Specialty distributor Gkids has picked up North American rights to directors Yoko Kuno and Nobuhiro Yamashita’s upcoming animated feature “Ghost Cat Anzu,” while partnering with Paris-based Charades for international sales.
Spearheaded by Shin-Ei Animation and Miyu Productions, and adapted from a manga by Takashi Imashiro, the family title tracks the tempestuous friendship shared between 11-year Karin, a strong-minded girl sent to live with her monk granddad in the Japanese countryside, and Anzu, the even-more unpredictable phantom feline who acts as her guardian.
The project will screen as a work-in-progress presentation at this year’s Annecy Animation Festival, and is slated for release in 2024.
“From the moment we saw the first drawings and read the script, we knew we needed to be attached and help get this film into the world,” says Gkids director Eric Beckman. “We are huge fans of Yoku Kuno’s animation, of Shin-Ei, and of all the creative works that Miyu champions, [and we have] worked together with Charades on multiple titles from both France and Japan, so this was just a great fit all around.”
“Ghost Cat Anzu” marks an animated change of pace for co-director Nobuhiro Yamashita, best known for his auteurist shaggy-dog features and for helming several episodes of “Midnight Diner,” and a step up for acclaimed illustrator Yoko Kuno, who marks her feature directorial debut with the project. Kuno will be on-hand in Annecy to walk attendees through an unconventional production, which saw the filmmakers first shoot the whole film in live action before using those elements for rotoscoped animation.
“This is a film full of yokai and demons… but in the shoot they were all played by humans,” Kuno says. “Which is precisely why I want to preserve all of their very human sweetness, eccentricity, and complex emotions in the drawn world. The setting is an ordinary Japanese countryside town, but by combining the production abilities of Japan and France, I’m certain we’ll create a world that’s even new to Japanese eyes.”
Indeed, Shin-Ei’s Michihiko Umezawa and Miyu’s Emmanuel-Alain Raynal both hint at further international partnerships.
“By bringing together France and Japan with the United States, the three greatest nations in animation, we are delighted to show that new collaborations are possible, creating new territories of visual and narrative expression, and helping to make animated techniques an ever more lasting part of contemporary cinema history,” says Raynal.