Wild Bunch International (WBI) has come together with French animation distributor Gebeka Films to launch Gebeka International that will handle worldwide sales of animated features. The joint venture has announced its first title, Sheba, during the recent Annecy Festival. The coming-of-age tale Sheba will follow the footsteps of legendary African figure, the Queen Of Sheba.
Labeled as a family adventure film in the tradition of Indiana Jones, Sheba revolves around a young girl who embarks on a perilous journey across the Horn of Africa in 1938 in search of her archaeologist father after he is captured by invading Italian troops loyal to Benito Mussolini. Her path crosses a high-spirited young boy from an Ethiopian tribe who becomes her travelling companion. Against the backdrop of the territory’s archaeological sites and magnificent landscapes, the young heroine joins the resistance fight of a people whose ancestors were once the subjects of the Queen of Sheba.
WBI co-head Vincent Maraval notes “a real evolution” in the animated feature business. “The independent animation scene is expanding while buyers of animated features are increasingly specialized in the sector,” he told Screen Daily. The activity around markets like MIFA and cartoon movies helped convince him of the need for a sales company focused on animation.
The film is currently in production and is expected to release in the fourth quarter of 2024. Paris-based Maybe Movies is the lead production company. Its credits include Oscar-nominated Ernest And Celestine, as well as Remi Chaye’s Annecy audience award winner Long Way North and Calamity Jane, which won Annecy’s Cristal award for Best Film in 2020.
Alexis Ducord and Benjamin Massoubre, who previously worked together as co-director and editor of monster theme park-set Cannes 2017 selection Zombillenium, will be co-directing it and screenwriting it with Emmanuel Leduc. Award-winning composer Eric Neveux is writing the score. Character design is by Julien Le Rolland, who also worked on Zombillenium as well as Asterix: The Secret Of The Magic Potion, Houdini and The Illusionist.
For the uninitiated, WBI is the film sales subsidiary of the major European producer-distributor Wild Bunch. The company is notable for selling many Studio Ghibli titles including The Red Turtle (which it co-produced), and its current slate includes The Summit of the Gods and Where Is Anne Frank. It has also sold countless prestigious live-action titles.
Gebeka International will introduce the film at Cannes next month. CAA Media Finance represents U.S. rights.