Studio 100 Media CEO Ulli Stoef and Thorsten Wegener, director of business operations at Studio 100 Film, talk to TV Kids about the company’s decision to launch its own animation studio in Munich.
It’s been less than a year since Studio 100 Media founded its studio, a move that Stoef says was “the next logical step for the strategic development” of the group.
Before the launch of Studio Isar Animation, the company was outsourcing a large amount of its CGI production to third-party partners. “As we act both as a producer and as a distributor, it definitely makes sense that we have our own animation studio,” adds Stoef. It allows the company to “implement future projects more efficiently while bundling expertise at the location in Munich and granting us more independence as a film producer.”
Currently, the studio is concentrating on the complete range of CGI production for new projects, such as lighting, compositing, texturing, surfacing, etc. “But this is only the first step,” says Wegener. “With every further step, we are aiming to offer more of the entire bandwidth of CGI production to the entertainment industry. But we want to grow organically, from project to project.”
Studio Isar Animation will focus solely on CGI animated feature films. “Our goal is to release one theatrical production per year from the Studio 100 Group’s animation studios,” says Stoef. “In addition, we are always looking for co-productions where we can contribute our creative and sales expertise. With those co-productions, we will be extending our portfolio every one to two years.”
The first project out of the studio is Maya the Bee 3: The Golden Orb, which is the third film in the franchise. “The writers and directors are creating a new adventure for the world’s most famous and beloved bee, adding yet another chapter to Maya the Bee’s success story,” explains Wegener. “We sold our first two Maya movies to more than 170 countries worldwide and already have several presales for the third one.”
As with the first two movies in the franchise, the new film places importance on showing young audiences inspirational female protagonists who confront challenges, are solution-driven and approach obstacles with good-natured determination. “Maya is the kind of relatable character who can be both fun and a great role model, helping kids make sense of the world around them,” Wegener says. The third movie further expands Maya’s universe, and the character’s “curiosity and charisma will again engage and delight audiences as it has done so for many years—in the series and in the movies.”
The studio is also extending the Vic the Viking franchise, with Vic and the Magic Sword. “Everybody at Studio 100 is thrilled by this production and looking forward to seeing the final movie,” says Wegener. “From what we have seen so far, it’s going to look stunning!”
The movie has already been sold into 119 countries and worldwide theatrical releases will follow. In France, SND will bring it to the big screen in December, while Universum Film will be releasing it in April 2020 in Germany. “With this movie, the Vic the Viking brand will be further expanded in terms of awareness, licensing and for sure by developing new target groups,” Wegener adds.
The Munich-based Studio Isar Animation complements the group’s wider studio portfolio that also features Flying Bark Productions, located in Sydney, Australia; the French 2D and 3D house Studio 100 Animation; and Little Airplane Productions, a New York-based animation hub that Studio 100 acquired in December 2017.
Flying Bark, for one, is working on 100% Wolf, based on the Australian children’s book series of the same name by Jayne Lyons. “Both the movie and series will be a head-first ride through dynamic action with surreal and hilariously funny animation, telling a brand-new story with characters that we haven’t seen before in our portfolio,” Wegener shares. “That alone makes it different from other programs in development.” International sales for the series will launch at MIPJunior, with the movie and series to be available by end of this year for a 2020 release.
“Our production and distribution slates are quite full,” adds Wegener. “Studio 100 Media and Flying Bark Productions are currently developing the first Mia and me feature film, and we are part of an international co-production, which we cannot yet reveal. In terms of distribution, we are just about to release the international co-production Princess Emmy, on March 28 via Universum Film in Germany.”
Studio 100 Film also acts as a sales agent for select third-party films. For example, it recently picked up the distribution rights for the feature film Ella Bella Bingo: The Movie, produced by Norway’s Kool Produktion.
The overall idea, emphasizes Stoef, is for Studio 100 to produce feature films or TV series completely and independently in-house. “With our production value, quality and financing opportunities, Studio 100 will surely become more attractive for international co-productions and service work for other producers,” he adds.
“The financing possibilities for feature films in Germany are very good,” Wegener says. “That’s why Studio Isar Animation is working on feature film projects only. We are providing a wide range of important elements for our movie productions, supporting the group’s other animation studios, which are producing TV series as well.”
As for why Munich is the ideal home for the studio, Wegener says it’s “due to the general development of the marketplace in this city and in Bavaria. Many animation and FX studios have settled here, making especially the Munich metropolitan area more and more attractive to this industry, although with a strong focus on live-action content. Studio Isar Animation fills in the gap to the animated feature film production. The government has recognized that and is offering strong funding support through the FFF (FilmFernsehFonds Bayern). Thus, we take advantage of having many highly talented artists in Munich, getting support by the funding structure and being a part of a new and internationally successful animation industry that is further created here.”