European-madeanimated feature films are at last beginning to crawl out from underHollywood's shadow and establish a foothold in the international market. Thatwas the message in Berlin earlier this week as details of Cartoon Movie 2005,the three-day co-production forum and market, were announced.

Theevent will take place in the middle of next month in the Babelsberg Studios atPostdam, near Berlin. Some 450 visitors are expected to attend, among them asmall army of buyers and financiers. A total of 50 animated projects are beingpresented, all in varying stages of development. There will be completedmovies, films in production, post-production and some titles still at conceptstage. The event opens on Thursday March 10 with a screening of The MagicRoundabout.

"Weare really beginning to create a market for European feature films," saidorganiser Annemie Degryse of this year's event.

Twentyyears ago, Europe was producing only 60 hours of animation a year. In 2004, thefigure was over 700 hours a year. Cartoon series are being broadcast regularlyon TV. Now, feature films are beginning to benefit too.

Degrysesounded a note of caution, pointing out that animated features remain hugelyexpensive to finance and produce, Often, the only way the Europeans can gettheir full-length cartoons funded is to strike deals with US studios. ThiloGraf Rothkirch and Piet De Rycker's Laura's Star, which has already beendistributed in Germany, was a co-production with Warner Bros. The irony,Degryse sasys, is that European animation is indeed beginning to flourish, butit is often dependent on American money.

Atthe European Film Market, various animated projects have been piquing thecuriosity of buyers. Trust closed further deals on Strings while Nordiskdid brisk business with Circleen 3, a winsome yarn about a little elfgirl and her mouse friends. Late in themarket, Belgian outfit Lumiere picked up the film.

Anotherproject attracting the interest of distributors is Nuages, the new filmfrom Jerome Boulbes. Aimed at both kids and adults, the cartoon feature isbeing produced in France by Lardux Films. Its narrative revolves a round astrange community which lives in the clouds but comes under threat from birds.Lumiere has already taken Benelux rights to the film.