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Animator Balej reworks The Little Mermaid

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Czech animator and director Jan Balej is preparing an adaptation of The Little Mermaid, one of the most famous fairy-tales by Hans Christian Andersen. He renamed the Little Mermaid to the Little Fishgirl (Malá z rybárny) and placed it in a modern city.

Balej is one of the most distinct contemporary Czech animators. His two original puppet films from the Fimfárum series based on Jan Werich’s book became surprising box office hits. The expressive stylised spectacle for adults called One Night in a City collected a number of prestigious foreign festival awards, as well as the Czech Lion.

State covers one third of film
Even though the shooting has not yet started, the film already broke two records. The Little Fishgirl received a CZK 10 million grant from the State Fund for Support and Development of Cinematography. No other puppet film ever received more money in the Czech Republic.

Moreover, a number of European co-producers are showing interest, and so the authors are working on English and French language versions at the same time.

“The Little Mermaid is a classic fairy-tale story that does not require a complicated explanation of the plot no matter where you are in the world,” said Martin Vandas, whose Maur Film company is producing the film. Vandas thinks that the modern approach of Jan Balej and his colleague Ivan Arsenjev comes from the fact that the whole story takes place in a contemporary port, where the sea lord with his family and all his people take refuge. “It could also serve as a metaphor for immigrants of all kinds who find themselves in new worlds, in new and unknown environment,” the producer said.

Vandas has reason to be happy since the State Fund subsidy is covering some 30% of the film’s budget. “Naturally, we were all very pleased with such a support, which also means a certain level of trust and great responsibility,” said Vandas. Such a high subsidy serves as a certain guarantee and a confirmation of the quality of the project.

The grant commission mainly takes the quality of the screenplay into account, but the credibility of the director and producer is also important. “Previous awards collected by Balej do play a certain role. In our case, though, when we applied for the grant we already had interest in co-production from abroad confirmed and that is very important for the realisation of the project,” Vandas said.

Mermaid will go travel the world
The film might be released in 2012. The producers are holding talks with foreign countries already. Little Fishgirl combines traditional puppet animation with computer design, and music also plays an important role in the dream-like film. According to Vandas, the music should be provided by a prominent foreign composer.

“We are looking at the top names,” Vandas said. A famous foreign name could help the Little Fishgirl during marketing.

“Today we are not hiding our ambition for the Little Fishgirl film to get through to the most prestigious world festivals where Czech cinematography has not been heard of in the past years. Taking our previous experience into account, I believe that the Little Fishgirl stands a chance at the world festivals,” Vandas said.

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