A 113th session full of animation

  • 17.02.2023

Each of the financing sessions organized by Wallimage has its own characteristics. This is probably even more true since Covid came to blur the lines and redistribute the cards. One of the most striking changes recently has been the attraction of producers who were once confined to live-action filming to animation projects. This is good news, because these films and series feed the Walloon studios, which have multiplied in a landscape that is constantly changing: companies are created, studios collaborate, structures disappear or are reassigned, artists are transferred…

Predictable consequence: for the first time in the history of Wallimage, the analysis team received fourteen projects, exactly divided in two: seven animation projects, seven live-action projects. It is undoubtedly a temporary balance but the event deserves to be highlighted in a region where animation did not exist 20 years ago.

Our other great satisfaction is that through our increasingly sophisticated and therefore increasingly objective analysis tables, projects can now compare themselves in a very equal way. In the end, the decentralized co-production council chose five animation projects and five “live” projects for a total investment of 1,490,000 euros. It should be pointed out that the files that were rejected were due to a lack of resources (the competitive effect of our sessions) and not because they were far inferior to the winners.

Animation made in Belgium

Among the animation projects proposed to Wallimage, two were initiated in Belgium. This is also a first.

Thus, Agent Double brought us the series Mini Rangers, articulated in 52 episodes of less than two minutes to present, each time, an animal of our countries. The form is pedagogical, rhythmic and humorous, designed both for a reasonable production within the walls of Genval-les-Dames by an in-house team and to seduce a wide audience: children of course, but also their parents, because we leave amused and educated. For the moment intended for YouTube, these clever and instructive “fillers”, written by Etienne Dontaine and Dimitri Ryelandt, should convince television stations. A favorite!

We remain at the heart of the menagerie with Hamster , presented to us by 20 Pictures to Midnight, a Hainaut-based company working on this project with Flemish company Haptic. Adapted from the irreverent comics by Laura Janssens, these 13 5-minute capsules will delight 15/35 year-olds with an acid, trashy spirit akin to South Park. Philippe (the calm hamster) and Giovanni (the hysterical one) observe the world from their cage. How strange these humans are! The aim is to set up a team in Enghien (6 employees and 3 freelancers) in this young Walloon studio, which will be responsible for animation, colorization and texturing, VFX and the VR episode of this series. Mixing will take place at Handle With Care in Onhaye. The Flemish platform Streamz has already invested in the project, which is set to appear on other streaming platforms.

Animal animation also in co-production

We stay in the animated bestiary with the new series in co-production that Belvision submitted to us. Belfort and Lupin are two dogs… evolving in Versailles in the court of Louis XIV. The opportunity, through the adventures of all the domestic animals of the place, to immerse us in a high place of history. Each of the 26 22-minute episodes for television ends with a short documentary. The studio Dreamwall in Marcinelle will be in charge of the sets of 17 of the 26 episodes, the 3D layout and the animation of 10 episodes. This production will occupy in Wallonia 23.7 full-time equivalents including 4 management positions for a total of 5,220 man-days over a period of 16 months starting in March 2023.

Proposed by the new production company NextFrames Media for its studio (NextFrames, based in La Hulpe), Rufus is a 3D animation feature film initiated in Norway but mainly financed here. Rufus lives on a secret island, somewhere in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by his fellow creatures, gigantic sea snakes. But he remains rather discreet, to hide his difference: he can’t swim. More than two million euros will be invested in La Hulpe for a team of 26 people who will work on storyboarding, modeling, rigging, layout, animation, rendering and compositing. The icing on the cake is that the sound work will be done at Genval-les-Dames.

The sacred union between Umedia and the Waooh! studio, supported by Wallimage, is extremely efficient. In 3 years, the number of staff employed in Liege has increased fivefold. The challenge now is to retain this talent (in manufacturing and also, increasingly, in management and supervision). To this end, we must ensure that the team is supplied with quality projects. After Planets, How to Ratatinate is a new and exciting adventure since the Liège studio, which spreads from room to room on the third floor of the Pôle Image de Liège, will be in charge of the animation of 39 episodes (the most important part) mobilizing 15 animators. The work will extend over 11 months starting in June 2023. That is to say 3,930 days/H-F estimated for more than 17 FTE (full-time equivalent). With this in mind, Waooh! has obtained Technofutur’s agreement to set up a training course on animation in Toon Boom Harmony that will last 7 weeks.

Three French and two Spanish co-productions

Faced with these five animation projects that are quite different from each other, but all exciting in terms of industrialization in the Walloon Region, the Wallimage Decentralized Council of Co-productions has selected five live-action feature film projects intended for the cinema.

At the age of 8, Marc is a helpless witness to the death of his best friend and to his father’s insane act of disposing of the body to avoid prosecution. Twenty years later, when his parents died, the young man returned to the region. He will find the father of his friend, handicapped by a schlit accident. Besides the fact that he taught us a new vocabulary word (the schlitte is a large sled, usually made of wood, used to pull trunks on steep surfaces), Schlitter will enrich our catalog of genre films which, by all accounts, is the most luxuriant of all European economic funds. Classic, but well written and well balanced, it will be directed by Pierre Mouchet who signs here his first feature film after Pleine Campagne, a short film of remarkable efficiency. Miracle of the cinema: the film taking place in the Vosges will be entirely shot in Wallonia during 30 days. 34 Walloon technicians will be present on the shoot under the leadership of Nicolas George and will generate important expenses in renting equipment and sets or catering. The entire VFX will be Walloon. Fontana, who presents us the project, has also spent a few million euros in late 2022 in Wallonia on a project for which it has sought Wallimage Tournages, but no funding. The favorable economic impacts on Wallonia due to Wallimage can therefore also be indirect. And spectacular.

We remain in the “genre”, oscillating between SF and surrealism for Daniela Forever presented by Wrong Men North. Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo continues here his very personal vein that brought us in 2017, the very strange Colossal with Anne Hataway. Nicolas (Henri Golding), who has just lost his beloved, participates in an experimental treatment to fight depression. A daily pill will allow him to take control of his dreams to relive the good times of his life according to a strict protocol. But Nicolas doesn’t care: all he wants is to plunge back into the crazy romance shattered by the death of his beloved. No matter what the cost. In the tradition of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Daniela will lose the viewer in a dizzying dreamlike labyrinth. All the expenses of this file are concentrated on the post-production with VFX at MPC Liège for nearly half a million euros, the sound work at Bardaf (David Vranken at the editing and Mathieu Cox at the mix). The supervision is led by TCPC (Thomas Meys) which has undoubtedly the wind in its sails.

Cinema loves films about cinema. Jessica Pallud’s Maria should catch the attention of moviegoers as it looks at the career of Maria Schneider, known to the world as the young Frenchwoman who fell for Marlon Brando in The Last Tango in Paris. This iconic drama will remain until the end a trauma for Maria, betrayed by the American star and director Bernardo Bertolucci for a violent scene of improvised sodomy that they wanted surprising … even for her. It is the formidable Anamaria Vartolomei (The Event) who will play Maria Schneider from her adolescence to her fall while Tarantula, which co-produces the film in Belgium, could confirm that Matt Dillon will be Brando. Seven days of shooting are located in Belgium (including 6 in Wallonia) and will mobilize regional decorators and directors. The sound team, the rental and the canteen will also be from Wallonia while the post-production will be 100% from Liège with the editing, mixing and mastering at Bardaf, the sound effects at Cob and the color grading at Sondr.

The second to last file selected was brought to us by La Compagnie Cinématographique. This political film takes us in 2012 behind the scenes of the European Commission shaken by the dismissal without notice of the health commissioner carrying a bill that will have to make “neutral” all cigarette packages. Shocked by this dismissal, the Frenchman José Bové and his parliamentary assistants will investigate and reveal a plot hatched by the tobacco lobby. Retracing a true story in detail, A Matter of Principle will give us the pleasure of discovering a truculent José Bové in the guise of… Bouli Lanners. Sixteen Walloon technicians on the set, the sound industry in post-production and a bit of renting complete this file which also emerged from a hard struggle in a very competitive context thanks to a proposal of voluntary revenue collection.

The last project selected is a series presented to us by Umedia. The first two seasons of the Invisibles were big audience successes on France 2 with an average of 4 million viewers in the middle of the Qatari World Cup. The series even had the luxury of dominating Titanic broadcast on TF1 on December 7. A deserved success, because the series offers an ideal combination between a dynamic rhythm intended to gather a large public and clever scenarios, doubled with a societal dimension, which leave the beaten tracks. Following the model of Les Rivières Pourpres, which we have been supporting for several years, the third season of Les Invisibles will be filmed mainly in Belgium, with forest and countryside settings located in Wallonia. 18 technicians will accompany the shooting which will generate a lot of rentals and catering. Except for the image editing, all the postproduction will be done in Wallonia and the VFX will be made at UFX Wallonia.

The next funding session will begin on March 23 while the first Wallimpact 2023 deadline has been set for Thursday, April 6. Just enough time for interested producers to prepare strong and attractive briefs.