Folivari Backs Sherlock Holmes Spinoff ‘The Baker Street Four’ Amidst Wider International Expansion (EXCLUSIVE)

In a sign of Folivari’s widening ambitions, the French animation powerhouse will handle world sales of the Sherlock Holmes spinoff “The Baker Street Four” through its newly launched distribution branch Folivari International.

Adapted from a local comic book series that pairs Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective with four streetwise urchins, the title was developed in-house, with Folivari and Blue Spirit (“Blue Eye Samurai”) tackling creative duties and Canal+ set as commissioning broadcaster.

More from Variety

Headed by Melissa Vega – former acquisitions and international sales manager at Dandelooo – Folivari International has picked up three additional titles, among them Folivari originals “Nino Dino” and “Kiki & Ailen” and the Chilean/Brazilian preschool series “Guitar & Drum,” co-produced by Hype Animation and Punkrobot.

That Vega and Folivari founding partner Damien Brunner both share Franco-Spanish backgrounds lends the upstart distributor a desire to look for projects from further afield.

“What works in Latin America often works just as well in the United States,” says Damien Brunner, who envisions a handful of acquisitions each year. “What’s more, we have a company-wide desire to branch out – to meet people who are a bit surprising and not just buy from producers who are very established in Europe.”

This opening towards distribution arrives at an auspicious time for the French company, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.

‘Guitar & Drum’
‘Guitar & Drum’

Founded by the father-son duo of Didier & Damien Brunner alongside producer Thibaut Ruby, Folivari has quickly become an industry leader, delivering award-winning features like “The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales,” “Summit of the Gods” and “Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia,” all while developing a TV slate with series like “Ernest and Celestine, the Collection,” “Stinky Dog,” and “Samsam – Cosmic Adventures.”

Now Brunner wants to take the next step, looking to build Folivari International into a significant distribution player while handling production service work through Fost – an independent studio Damien Brunner and Thibaut Ruby founded in 2018. Though not a subsidiary, the Paris and Angouleme-based Fost works closely with Folivari, providing R&D and production work on much of Folivari’s slate, all while tackling for-hire work on projects like Netflix and Ubisoft’s upcoming “Splinter Cell.”

“[Fost] is a tool that allows us to maintain the quality we need and want,” Brunner explains. “Having a production studio allows us to nurture, support and retain top-level talent from production to production, keeping them available to Folivari whenever needed. That gives us an incredible artistic advantage.”

‘The Wild Inside’
‘The Wild Inside’

Specialized in 2D, Fost will handle production duties on most of Folivari’s upcoming features. The slate is rich, boasting new projects from César-winners Sébastien Laudenbach (“Chicken for Linda!”) and Patrick Imbert (“The Summit of the Gods”) as well as Folivari’s first-ever live-action title “Miss Mermaid” – a project set to shoot this fall that will not pass through Fost for self-evident reasons.

Federating such projects is a taste for artistic audacity in lieu of more cynical calculations.

“We don’t necessarily follow the market,” Brunner says, pointing towards Laudenbach’s sideways opera adaptation “Love is a Gypsy Child – A Carmen Story” and Imbert’s “The Wild Inside,” which mixes queer romance with a fantasy-tinged survivalist story set in the Alaskan outback. “You could cheekily say that neither film meets the market criteria. We take greater pride in following our filmmakers, listening to their crazy stories and believing in them.”

Still, the producer can take comfort in past performance, as Laudenbach, Imbert and Léahn Vivier-Chapas – who will co-direct Folivari’s upcoming World War II era feature “The Nazis, My Father and Me” – have all worked with the studio before.

“Accompanying auteurs is part of our DNA,” says Brunner. “We want to build lasting relationships with our auteurs, seeing how they evolve, looking out for them and hoping they trust us.”

Meanwhile, Folivari is also evolving, readying the live-action feature “Miss Mermaid” for production later this year.

“Our core business is animation,” says Brunner. “That’s what we love, what drives our passions, and what we’ll be doing to the end of our days. But lately, we’ve received some incredible live-action projects, and we simply don’t wish to be constrained. We cannot restrict ourselves and prefer to think differently about each and every project.”

Looking forward to the next decade, the producer will adhere to a similar vision.

“We will focus on projects that excite us, whatever the economy and whatever the technique,” he says. “We will believe in our luck, tune out market noise, and go where we want without getting discouraged. Will continue to make exceptional encounters with artists that either nobody – or everybody – wants.”

‘Love is a Gypsy Child — A Carmen Story’
‘Love is a Gypsy Child — A Carmen Story’

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.