More attendees drawn to toon conference

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BERLIN -- Cartoon Movie, the Pan-European conference for animated films, wrapped Friday, celebrating its 10th anniversary with record attendance and recognitions for achievements in the animated film world in 2008.

Started as a means of support for the ailing European animation community by 20-year-old European association Cartoon, the three-day conference accompanies projects from start to finish, presenting them to possible co-production or distribution partners in concept, development, production and finished stages.

With a record attendance of 530 attendees from 29 countries pitching 48 projects, the mood at the confab was appropriately high, with many professionals sitting on the theater floor or standing along the walls for the most anticipated pitches and presentations of the event, which will either have to refrain from beating its own record for attendees next year or choosing another venue than its current digs on the Studio Babelsberg lot.

Most projects came from Germany and France -- not surprising given both countries traditionally healthy subsidies for animated entertainment. Many professionals questioned, though, agreed that the most entertaining pitch came from well-respected Danish production company A.Film, whose teaser for Denmark-goes-to-outer-space epic ("Journey to Saturn") had audiences already in stitches during the traditional croissants-and-cartoons breakfast.

When it came to the main event two hours later, the audience was asked if anyone had not been personally insulted by the politically incorrect clip (which includes a shot of two Danish-flag-burning Muslims being incinerated themselves). One person raised her hand and was told that A.Film's Karsten Kiilerich would remedy the problem later -- and the collection of hilariously offensive outtakes that followed did the trick. The film will be completed in July, and the company hopes to show it at the Toronto International Film Festival, with a Danish release Sept. 26.

German live-action producer Zipfelmuetzen Film, which hopes to extend its success with the German comedy "Sieben Zwerge" (Seven Dwarves) and its sequel into an English-language animated feature, fared less well in its attempt at humor. While the animated clip shown looked fine, the presentation seemed to lack the kind of concrete information other producers at the same concept-stage successfully communicated.

A highlight was Thursday's presentation of Belgian nWave Pictures' "Fly Me to the Moon," billed as the "first-ever computer animated feature film designed, created and produced in 3-D from frame one," which had professionals swooning even a day later.

As customary, the last day of the event also included tributes to outstanding achievements for (European) animated films, with nominations chosen by the event's selection committee and voted on by all participants. Best director went to Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud for the Academy Award nominated "Persepolis," while best production was awarded to France's Primea Lina Prods. for "Peur(s) du Noir." Umbrella organization Europa Distribution was honored as best distributor.

Numbers presented by Cartoon managing director Marc Vandeweyer at the final news conference revealed that during Cartoon Movie's 10 years, 40% of the 305 submitted projects secured financing.
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