Annecy: Italy and France Forge Closer Toon Ties

ROME — Italy is forging closer ties with France in the field of animation production, seeking to tap into the expertise of continental Europe’s leader in this sector and set up some co-productions.

The Rome/Lazio Film Commission has signed a collaboration agreement with prominent French toon production hub Pole Image Magelis, which comprises four studios, 11 schools and a substantial fund.

“France is a leader in this sector — the only European country that can stand up to Hollywood. We have a lot to learn from them,” said Luciano Sovena, president of the Rome/Lazio Film Commission, who brokered the agreement.

Under the pact, Italian animators will be able to acquire French know-how through hands-on experience at Magelis, while the more long-term goal is to set up co-productions with France tapping into incentives in both countries.

As part of the collaboration, Rome/Lazio will next month be hosting French toon creators, including writer-helmer-animator-composer Sylvain Chomet (“The Triplets of Belleville”) and Magelis president Francois Bonneau, at a three-day animation conference where they will hobnob with Italian animation specialists. The conference runs from July 8 to 10.

Italians on hand will include Neapolitan producer Luciano Stella, who screened a 13-minute work-in-progress of animated Neapolitan mob fable “Cinderella the Cat” (pictured) at Annecy on Wednesday.

In “Cinderella the Cat,” the title character’s father is killed by her stepmother in collusion with the Camorra gangs that run the Naples port. Ivan Cappiello, Marino Guarnieri, Alessandro Rak and Dario Sansone share directing credits. Stella’s Mad Entertainment previously produced breakout Neapolitan feature “The Art of Happiness,” which won the 2014 European Film Award in the animation category.

The Rome/Lazio meet will be held in Civita di Bagnoregio, an ancient, picturesque hilltop village that is said to have served as inspiration for Japanese animation auteur Hayao Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle.”

Screenings at the Civita di Bagnoregio gathering will include Paris-based ON Entertainment’s “The Little Prince,” the highest grossing French animation movie in the past two decades, and “Triplets,” which was nominated for two Oscars.

The Rome/Lazio Film Commission recently launched a 10-million euro ($11.4 million) co-production fund that provides grants and is designed to work in tandem with the country’s competitive tax breaks. Half of the fund is for feature films; the other half is for TV productions. Animation projects qualify in both categories.

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