Ghost Cat Anzu

Source: Courtesy of GKids

Ghost Cat Anzu

France is positioning itself as a global centre for feature film animation with Increased funding for infrastructure, an influx of global streamer activity and increased tax incentives to draw ambitious international productions. 

The territory is the largest producer of animation in Europe in terms of volume and among the top five in the world according to the CNC.

Nineteen percent of CNC-approved films in 2023 were animated titles and a total of 18 films were produced, up from 13 in 2022.

Animation was the leading export genre for French films in 2023, for the first time, accounting for nearly one-in-three tickets sold in international markets – two times the average over the past decade.

The films generated 11.6 million worldwide admissions in 2023, representing 30% of total ticket sales.

Jeremy Zag’s Miraculous: Ladybug & Cat Noir led the charge with 7.5 million spectators worldwide and a gross of €34m, joining other popular titles Argonauts (€11.4m), The Jungle Bunch 2: World Tour (€8.2m), and Little Nicholas – Happy As Can Be (€1.9m).

The production budget on the films are bigger than ever: Miraculous: Ladybug & Cat Noir was budgeted at €80m and MG Studio’s upcoming Asterix, The Kingdom of Nubia has a budget of €32m.

In addition to commercial success, animated features produced in France also have an auteur appeal and are regularly selected for festivals and winning prizes. There are 32 French titles screening at Annecy across all categories this year. French productions and co-productions make up half of Annecy’s feature competition, 12 of 21 projects at the festival’s Work in Progress have at least one French producer and 17 French projects will participate in the Mifa pitch sessions including six feature films. 

Cannes titles competing at Annecy include Annecy opener Michel Hazanavicius’ Holocaust-centred fable The Most Precious Of Cargoes, Gints Zilbalodis’ animal adventure Flow, Vincent Paronnaud and Alexis Ducord’s magical forest movie Into the Wonderwoods, and Claude Barras’ stop-motion environmental tale Sauvages.

Also adding French flair to the competition are Yoko Kuno and Nobushiro Yamashita’s France-Japan spirited feline story Ghost Cat Anzu and Jean-François Laguionie’s coming-of-age film A Boat in the Garden.

The high production values combined with festival play of these auteur animations are proving a draw for international buyers.

“The quality of French animation is very consistent,” explains Rodney Uhler, director of acquisitions and development at GKids, the North American distributor and an executive producer of Ghost Cat Anzu.

Luring International productions

All of France’s competition titles at the festival have at least one international co-producer.

Since 2019, 96 animation projects have benefitted from France’s Tax Rebate for International Production (TRIP), a rebate of up to 30% of the eligible production spend that rises 10% for VFX expenses. 17% of those projects are feature films and 83% audiovisual titles. Some 25% of the projects supported by the TRIP are animated titles, including 22 projects in 2023.

Since 2011, Illumination Studios Paris has worked on global blockbusters including The Super Mario Bros. Movie that grossed $1.4bn worldwide and Minions: Rise Of Gru ($940m). Nickelodeon and Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, produced by Mikros Animation in France, grossed $180m worldwide.

Upcoming TRIP-supported projects include Netflix’s animated series Asterix And Obélix, The Big Fight directed by Alain Chabat, who is hosting a special screening at Annecy before it hits Netflix in 2025.

“Our ambition is to have two models that coexist and grow together,” says Pauline Augrain, director of digital at the CNC.

“This is the Illumination model, which allows us to welcome major foreign projects, but above all to continue to grow the network of independent producers who will have the capacity to both create French titles and work for international studio commissions.”

The industry has received a boost from the government’s France 2030 project, ‘The Great Image Factory’, that has allocated €18m to 12 studios to invest in innovation and production resources.

Among the selected studio Toulouse-based TAT Studio will double its production capacity, Foliascope is developing a stop motion animation hub, TeamTo will launch an environmentally sustainable production platform, and Milam! Animation is innovating in 3D technology.

Further financial support for French animation projects comes from local broadcasters and regional funds. Additionally, since 2021 the CNC’s Aide aux Techniques d’Animation fund invests €3.9m per year in features and series with international ambition and is helping to drive the production boom. It provided support for all of the French feature films in selection at Annecy this year alone.