Wild Bunch is taking a deeper plunge into animation with the launch of a brand new gross sales firm being established with French animation specialist Gebeka. Announced in Annecy, the company will be headed up by Gebeka’s Reginald de Guillebon and Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval. The 50/50 partnership will look to produce around five to six animated films per year, with CAA Media Finance handling domestic.
Lyon-based Gebeka Films specialises in releasing high-end French and European animated features in France. Past releases include Remi Chaye’s Calamity, Claude Barras’s Oscar-nominated My Life As A Courgette and Michel Ocelot’s Kirikou And The Wild Beasts. The company was created by Jean-Michel Gevaudan, Marc Bonny and Jacques Kraemer in 1997. It was acquired in 2018 by de Guillebon, who’s holding company Hildergarde also owns animation production houses Folimage (Phantom Boy) and Les Armateurs, the most recent credits of which include Swallows Of Kabul.
Vincent Maraval said, “This is a natural extension for us. We’ve been wanting to do more animation. We’ve done three in the last year, including Where Is Anne Frank?, which debuts at Cannes, and Earwig And The Witch. The new films on the slate will be high-end movies that play on the major festival circuit or have awards potential.”
The plan is to hire a sales executive to manage the titles next year with this exec reporting to Wild Bunch head of international sales Eva Diederix. Acquisitions will be handled by Maraval, Livia Van der Staay, Marion Delord and de Guillebon.
WBI has a long history of selling feature-length animation, kicking off with Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki’s 2002 Oscar-winning hit Spirited Away and also including Mark Osbourne’s Little Prince, Michael Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle. Its current slate features Patrick Imbert’s mountain adventure The Summit Of The Gods and Ari Folman’s Where Is Anne Frank?, which world premieres at Out of Competition in Cannes this year.
“We’ve always sold animated features but we’ve seen a real evolution in the market in recent years. The independent animation scene is expanding while buyers of animated features are increasingly specialised in the sector. A different market and industry circuit is also growing around events like Annecy’s MIFA (International Market for Animation Film) or cartoon movie. We’ve felt for a long time that it would make sense to launch an independent company focused uniquely on animation,” said Maraval.
Wild Bunch has had a strong connection to Studio Ghibli over the years and last year struck a very lucrative deal with Netflix for the streamer to get exclusive SVOD rights for two years to a slate of 21 Ghibli classics. The global deal excluded U.S., Japan and Chinese rights.