YELLOWBIRD is Flying Your Way: animated movie news from Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer, tells me:

A brand-new French animated very anthropomorphic movie, Yellowbird, that I’ve never heard of, is going to be shown in the USA. According to information mostly from Jerry Beck’s Animation Scoop website, Yellowbird is directed by Christian De Vita and produced by the TeamTO Studio in Paris.  It won’t even be released in France until February 18, 2015.  Wreckin Hill Entertainment, an American distributor, has bought the American rights and will give it a brief theatrical release in December, with a DVD release in April 2015.  From the poster and the trailer, the American voice dub has already been completed.  The Cartoon Brew says that the announced American release is in only five theaters in the Detroit area, and that the only American review so far says that it’s only for 4 to 7 year olds — which the trailer does not imply.

Yellowbird is Flying Your Way

By Fred Patten

… but look sharp, or you may miss it. Yellowbird, a new animated CGI feature film, is being distributed in a “limited” theatrical release across North America on December 5. It will be released on On Demand TV and DVD in April 2015.

Yellowbird, produced by TeamTO Studio in Paris, France, has been in development since 2009. The TeamTO Studio was founded in 2005 to produce French CGI children’s TV programming; Yellowbird is its first theatrical feature.

Yellowbird has a strong fantasy-animal movie pedigree. Its director, Christian De Vita, was a story artist on both Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. The art designer, Benjamin Renner, worked on Ernest et Célestine. The film is written by French Antoine Barraud and Guilhem Lesaffre, and American Cory Edwards (Hoodwinked).

yellowbird-posterThe story was inspired by the incident in 1974 when, due to an early winter, European swallows began dying of the cold before they could migrate. Airlines flew thousands of the swallows across the Mediterranean Sea to warm North Africa. In the movie, Yellowbird, the young bird protagonist, is an insecure orphaned chick who is forced to lead a migration to Africa after Darius, the dying migration leader, tells only him the route. The official synopsis is: “Yellowbird lives in the ruins of an old house. He lacks the confidence to leave his home, no matter how much Bug, his ladybird friend, tries to convince him to go out into the world. Attempts to toughen him up have had little success, so Bug seizes an opportunity that leaves Yellowbird unexpectedly finding himself the new leader of the flock that is migrating to Africa. Still, lacking faith in his own abilities and with danger and imminent failure lurking around every corner, our feathered hero is forced to either find the strength required to work with the team or bow out and stay hidden away forever.”

A news article reported: “In terms of budget, the movie is a featherweight; made for 10 million euros ($12.6 million) as compared to the $150 million budget of last-year hit Disney animation Frozen.”

Yellowbird, which was originally titled Occho Kochoï and then Gus during its development, was rushed to completion during 2014. TeamTO Studio and French distributor Haut & Court pitched it at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival/European Film Market on February 6-14, 2014. Wrekin Hill Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based film distributor, acquired all North American rights there “in a seven-figure deal”. Yellowbird was first previewed for the public when its opening sequences were shown at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival on June 2-7. Wrekin Hill, meanwhile, produced an American voice track “Starring: Seth Green (Yellowbird), Dakota Fanning (Delf), Jim Rash (Karl), Elliott Gould (The Owl), Yvette Nicole Brown (Ladybug), Christine Baranski (Janet), Danny Glover (Darius), Richard Kind (Michka).”

The American dub premiered at the 58th BFI London Film Festival, on October 8-19, 2014. But the film was first released in Russia, titled Makno Krylom (Makno Wing), on November 6. A week later, it was announced that Yellowbird was 5th at the Russian box office. Yellowbird was promoted heavily at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California, on November 5-12, with the American voice actors.

Wreckin Hill Entertainment was created in Los Angeles on September 29, 2010 to acquire and distribute independent theatrical features. It currently has 24 films, with Yellowbird as its first animated feature. The distributor originally announced that Yellowbird would be released in north America in Fall 2014, but the new plans are for a limited theatrical release during December, starting on December 5. Yellowbird will then go to Lionsgate for a Video On Demand and DVD release in April 2015.

The Russian and December American releases mean that Yellowbird will be seen there before it is released in France itself. The French release is scheduled for February 18, 2015 under the older title of Gus, with the tagline: “Petit oiseau, grand Voyage” (Little bird, big Voyage).