Kinowelt International has picked up international rights (except for France and Italy) on Tony Loeser and Jesper Moeller's animated feature film A Case For Friends...How It All Began which has now begun production at Loeser's MotionWorks' studio in Halle.

Kinowelt's theatrical and home entertainment divisions will release the film in Germany, and its Leipzig-based production subsidiary Extrafilm Produktion has come onboard as a co-producer with MotionWorks, Italy's Enanimation and France's 2d3D Animations.

Based on the A Case For Friends book series by children's author and illustrator Helme Heine, which have been translated into 30 languages and sold 8m copies, the feature film draws on the German and Italian studios' experiences of producing 26 x 5-minute short films for WDR's Die Sendung mit der Maus programme. These featurettes saw the three animal friends acting as detectives to solve all sorts of crimes in their home of Mullewapp.

'The feature film will show how the three became friends,' Manuela Lumb, commissioning editor at Cologne-based WDR for the series and the feature film, told 'There are all kinds of unusual storylines with exciting and emotional characters, and a real story of adventure aimed at the younger children rather than targetting the whole family like the Disney films.'

Heine and his wife Gisela von Radowitz provided the basic storyline for the film, while the actual screenplay was developed by the writing team of Achim and Bettine von Borries who have also been involved in the X Verleih animated feature of The Three Robbers.

'Apart from the plot, Helme Heine has also come up with some lovely visual ideas and we naturally want to ensure that we keep to the artwork from his books,' Lumb adds.

As Heine notes, 'Johnny Mauser is the Sherlock Holmes who solves things with humour, reflection and a magnifying glass. Franz von Hahn takes the two friends to the scene of the crime on his bicycle. And fat Waldemar is the 'strong arm' of the law who arrests the wrongdoers.' He points out that these stories about the three friends seem to appeal in equal measures to children and adults because they are 'elementary stories about friendship, love and death. About all facets of life. That's something one understands in Brazil in the same way as in Japan and Korea.'