Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Foreign Toonage

Since we tend to get U.S. and California-centric around here, permit us to highlight animated product and animation activities beyond America's shores. Like for instance, what's going on way down south:

Toonz Animation and Argentina’s Illusion Studios have inked a co-production deal to produce a 90-minute 3D animated feature film based on the famous Argentine comic strip Gaturro ...

“Production will commence here in the next few weeks. The show is expected to hit theatres worldwide by 2010,” said [said Toons chief executive P.] Jayakumar in a press statement. Pre-production work has been completed ....

And on the other side of the world, there are Japanese animators doing their thing:

In the world of Japanese anime, and in fact, animation in general, there is probably no greater modern auteur than Mamoru Oshii. Since his directorial debut in the series Urusei Yatsura in the late 70s, he has quietly built up his own language, symbols, even mythos. ... Where other Japanese masters cite Max Fleischer and Walt Disney as their main early influences, Oshii claims the likes of surrealist Luis Bunuel.

His latest effort to come to the U.S., the feature film The Sky Crawlers (out this week on DVD through Sony), fits comfortably in the Oshii oeuvre. Also important, it stands quite well on its own ...

In France, animated filmmakers are going down a different road than the one paved by Uncle Walt and his heirs:

... [T]he jokes are dirty and the milieu mildly gritty in the urban, adult-skewed French animation "Round Da Way." Based on a popular TV series that started in 2000 on Canal Plus and morphed into a comicbook, pic follows the adventures of various ghetto-dwellers on the make in the sexual as well as criminal sense. A fun, polished crowd-pleaser that depends a lot on its target aud's knowledge of street slang, "Round" should assemble a good-sized posse of supporters locally when it opens in mid-June this year, but may not achieve much more than cult status offshore.

Also in France, Onyx and MK2 are getting into the animated film biz:

MK2 topper Nathanael Karmitz and Onyx Films' president Aton Soumache are teaming up to produce a 3-D animated film and videogame based on Antoon Krings' bestselling children series "Funny Little Bugs."

Budgeted at $33 million, the "Bugs" toon and vidgame will be produced simultaneously by MKO. Kringe will co-direct the family-oriented toon, which is in development and will begin production in January 2010 ...

Via his shingle Onyx, Soumache is producing a TV toon series of 26 52-minute episodes for Gallic commercial net M6. He's also considering developing an animated film for theatrical release ...

To sum up: a lot of cartoon production is going on worldwide, at all different price points, in a variety of formats. Some of the product catches on commercially outside the country of origin, but a lot of it doesn't.

Despite what Americans sometimes think, it's not just Pixar-DreamWorks-Disney-Blue Sky. It's not merely Japanese anime. There's a world of cartoons that U.S. citizens never hear about. What's striking is the depth and breadth of toonage that's out there.

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