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Free Jimmy: An odyssey in the making


The story of the drug-addicted elephant Jimmy as imagined by Norway’s Christopher Nielsen, based on one of his own comic strips and cult TV series, was an odyssey in the making that took six years to see the light.

What started as a 100% Norwegian film with a medium budget ended up as a Norwegian/UK co-production with a skyrocketed budget of NOK 100m (€12.8m), making it the most expensive Norwegian film ever. Norwegian producer Lars Andreas Hellbust, who in 2003 created Storm Studio, one of the top CGI/animation studios of Northern Europe, and UK veteran producer Sarah Radclyffe (My Beautiful Laundrette, Ratcatcher) told Cineuropa about the long and winding road of making Free Jimmy [+see also:
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“I was contacted in 2001 as soon as the film’s costs kept going up and the filmmaker realised he had to make an English version, using UK actors with ‘names’ attached to reach a wider audience”, explained Radclyffe. “We started looking for UK writers who could translate the script from Norwegian, as production had already started and the dialogue had to be the same length, something really very difficult to do. I got Simon Pegg in and we started casting the voices”.

However, the film got into trouble again when the UK animation company Slave Studio went bankrupt. “This is when Lars (Andreas Hellbust) came in and rescued the film”, she said.

In 2004, when the film still had compositing and lighting to be done, the Norwegian producer (the founder of Norway’s broadband provider BlueCom) came on board. “What cost a lot was not the making of the film, but the fact that there was a lot of juggling to do. Basically, the project had been very poorly managed”.

Now the film is out in Norway and has exceeded 135,000 admissions in five weeks. Sarah Radclyffe is still negotiating UK distribution rights, but the UK release is set for this fall. “This is Fritz the Cat 2006. The film is targeting the video game generation and a lot of people will want to go and see it”, said Andreas Hellbust confidently.

International sales are being handled by The Works .

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