French Animation on the International Scene No. 3: Spring 2021

French Animation on the International Scene No. 3: Spring 2021 - © Hold Me Tight, de Mélanie Robert-Tourneur


In these early months of 2021, French animated films have attracted a great deal of attention and won a slate of awards at international film festivals: ranging from Category A festivals, such as Sundance 2021 (where Flee and Souvenir Souvenir won awards) to specialized festivals, such as the Tokyo Anime Award Festival (where French productions scooped half of all the awards this year), to French film festivals such as Animation First (hosted by the FIAF) in New York and the 2021 MyFrenchFilmFestival, where Josep won the Audience Prize and the International Press Prize... These triumphs are the fruit of the hard work of their creative and technical crews, who have earned fame despite the pandemic and the resulting transition of festivals to online formats. In fact, quite the contrary, so we wish to offer them our heartfelt congratulations!

Audiences, too, continue to show up for our films, in theaters and online. The excellent box office results for Bigfoot Family, a hit title from the fall/winter season in 2020, have extended into the first quarter of 2021: the film was distributed in 22 territories in this period, enjoying particular popularity in Mexico and South Africa. It also had no trouble finding an audience on Netflix, where it jumped straight to the top of the most popular titles in English-speaking countries with streaming access: yet another Franco-Belgian production that strikes a chord with Netflix audiences!

We are hoping that in the coming weeks our films will shine bright at the major award ceremonies such as the Oscars, where titles such as Peuple Loup and Genius Loci are nominees, and the Annie Awards, where 8 French films (features and shorts) have received a total of 22 nominations. These titles include Shooom's Odyssey, already a multi-award-winner that is now coming to an end of its illustrious international career, as well as productions that are just entering the festival circuit, such as Coffin. Animated films will continue to win over audiences in the months ahead, with a large number of titles selected at film festivals dedicated to animation, such as Trickfilm in Stuttgart, Animafest Zagreb, and, especially, the eagerly awaited 2021 Annecy International Animation Film Festival.

At the same time, a proliferation of new French projects for animated films have emerged in all their diversity at European coproduction markets, notably at Cartoon Movie (held online): these include an anthology of short horror films (L’Étrange Collection pitched by Folimage) side-by-side with a musical comedy about migration (L’Ile by Anca Damian), and projects as wide-ranging as Les Ombres (Autour de Minuit / Panique !), Séraphine (Little Big Story), Chickenhare et le hamster des ténèbres (Octopolis / nWave), and works by auteurs such as Xavier Picard, Anca Damian, Denis Do, Sarah Van Den Boom, and Ugo Bienvenu, among others. Highly positive feedback from market participants demonstrates that, in spite of the uncertainty of current times, French animation has not lost any of its dynamism and strong appeal. The years ahead are clearly full of promise.

We hope you enjoy this newsletter!

Daniela Elstner and Axel Scoffier,
Executive Director and Deputy Managing Director of UniFrance


French animation at international film festivals

Since late November 2020, a number of French animated films (majority-French productions and French co-productions) have picked up awards at prestigious international film festivals.

Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2021 gave a warm reception to French animation, with Flee (photo) by Jonas Poher Rasmussen winning the Grand Jury Prize and Souvenir Souvenir by Bastien Dubois landing the Short Film Jury Prize for Animation.

Göteborg Film Festival

Flee, an animated documentary coproduced by Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and France (a minority-French coproduction) was also honored with the Dragon Award for Best Nordic Documentary at the Göteborg Film Festival.


 Easter Eggs by Nicolas Keppens (a minority-French coproduction with Belgium and the Netherlands) was selected in the International Competition at the Berlinale, leading to its selection as a candidate for the upcoming European Film Awards (EFA).

Japan Media Arts Festival

The Excellence Award at the Japan Media Arts Festival has been added to the impressive list of accolades garnered by Marona's Fantastic Tale by Anca Damian. Several French short animations were honored at this event: To the Dusty Sea by Héloïse Ferlay won the New Face Award, and the Jury Selections included A Tiny Tale by Chloé Bourdic, Sylvain Cuvillier, Théophile Coursimault, Noémie Halberstam, Maÿlis Mosny, and Zijing Ye, Migrants by Hugo Caby, Antoine Dupriez, Aubin Kubiak, Lucas Lermytte, and Zoé Devise, as well as And then the Bear by Agnès Patron.

Marona's Fantastic TaleMarona's Fantastic Tale

Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival

 French animations put in a strong presence at the Clermont-Ferrand International Film Festival, with 47 films presented in the various festival sections (click here for the complete festival lineup). Taking full advantage of this event, UniFrance organized a discussion between five directors of animated films whose films were included in the festival's National and Lab Competitions, about their work, their international careers, and their perspectives on what the future holds in 2021 (available for replay here). Three French productions feature in this year's Clermont-Ferrand awards list: Vas-y voir by Dinah Ekchajzer won the Equality and Diversity Award, Shooom's Odyssey by Julien Bisaro received the Poule Qui Pond Grant and a Special Mention from the Canal+ Family jury. And, to top it off, Souvenir Souvenir by Bastien Dubois also won the prestigious award for Best Animated Film.

SXSW South by Southwest

A string of animated shorts and immersive works represented France at the 2021 edition of SXSW South by SouthWestHold Me Tight by Léoluna Robert-TourneurNavozande, the Musician by Réza Riàhi, and Normal by Julie Caty were screened in the Official Competition; Biolum by Abel Kohen and The Passengers by Ziad Touma were in the Virtual Cinema Competition; and 4 Feet High VR by María Belén Poncio, Meet Mortaza VR by Joséphine Derobe, and Odyssey 1.4.9 by François Vautier featured in the Virtual Cinema Spotlight. SXSW's program of animated shorts gave pride of place to French productions, with three of the twelve titles in competition French films. To coincide with this event, UniFrance brought together the three French directors in competition in this category at a roundtable discussion about their films—watch a replay here (in French) or here for simultaneous translation in English. At the festival's closing ceremony, Biolum was awarded the Audience Award for a Virtual Reality Work.

French film festivals and events organized by UniFrance

French film festivals in recent months have made it possible for French animated films to be seen by audiences in the four corners of the globe, with events including The Alliance Française French Film Festival in Australia, which presented Calamity and Little Vampire

UniFrance events have also devoted a generous share of their programming to animations: Josep was screened at MyFrenchFilmFestival, where it won the Audience Award and the International Press Prize. The 2021 MyFFF program also offered 5 short animated films for children and adults (see the complete festival selection here).

Josep was presented at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris (at both the Film Market and at press junkets), accompanied by Calamity. Josep was also selected for the Young French Cinema program in the USA, along with two short animations, And then the Bear and Genius Loci.

French animation at award ceremonies of the major film academies

The awards season at the various international film academies has been fruitful for French animation, particularly for Josep by Aurel, which picked up the César Award for Best Animated Film (photo), the Exhibitors' César Award for Best Animated Film, the Lumière Award for Best Animated Film, and the Louis-Delluc Prize. The César Award for Best Short Animation went to And then the Bear, while the Exhibitors' César Award in the same category went to Shooom's Odyssey by Julien Bisaro.

The international awards season is continuing, with the Oscars ceremony coming up on April 26, at which the French animation industry will be represented by Wolfwalkers by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart (a minority-French coproduction) in the Best Animated Feature Film category, and Genius Loci by Adrien Merigeau in the Best Animated Short Film.

Wolfwalkers is also one of three films nominated for the EFA Young Audience Award, with the awards ceremony to be held on April 25.

The awards season for film academies specialized in the animation sector also continues in the spring, with the Annie Awards on April 16 and the Quirino Awards on May 29.

A large number of French productions are in competition at the upcoming 48th Annie Awards, which will be held online this year. Two feature films will represent France: Calamity by Rémi Chayé (3 nominations), along with one minority-French coproduction, Wolfwalkers by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart (11 nominations). Both of these films are vying for the Awards for Best Independent Feature Film and Best Direction. In the short film section, three French works have received nominations: Shooom's Odyssey by Julien Bisaro (3 nominations, including one in the Best Special Production category), Blue Fear by Marie Jacotey and Lola Halifa-Legrand, and Souvenir Souvenir by Bastien Dubois (both nominated in the Best Short Film category). And, last but not least, French films dominate nominees in the Best Student Film category, accounting for three of the five nominations:

A Tiny TaleA Tiny Tale

The Quirino Awards, which honor excellence in the Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American animation sectors, will close the 2021 awards season for animated works at film academy events. A number of French films (coproduced with Portugal or Spain) are nominated for this year's closing ceremony: Tie by Alexandra Ramires and Homeless Home by Alberto Vázquez are among the three finalists in the Best Animated Short Film category. Tie is also nominated for the Quirino Award for Best Visual Development, while Homeless Home is competing for Best Animation Design, along with another Franco-Spanish production, Umbrellas by José Prats and Álvaro Robles. Two students from the Gobelins - L'École de l'Image are also finalists in the Best Student Film category, with their films La Bestia and The Return of the Waves.

French animation at specialist festivals


 The online version of the 2021 Brussels Anima Festival closed on February 21. France was represented at the event by 41 films: one feature film (Josep), two short film programs (Hello World and Chien Pourri, la vie à Paris !), and 38 shorts, including 7 student films (see the French films selected here). Among award-winners, Josep received the BeTV Prize for Best Feature Film (with film rights acquired by the network for broadcast in Belgium), and French shorts won a host of awards:

Empty PlacesEmpty Places

Tokyo Anime Award Festival

 The Tokyo Anime Award Festival once again put French animation in the spotlight, with around twenty productions selected. The 2021 edition of this event honored three French films with awards: the Grand Prize in the Feature Film Competition for Josep, the Grand Prize in the Short Film Competition for Coffin, while Shooom's Odyssey won the Excellence Award in the same category.

Animation First

Hosted by the French Institute-Alliance Française in New York (FIAF) from February 5 through 15, the 2021 edition of Animation First, with which UniFrance is a partner, was held entirely online. American audiences had the chance to see a large number of French animations, including 50 films presented in US or New York premieres. The festival included a special program of guest of honor Wes Anderson's selection of his favorite titles, and a Short Film Competition that showcased films from French and American animation schools. UniFrance also provided support for the presentation of five short films in the Works in Progress section in partnership with NEF Animation. The following French student films received awards at this event: La Bestia by Marlijn van Nuenen, Ram Tamez, Alfredo Gerard Kuttikatt (Gobelins - L'École de l'Image) won the Best Short Film by a French Student; My Friend Who Shines in the Night by Grégoire de Bernouis,Jawed Boudaoud, Simon Cadilhac, and Hélène Ledevin (Gobelins - L'École de l'Image) received a Special Mention from the Jury, as did Homerde by Thomas Mikdjian (EMCA - École des Métiers du Cinéma d'Animation). And finally, the Audience Prize was given to A Tiny Tale, directed by Chloé Bourdic, Sylvain Cuvillier, Théophile CoursimaultNoémie HalberstamMaÿlis MosnyZijing Ye (RUBIKA - L'École des Talents de la Création Numérique).

Coproduction forums

In recent months, French animated films have maintained a dynamic presence at European coproduction forums specializing in animation and films for young audiences, notably at Cartoon Movie. Interestingly, the majority of projects presented at Cartoon Movie 2021 had at least one French production company behind them (click here to find out more about the French projects pitched). It was a Franco-Belgian film that won the Coproduction Development Award sponsored by Eurimages: Les Ombres, directed by Nadia Micault and produced by Autour de Minuit, Panique ! and Schmuby Productions (photo below).

Two French nationals, Valérie Montmartin and Sarah Van Den Boom, attracted considerable attention at M:Brane 2021, a coproduction forum for content aimed at young audiences (aged 3-18), which usually takes place in Malmö, Sweden, but was held online this year. The director and producer (Little Big Story) of a planned feature-length animation titled Séraphine (also presented at Cartoon Movie 2021) were awarded the Prize for Best Pitch 2021 from a jury of Swedish and Norwegian industry specialists.

Furthermore, we can highlight the presence of three French projects at the upcoming Central and Eastern European Animation Forum, the region's biggest event for animation pitches, to be held April 26 through 29, 2021: Les oiseaux ne se retournent pas, directed by Nadia Nakhlé and produced by Special Touch Studio, and Blaise, directed by Dimitri Planchon and produced by KG Productions, are included in the feature film section, while the short film section includes Sugar, Blood & Insulin. Diary of a Type 1 Diabetic, directed by Thijs Koole and produced by Moukda Production.

Upcoming international animation festivals

 The GLAS Animation festival in Berkeley, USA, will hold this year's 6th edition online, from April 5 through 11. More than fifteen French shorts (professional and student productions) will be competing in the various sections (see the 2021 lineup here). Jonathan Djob Nkondo, a French illustrator based in the UK who is a graduate from the École des Gobelins, is one of the three jury members He also designed the festival poster and created the 2021 teaser (see the event's website).

The Animafest Zagreb - 2021 will take place from June 7 through 12 as a physical event. The lineup of feature films and VR works has not yet been announced, however we do know that around a dozen French animated shorts will be included in the International Competition for professional productions and an even larger number of French student films will feature in the "Student Films" section. Click here to see these selections).
The festival will also present its traditional Animafest Zagreb 2021 Award for outstanding contributions to animation studies to the French scholar and curator Xavier Kawa-Topor, who is to be honored for his many books, articles, and essays that have shone a light on the French and international animation industries, as well as his work with the NEF Animation platform.

 The 2021 Stuttgart Trickfilm International Animated Film Festival will be held in a hybrid form: a physical event held from May 4 through 9 and an online event from May 3 through 16. A Focus France program will spotlight French animation schools and studios (including Folimage, H5, Sacrebleu Productions, and La Poudrière - École du Film d'Animation). At this event, UniFrance will offer festival audiences a program of short films by French women directors, and will host an online panel discussion on May 7 (at 3:00 p.m.) bringing together emblematic figures in the French animation scene to speak about their work and their international careers. Here, too, French productions are strongly represented in the festival's competitive sections, with 10 French productions selected in the International Competition, 8 in the Student Films section, and 8 others in the Young Animation section (click here for a list of all the French shorts in competition).
The complete list of feature films to be shown at the event this year has not yet been announced, although we do know that Wolfwalkers has been selected in the AniMovie category and two French talents will be honored among the four filmmakers included in the Retrospectives of Great Filmmakers: Jean-Charles Mbotti Malolo and Monique Renault.

 The Annecy International Animation Film Festival will also be held in a hybrid version this year, from June 14 through 19, with MIFA held from June 15 through 18, with physical screenings and events to be programmed if health regulations permit. The Focus on African Animation program, which was postponed last year, will be presented this year. The festival also boasts a new feature in 2021: the Annecy Festival Residency program dedicated to the development of feature-length animations. One French production has already been selected as one of the three projects participating in this inaugural program: Le Cœur à danser, co-directed by Pierre Le Couviour and Amine El Ouarti. While we are waiting for the Official Selection to be announced, take a look at this year's festival poster designed by Jean-Charles Mbotti Malolo, who also designed the 2020 poster (click here).

And, finally, a string of animation festivals are scheduled for the fall season in 2021, including the Bucheon International Animation Festival, which will be held as a physical event from October 22 through 26, and the Animation Is Film Festival, planned to take place in the fall, with no dates as yet specified.

Deadlines for the submission of works to international animation festivals held in fall 2021

French animation on digital platforms

The French animation industry was part of a small revolution in the world of film festivals on February 20 this year. On this date, French short animated films were shown at the Short Nite Film Festival, the first film festival to be held "in" a video game. Over a period of 24 hours, the 350 million or so players of Fortnite were given access to a program of 12 animated films by world-renowned directors. The lineup included two French productions: Oktapodi by Julien Bocabeille, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier, Emud Mokhberi (Gobelins - L'École de l'Image), and Maestro by Illogic (Bloom Pictures). Epic Game, the developer of Fortnite and organizers of this in-game event, has not yet released figures on the number of participants. Watch the complete video of the festival.

And there's more good news for French animation on international streaming platforms: Bigfoot Family's release on Netflix was highly acclaimed in English-speaking markets. Following its opening weekend in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, it took either first or second place in the Top 10 most-watched Netflix film titles in all of these countries. Bigfoot Family is clearly charming more and more young viewers around the world, whether in theaters or on streaming platforms (see below). This show of enthusiasm from online English-speaking audiences is all the more encouraging considering that these audiences are known for their reticence toward foreign animated films, particularly youth-oriented productions. This proves that French animated films have a significant role to play at this time when there is a huge demand from international streaming platforms for content, particularly for younger viewers.

Bigfoot FamilyBigfoot Family

French animation at the international box office

Between the end of November 2020 and the end of February 2021, a total of 210 French films were exhibited across the globe. Among these films, 16 titles were animations—accounting for 7.6% of all titles. The share attributed to animated films is even larger if we consider the admissions figures over the same period: of the 1.5 million admissions generated by French films, 219,000 are credited to animated productions, representing 14.5%.

Top 5 French animated films, by number of admissions outside France in December 2020, January 2021, and February 2021

Rank Film No. of territories Admissions from Nov. 30, 2020 to February 2, 2021 B. O. receipts from Nov. 30, 2020 to February 2, 2021
1 Bigfoot Family* 22 176,981 €889,683
2 Josep 1 11,988 €74,698
3 Yakari, A Spectacular Journey 3 8,157 €27,772
4 Little Vampire 2 4,604 €25,729
5 Funan 1 4,424 €48,906

*Production majority-financed by France

For the second time, Bigfoot Family sat at the top of the 5 most successful French animated films abroad in terms of attendance figures. This hit film continued its outstanding performance throughout the period studied, particularly in South Africa, where it was released by Filmfinity (TeamFinity) and registered over 37,000 admissions in 10 days, and in Mexico, where it was released by Zima Entertainment and registered over 35,000 admissions in 17 days.

We can also note excellent results for Josep in Spain, where it garnered close to 12,000 admissions between its release on December 4, 2020, and February 28, 2021. It was also acclaimed by the Spanish press, as we will see in the foreign press roundup at the end of this newsletter.

Upcoming theatrical releases

French animation in the foreign press

Cartoon Movie 2021

This year's edition of Cartoon Movie closed with highly positive results for France, with French productions dominating the Top 10 projects that received the most attention. Numerous French projects that were pitched at Cartoon Movie 2021 also attracted the attention of international press outlets, both the mainstream press and specialist media outlets:

  • Animation Magazine published an interview with Nicolas Schmerkin on the two projects presented by Autour de Minuit at Cartoon Movie: online article
  • Variety announced: "Two French productions and a coproduction feature among 10 nominated in the running for the Eurimages Coproduction Development Award": online article
  • Animation Magazine introduced the winner of the Eurimages Award for the development of the coproduction Shadows by Nadia Micault, produced by Autour de Minuit: online article
  • Animation-Week published an article on Séraphine (currently in development) and stressed the film's potential for universal appeal to family audiences in an interview with the project's three key figures: Sarah Van Den Boom (director), Marie Desplechin (screenwriter), and Valérie Montmartin (producer): online article
  • Euronews provided a recap of Cartoon Movie 2021, noting the strong presence of French productions: "Who gets the prize for the largest number of animated films pitched at Cartoon Movie 2021, which was held online in Bordeaux? Answer: France, with 21 of the 55 projects, ahead of Spain.": online article

Josep in the Spanish press

 With a story resolutely anchored in Spanish history—specifically, the story of Spanish Republicans who fled Franco's dictatorship at the end of the Civil War and sought refuge in France—Josep has particularly won over Spanish moviegoers. Following its premiere at Seminci in Valladolid in 2020, it was streamed on the Filmin platform from mid-December. It aroused strong emotion in the Spanish media, which hailed the film for shedding light on an episode of Spanish and European history that still remains little known today:

  • "Josep, the unknown history of the Civil War": online article
  • El Norte de Castilla: "An animated film that revives historical memories": online article
  • Fotogramas: "For those who see art as a means of hope and resilience": online article

Interviews with directors nominated at the Oscars and Annie Awards

Until April 2, UniFrance offers viewers a free screening of Genius Loci by Adrien Merigeau, which is nominated for an Oscar in the Best Short Animated Film. To find out more about this opportunity, click here. To coincide with this event, director Adrien Merigeau gave an exclusive interview with UniFrance (in English).

Following his nomination at the 2021 Annie Awards, Bastien Dubois discusses the conception and production of his film Souvenir Souvenir in an interview with Cartoonbrew: online article

ZippyFrames published an interview with Julien Bisaro and Claire Paoletti, director and screenwriter/producer of Shooom's Odyssey, which has been nominated in three categories at the 2021 Annie Awards, including Best Special Production: online article

*If you would like to let us know about a film selection, award, or success story that we have not mentioned, please contact us:

Article by  Carla Negre

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