cartoon Movie, meanwhile, will see Prima Linea Productions (in association with France 3 Cinéma and Italian firm Indigo Film) battling it out for the Cartoon Tribute for European Producer of the Year, going up against Latvian group Atom Art and Polish outfit Letko (with Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Edmunds Jansons), Xilam Animation (flanked by Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Cinéma) with I Lost My Body by Jérémy Clapin, and the quintet composed of German firms Trickstudio Lutterbeck and Balance Film, Luxembourg group Doghouse Films, Belgian outfit Artémis Productions and the Czech Republic’s MAUR Film with Fritzi – A Revolutionary Tale [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Ralf Kukula and Matthias Bruhn.

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(Translated from French)

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