‘Prince Ivandoe’s’ Sun Creature Opens French Studio, Unveils ‘Where It Falls’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Denmark’s Sun Creature, one of the fastest-rising creative studios on Europe’s animation scene, is set to open a French studio, Sun Creature France, located in Bordeaux. The new facility will bow by the end of August.

Featuring a 600 sq. meter (6,500 sq. ft.) office, Sun Creature France will employ an around 50-person work force, about the same size as Sun Creature in Copenhagen, and allow the new studio to tap into France’s Tax Rebate for International Productions (TRIP), said Sun Creature producer and co-founder Charlotte de la Gournerie.

Targeting non-French shows and movies, live action, animation and VFX work, TRIP’s incentive is one of the most muscular in Europe, offering an up to 30% rate of tax deduction capped at €30 million ($32.7 million) per production. It was one of the major reasons why Illumination Films choose to animate the “Despicable Me” movies and “Minions” out of France.

Studios and platforms often enquire what kind of incentives overseas companies can offer. Denmark in contrast currently does not offer any rebates or credits to lure shoots on animation work. The new studio will also allow Sun Creature France to co-produce with its Danish counterpart.

De la Gournerie and two other Sun Creature co-founders all come from France. “The country is fantastic for [state] financing, especially for formats, such as shorts, which allow you to try out new formats and techniques,” said De la Gournerie.

Thanks to its location, Sun Creature will also be able to tap into regional funding on its own productions from not only France’s national CNC film-TV agency but also the Bordeaux region –the Nouvelle Aquitaine– which has experienced a significant boost in animation studios, the number of companies being second only to Paris by 2019. A burgeoning animation hub, Bordeaux also hosts Cartoon Movie, Europe’s most important co-production forum.

Sun Creature France can also draw on the large animation pool in Angoulême, only half an hour away by train.

“One of our goals is to maintain quality. This will allow us to tap into France’s network of artists,” Guillaume Dousse, Sun Creature co-founder, creative head and producer told Variety.

Like Dousse and De la Gournerie – both of whom studied at Paris-based famed Les Gobelins, admired by Guillermo del Toro, who has financed a scholarship program there for Mexican students – many French animators also drink deep at the well of 2D animation.

News of Sun Creature France comes as Cartoon Network EMEA announced as the online Annecy Festival kicked off on Monday June 15 that “The Heroic Quest of the Valiant Prince Ivandoe,” produced in partnership with Sun Creature, will get a significantly expanded Season 2 of 20 11-minute episodes, and just days after the Cannes Festival confirmed that “Flee,” an animated documentary produced by Sun Creature, had made the cut of its 2020 Official Selection.

News also breaks just 48 hours before Dousse and De la Gournerie present at Annecy “Where It Falls,“ one of the most buzzed up and ambitious projects at this year’s Annecy’s Mifa Pitches.

Created by Dousse and targeting 8-12s and families, the supernatural adventure series of six half-hour episodes is set in a world eight years after its gravity has shifted 90 degrees, changing the dynamics of society and people and transforming horizontal ground into vertical walls.

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Where it Falls Credit: Sun Creature

“A serialized series about family ties, legacy and ecological awareness,” says Dousse, “Where It Falls” begins with Sarah and Judith, two young sisters who live with their female chimpanzee Coco, their Husky puppy Milo and other orphans in the abandoned districts of Paris.

One day they go to visit their uncle Gabriel who leads Paris’ main new religious cult. There, Benjamin, a towering man of few words, introduces himself as their long-lost father. When the Big Shift happened, he fell like many people, and has spent years climbing up the world back to Paris with the use of his bare hands. Benjamin invites Sarah and Judith to board a large zeppelin to go on a journey to find their mother Mara, who last gave signs of life in Australia.

Episodes also features a contained story introducing other characters whose stories illustrate, fable-like, the series’ larger themes, such as the need to re-connect to build a new future, an initiative led by the children, said Dousse.

A sci-fi big wrench narrative, rather than a post-Apocalypse action tale, the series will focus on “human stories and relations,” he added. It will also offer viewers, Dousse hoped, a sense of pure adventure and discovery, and a lush nature which has found ways to adapt, new ecosystems appearing all around the world.

“When I look back at my own childhood, the films, books and stories which really captivated me were adventure stories,” Dousse told Variety just before Annecy.

The series will be animated in a highly-detailed and crafted 2D, finding its roots in European and Japanese animation with semi realistic characters and naturalistic backgrounds. “2D tends to live better over time, because there’s so much artistry, craftsmanship that goes into each frame,” Dousse enthused, citing Hayao Miyazaki (“My Neighbour Totoro,” “Spirited Away,” “Castle in the Sky”) as an influence, as well as Makoto Shinkai’s feature film “Your Name” (“pretty interesting for its sci-fi concept grounded in reality”) and “Tekkon Kinkreet” (“a bit grittier but a great inspiration for how a city is portrayed as a character of its own, shaping the dynamics of the story”).

As the pieces come together at Sun Creature, what it’s looking to be, said co-founder De la Gournerie, is a “human studio.” “This is not an easy industry for animation artists, requiring them to work long hours and sometimes leave family and friends to move around Europe.

“I want to believe that we can do great films and great projects, without dying for them,” she continued. “Sun Creature is looking to facilitate the  life of artists, which is another reason for setting up the studio in France, as we continue in Denmark.”

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Where it Falls Credit: Sun Creature