When Cosgrove Hall Films GM Iain Pelling and Principal Large Format UK head Phil Streather trekked to Frankfurt in September for the annual conference of the Giant Screen Theatre Association, they brought with them hopes as large as an IMAX screen.
It was the first outing for the first project resulting from last April’s strategic alliance between the two companies to jointly develop a slate of three stop-motion animation films using puppets in Giant Screen 3-D. Pelling had kept an eye on the large-format market in England and noticed that the programming was beginning to expand into family-oriented storytelling with fantastic 3-D effects.
Cosgrove Hall had the vision and the animation expertise, but not the technical background in large format, so it looked to align with Principal. ‘It’s technically very difficult [to make large-format films],’ says Pelling. ‘You need to know what you’re doing in the filming of it, in the stereography and getting the right depth of field. We couldn’t do that ourselves.’ Both companies will collaborate on the content of the three films, which are each budgeted at between US$7 million and US$10 million.
At the GSTA conference, Pelling and Streather presented concept designs and a test-piece for the first film, Pinocchio, using some of Cosgrove’s existing puppets. The pair has already approached Montreal-based Pascal Blais Animation’s new distribution arm, as well as Toronto’s IMAX Corporation and Sony Pictures Classics, in an effort to sign distributors. ‘Theatrical film is difficult to finance at the moment, but [our first film] is, in a sense, more manageable because it’s a 40-minute format and because there’s a very distinct distribution network that we can tap into,’ says Pelling.
Pinocchio, set for a 2002 worldwide release, is a throwback to the original Collodi tale in narrative and key characters. ‘We’re treating it in a very traditional manner,’ says Pelling.
While the story may be traditional, the promotion and licensing will not be. Because the large-format distribution system is narrow and specialized, ‘it’s very much a personal relationship,’ and the marketing will be done with individual theaters, says Pelling. According to Pelling, large-format theaters are very focused on getting the audience in. He believes that doggedness, coupled with a worldwide release for the film, will provide a solid promotional platform for licensees. Because many large-format films are very community-focused in their hinterland, Cosgrove and Principal will be looking for partners that want to get involved in communities on a local level.
And the next two films? ‘I think we’ll stay in the area of traditional stories that have a good, strong narrative,’ says Pelling.