Annecy 2021: Czech Boundary-breaking Animation in Progress at Mifa

09 June 2021

Film Industry

Annecy 2021: Czech Boundary-breaking Animation in Progress at Mifa

Film Industry

Annecy 2021: Czech Boundary-breaking Animation in Progress at Mifa


In addition to welcoming the most recent crop of Czech animation in the main program (see here), the industry sidebar of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival will host two new Czech projects nearing completion. Both demonstrate the innovative potential of animation for children in the Czech audiovisual industry.

Article by Martin Kudláč for CZECH FILM magazine / Summer 2021

Coincidentally, both projects being introduced to professionals in Mifa’s “Meet the ... Producers – GAP Financing” networking event, which provides support to producers and directors of animated feature films in the final phase of development or production, depart from the medium of animation, either by screen-hopping and extending the original narrative to other mediums or using videogame technology to explore sensitive topics in a way that is captivating for children. One of the two, which is currently in production, is a feature-length film based on the animated series The Websters (2019), directed and produced by award-winning animator Katarína Kerekesová.

Previously, Kerekesová made a name for herself with the animated series Mimi & Lisa (2011), about the friendship between two girls, one of whom is blind. The series aims to destigmatize living with a disability for young audiences. Kerekesová’s new TV special, The Garden, is in development, and the latest instalment of The Websters (2022) follows the (mis)adventures of a spider family, told mainly through the eyes of a little spider girl named Lilli. Aimed at viewers aged 5–7, each episode is grounded in the idea that the strongest net a person can have is their family.

“Life in the spider family also has its fair share of mistakes and misguided expectations. We want to tell everyday stories to help children find understanding and forgiveness, and offer positive models for them to express their feelings and emotions,” Kerekesová said. The Websters currently consists of 13 parts 3D animated television series (international rights handled by Planet Nemo Animation), a book series, and two audiobooks.

The upcoming feature film, which will be presented at Mifa, includes six brand-new stories featuring Lili, including a family trip, a visit to a farm, helping out herding flies, a talent contest, and the pitfalls of the Web (an arachnid version of the Internet). In a major shift, however, the story crosses over into the feared world of humans.

“This new feature film brings a new challenge: the actual confrontation of the two worlds. The differences in size and proportion offer not only a chance for fascinating visuals and a unique artistic style, but also, and above all, the invitation to tell stories of cooperation and comprehension, despite fundamental differences,” the director explained. The shift in the narrative also comes with one other major change: the 3D animation will be paired with live-action filmmaking.

Currently in production and scheduled for local release in spring 2022, The Websters is produced by Kerekesová’s Slovak company Fool Moon, the Prague-based animation outfit 13ka, and PFX, a Czech full-service postproduction and visual effects company. The Czech Film Fund supported both development (€42,423) and production of the film’s animation (€134,615), and the project also received support from the Slovak Audiovisual Fund. Czech Television and Radio and Television Slovakia are also serving as co-producing partners. With the producers already planning another feature of The Websters for 2025, they will be seeking partners and funding for the sequel at Mifa. In addition, the producers and sales agent Planet Nemo Animation plan to focus on distributors, VOD platforms, and broadcasters for pre-sales for both films.

Producer Peter Badač of represents the other Czech project presenting at this year’s Mifa, with his ambitious big-budget adventure film rendered in 3D animation, Journey to Yourland (2022). In this tripartite production—including Slovakia’s plutoon, BFILM, and Radio and Television Slovakia, and Belgium’s Stacka in addition to Badač’s outfit—with support from the Czech Film Fund (€27,500 in development and €590,000 in production) and Creative Europe MEDIA, Badač seeks to deliver not only a visually attractive product but one with a meaningful narrative in line with other films he has produced, in particular Martin Smatana’s The Kite (2019).

Written by Katarzyna Gondek, Barbora Budinská, Patrik Pašš Jr., Phil Parker, and animation artist Peter Budinský, who is also helming the film, Journey to Yourland follows 10-year-old Riki as he navigates two worlds: the fantasy world of Yourland, abounding with dreams and wild ideas, and the real world, in which Riki’s parents are divorced. The film hopes to guide children in facing and working through difficult situations in life.

Badač is also breaking new technological ground by employing the game engine Unity, used to develop video games such as Deux Ex: The Fall, Call of Duty: Mobile, and The Elder Scrolls: Legends. This makes Journey to Yourland poised to become one of the first feature films to utilize this technology. The film’s team is currently carrying out postproduction work on the animations and composing music, so the project can be ready by November 2021.

At the moment, distributors are secured for each coproduction country, with late 2021 or early 2022 envisioned for theatrical premieres in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Territories outside those two countries and Belgium will be handled by a sales agent, which the producers are currently seeking. In addition to introducing the film to potential sales agents at Mifa, they plan to present Journey to Yourland to distributors and broadcasters involved in children’s content and programming.

On top of the animation, Badač has lately been focusing on transmedia storytelling and cross-platform content, which will propel Journey to Yourland as well. Unsurprisingly, the cross-platform game engine Unity will be used to develop a mobile game in the film’s world that will serve as a tie-in to Budinský’s animated feature film. Embracing the transmedia experience, Badač is taking the film to still one more platform, namely virtual reality (VR). Letter From the Heart, the prequel to Journey to Yourland, will be a VR diary written by a mother taking a virtual tour in Yourland for her unborn child. The development of this innovative project has already received support from the Czech Film Fund.

As far as what we have to look forward to, continuing the outpouring of Czech animated features in the period to come will be the 3D CGI adventure comedy Pearl (2022), directed by Martin Kotík; a puppet stop-motion Of Unwanted Things and People (2023) along another puppet feature Tony, Shelly and the Spirit (2022); the steampunk polar road movie Rosentaal (2023) with Václav Švankmajer attached as art director, and the 3D dinosaur series Dinofables (2023).

Czech Film Center
division of the Czech Film Fund promoting Czech cinema worldwide



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