“I’ve really come to love working in animation because all the options for storytelling are open,” says Norwegian-born producer Kristine M.I. Knudsen who came to Germany to study Film Production at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in Ludwigsburg. “There are no limitations to realism, and unlimited possibilities for creating characters and whole worlds,” she explains. “You can be as fantastic as you like, and I love this way of working, also because you are basically editing the film before you shoot it: you draw and make sketches and then edit it, and then you keep reworking it until you are happy before you finally go into production.”
Knudsen’s first foray into the world of animation came in 2014 with the feature film RICHARD THE STORK, directed by Toby Genkel and Reza Memari following the adventures of a feisty little sparrow adopted by a stork family. This was after she had already built up a track record as a producer of live-action films with such productions as Ingo Rasper’s comedy FASHION VICTIMS, Matthias Glasner’s German-Norwegian drama MERCY and Kjersti G. Steinsbo’s Norwegian-Canadian thriller REVENGE and RICHARD THE STORK, which premiered in the Berlinale’s Generation sidebar in 2017 and was named Best German Children’s Film at the 2018 Bavarian Film Awards, was sold to more than 150 countries around the globe and grossed over $ 20 million box office worldwide. The last two years have now seen the production of a sequel, RICHARD THE STORK 2, which has already been sold to a number of territories including Scandinavia, German-speaking countries, BeNeLux, France, Portugal, Israel, Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Former Yugoslavia, CIS and Baltic States. “My live-action films were all very different from one another, but it’s always been important for me to work on projects that have relevance,” Knudsen observes. “Similarly, with animation, it needs to be entertaining as well as relevant for the audience.”
“While I love the artistic and technical aspects of animation, there is also the greater access to the cinema audiences because the films are well developed, have high production value and essentially – we are not limited by language thanks to the dubbing,” she explains. Indeed, experiences of RICHARD THE STORK and other animated feature productions such as THE AMAZING MAURICE, DRAGON RIDER and MOONBOUND in the international market show that there is a strong demand for animation “made in Germany”.
“We are really good at 3D family entertainment in Germany, with a high quality technically, great production value and high levels of storytelling,” Knudsen notes. “However, we need to have more of a range of formats. There aren’t enough animated TV series and TV specials being produced in Germany because that’s unfortunately not a priority for the broadcasters.” Through her two production companies – Knudsen Pictures in Berlin and Den siste skilling in Norway’s Bergen – Kristine M.I. Knudsen is keen to develop long-standing working relationships as well as be on the lookout for new talents. “With RICHARD THE STORK 2, Denmark’s Mette Rank Tange and Germany’s Benjamin Quabeck brought quite different skillsets onboard,” she explains. “We’ve been conscious of wanting to have a strong female voice on our project because animation has been a very male-dominated industry until now.”
While RICHARD THE STORK 2 will be coming into the cinemas around the globe during 2023, Knudsen is already busy developing new animation projects. One project pitched at the last Cartoon Forum is COCOBANANA about a boy who is half coconut, half banana and 100% a genius inventor. Based on Norwegian Rolf-Magne Golten Andersen’s popular audio and picture books, the project could spawn both a feature film and TV series. In addition, she has a 3D CGI feature film with the working title CHECKMATE about the chess pieces coming to life and rebelling against the rules of the game and then leaving the chessboard for adventures in the real world.
And she has optioned the film rights to the Norwegian feminist comics THE FALL OF THE PATRIARCHY by the author Marta Breen and illustrator Jenny Jordahl for her first foray into 2D animation.