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Scene from “Die drei Raeuber” (photo courtesy of Animation X)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 01/2007

Production is currently underway in Germany and the Philippines of Die drei Raeuber which will be the first feature film adaptation of any of the works by the internationally renowned author-illustrator-artist Tomi Ungerer.

The animation feature also marks the first outing into production for Animation X which was founded in 2004 by the Berlin powerhouse X Filme Creative Pool and David Groenewold's Promedium to produce animation films with extraordinary narrative and visual approaches for precisely defined target groups.

Published in 1961 and translated over the years into more than 18 languages, Ungerer's book continues to enchant children and adults alike with its story of the three fierce robbers who walk the roads in the dark of the night, hidden under large black capes and tall black hats. The first one carries a blunderbuss, the second a pepper-blower, and the third a huge red axe with which they terrify everyone and plunder wherever they go.

One bitter, black night, the three robbers stop a carriage that has only one passenger: the little orphan Tiffany who is on her way to live with her wicked aunt. But she is delighted to meet the robbers instead. Since there is no treasure to steal, the robbers bundle the little girl into a warm cape and carry her away to their hideout...

"We have succeeded in creating a real film for children without any kind of scenes that would frighten the children," explains producer Stephan Schesch. "And it is also a film which will be great fun for the adults. There is a smart narrative and it is laconic with a humor that isn't at all flat or simple. Moreover, the film has its own very particular visual style which is inspired by Tomi Ungerer and is really unmistakable."

Indeed, the film's makers received the master's blessing for the project after he saw the storyboards last summer. "Tomi looked at them and was moved to tears because he liked them so much," Schesch recalls. "Of course, the film is another development from his book, but he can feel that his spirit is there."

Unlike other German animation feature films, the bulk of the work on Die drei Raeuber is being undertaken in Germany: "the voices, characters, storyboards, overall layout and the production backgrounds have been done in Germany and it's really only the animation where we are going to the Philippines," Schesch continues. "We will then come back to Germany for the compositing."

A special characteristic of this production is that Animation X has built up its own studio infrastructure for the project. "We didn't go to the existing studios, but hired the people ourselves so that we could have control on both the quality and the costs," Schesch explains, pointing out that they had rented premises in Hamburg and Berlin for the international team of animators under director Hayo Freitag (Capt'n Bluebear). In addition, Animation X is working with two studios in Baden-Wuerttemberg – Studio 88 for backgrounds and Studio Film Bilder for layouts – as well as with Animagix, who purposely set up shop in Stuttgart to handle the compositing on the film.

While this first Animation X project could be financed solely out of Germany, Schesch nevertheless concluded a pre-sale during production for France with Wild Bunch's video arm Wild Side Video and the theatrical distributor Gebeka Films who has a successful track record in handling animation with such titles as Kirikou et la Sorciere, La Freccia Azzurra, and The Little Polar Bear. Moreover, this year's Berlinale should see the X Filme-subsidiary X Sales targeting certain territories where Ungerer's book has cult status such as Japan, Italy and Spain before handing the sales chores over to an international sales agent.

Genre Animation
Category Feature
Year of Production 2007
Director Hayo Freitag
Screenplay Achim von Borries, Bettine von Borries
Lars Jordan
Wolfgang von Henko, Bananafishbones, Kenneth Pattengale
Producer Stephan Schesch
Voices Charly Hübner, Bela B. Felsenheimer, Katharina Thalbach, Joachim Król
Production Company Animation X/Berlin, in co-production with German Filmproduction GFP/Berlin, X Verleih, X Filme Creative Pool
Format 35 mm, color
Shooting Dates animation studios in Manila, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Berlin, August 2006 - July 2007
Sound Technology Dolby SR
Festivals Rome 2007, Chicago 2007, Annecy 2008, Warsaw 2008, Ghent 2008; Animatou Geneva 2012
Awards 2nd Prize> Animation Feature Chicago 2007, Audience Award Annecy 2008
With backing from German Federal Film Board / FFA Filmförderungsanstalt, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, MOIN Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, MFG Baden-Württemberg
German Distributor X Verleih

World Sales
Wild Bunch