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Top Animation News: Cannes 2019, SpongeBob SquarePants and more!

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Top Animation News is a weekly column that rounds up the biggest, best and breaking stories from the animation industry. This edition covers May 17 to 24, 2019. 


1. Cannes 2019: Adult-oriented animated features take centerstage
Last week, industry execs spoke on a panel during the Cannes Film Market about their theatrical release strategies for animated features aimed at adults, titled “The A-Z Game Plan to Releasing Animated Films for Adults for the Big Screen”. Five of the 28 toon projects at this year’s event were made for grown-ups, including two in the official selection, though they were still seen as more niche than their family-focused peers. “The actual audience who self-identify as adult animation fans in America is fairly limited… but the potential audience for adult stories, for these kinds of extremely creative narratives, is very large,” said Dave Jesteadt, president of indie distributor GKIDS.

Catch up on the Cannes adult animation panel’s insights on “Variety”.

2. I Lost My Body takes Critics’ Week top honour at Cannes 
French animated film I Lost My Body (J’ai perdu mon corps) won the Nespresso Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival — the only toon in the live-action-dominated selection, confirming the genre’s growing importance at the prestigious event. Directed by Jérémy Clapin, the dark feature follows a young man’s severed hand as it attempts to reunite with him. I Lost My Body will be headed to the Annecy International Animated Film Festival next month, where it will try its hand at finding a distributor.

Catch up on the Cannes 2019 prize winners on “Variety”.

SpongeBob-SquarePants-20th-Anniversary
Source: Nickelodeon

3. Sneak peek: SpongeBob SquarePants 20th anniversary special
Nickelodeon is giving fans a first look at its live-action/animation hybrid SpongeBob SquarePants 20th anniversary special, which features all the toon’s voice actors playing their respective characters IRL including Tom Kenny as SpongeBob, Rodger Bumpass as Squidward and Bill Fagerbakke as Patrick, plus a cameo by David Hasselhoff. Created by the late Stephen Hillenburg in 1999 and planned in Toon Boom Storyboard Pro, it is the fifth-longest-running American animated series with 244 episodes — spawning a Tony-nominated Broadway musical and massive product sales. Titled "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout”, the special will air July 12 on Nickelodeon.

Dive into the SpongeBob SquarePants 20th anniversary details on “Screen Rant”.

4. Elizabeth Ito to run Netflix animated series City of Ghosts 
Adventure Time alum Elizabeth Ito’s showrunning debut will be Netflix animated series City of Ghosts, described as a hybrid documentary and animated children’s program that follows a group of kids who learn about their city by communicating with the local spectres. The storylines are inspired by Ito’s own experiences as a fourth-generation Japanese-American growing up in LA’s multicultural neighbourhoods. City of Ghosts will be produced by Netflix Animation’s in-house studio, which is also working on roughly a dozen other projects.

Venture over to the City of Ghosts details on “The Hollywood Reporter”. 


5. Hulu’s
The Bravest Knight cartoon will feature same-sex parents
Just over a week after we reported on Mr. Ratburn’s gay marriage on Arthur, Hulu has announced its upcoming children’s cartoon The Bravest Knight will include a set of same-sex parents. Based on Daniel Errico’s kids’ book The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived, it follows young girl Nia (Storm Reid) as she journeys to become a knight with her two dads: Sir Cedric (T.R. Knight) and Prince Andrew (Wilson Cruz). Hulu is pushing for more inclusive storytelling and will debut five episodes from the animated series this June.

Quest for The Bravest Knight details on “Entertainment Weekly”.

6. Guru Studios to launch Pikwik on Treehouse
Toronto-based animation studio and production company Guru Studio is launching its upcoming original IP, Pikwik, in 2020 on Treehouse in Canada and Disney Junior in the US. The 52 x 11’ preschool series follows a quartet of animals as they deliver parcels around the titular town. Pikwik went into production last August in a Toon Boom Harmony pipeline.

Pick up more Pikwik release details on “Animation Magazine”.


7. Nora Twomey’s tips for running an animation studio
The Breadwinner director and Cartoon Saloon cofounder Nora Twomey recently shared her tips and advice for running an animation studio. Being a creative first, she noted, “The huge challenge for us was a business one. You know we were a group of artists who got together to make films, so the whole idea of paying salaries, taxes, budgets and schedules — all of this kind of stuff didn’t come naturally to us.”

Watch the clip of Nora Twomey’s animation studio tips above and read more on “Cartoon Brew”.

8. Aladdin’s Mena Massoud to lead animated film Lamya’s Poem
With Disney’s live-action Aladdin adaptation set to hit US cinemas this weekend, its lead Mena Massoud is already set to star in another film: Lamya’s Poem. The animated feature follows a 13-year-old Syrian refugee who tumbles into a dream world where she meets a trouble young poet (Massoud). Lamya’s Poem is written and directed by Alexander Kronemer of Unity Productions, produced by Sam Kadi (The Citizen) and PiP Animation’s Brandon Lloyd is director of animation.

Find out more about Lamya’s Poem on “Animation Xpress”.


9. Toei Animation and Saudi Arabia’s Manga Productions reveal
The Journey
Last Sunday at Cannes, Japanese anime studio Toei Animation and Saudi Arabian media company Manga Productions showcased their upcoming film collaboration, The Journey. It will be directed by Kobun Shizuno (Detective Conan), written by Atsuhiro Tomioka (Pokémon) and Tatsurō Iwamoto (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney) is the lead character designer. The Journey will be produced in both Japan and Saudi Arabia, with Manga Production fully financing and distributing the feature.

Head over to “Anime News Network” for more on The Journey.

BBC-Putin-animation
Source: BBC

10. BBC’s Tonight With Vladimir Putin draws ire from Russian media
A BBC pilot featuring a 3D animated version of Vladimir Putin interviewing guests in front of a live studio audience in real time is being hailed as a “television first”. However, Russian government-owned news service RT has denounced the comedy, calling it a, “regurgitated dystopian nightmare copied from the popular Channel 4/Netflix series Black Mirror but bastardised almost beyond recognition.'' Ouch. The Russian president is written and performed by comedian Natt Tapley (Have I Got News for You), though the BBC has yet to announce when the show will air.

Dig into the diplomacy on “The Guardian”.

What Top Animation News were you most excited about this week? Was there something we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments below!


Banner image source: Xilam Animation 

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