As Cannes Film Festival Kicks off Abroad, America's Hot New Teen Musical 'In Your Dreams' Invites Animation Proposals From Independent Film Producers Here At Home

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Rival to Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” may go animated in its quest to tap the $170 billion teen market. Online Webisodes, anyone?

As all eyes in the movie industry are turning to the Cannes Film Festival in France, the producers of the hot new teen musical “In Your Dreams” issued a statement today inviting the world’s independent film industry to tune in to their home-grown music and submit proposals for a potential animation project to be completed in the U.S. http://myspace.com/inyourdreamsthemusical

“Admittedly, it is a seller's market at the Cannes Film Festival this year as a plethora of American buyers prepare to scour for possible gems,” says Zeke Farrow, the Miramax-linked creator of America’s hottest new teen musical, “In Your Dreams,” the underdog contender that is taking on Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” in a hotly fought battle for the $170 billion teen entertainment market. “But the film industry should not forget that there are plenty of gems right here at home.”

According to Farrow, while there are always plenty of exciting world-class films on view at Cannes, there are precious few commercial titles to buy. “At this year's festival, which began last night with the world premiere of ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ most of the must-see titles already have distributors,” says Farrow. “And that’s not yet true of our hot new teen musical ‘In Your Dreams.’”

Indeed, Farrow admits that the rapidly burgeoning ranks of U.S. distributors at Cannes can expect to see many films that they like but few that they can responsibly acquire, especially given stateside audiences' current aversion to foreign-language fare. “Unlike those films,” says Farrow, “our hot new teen musical, ‘In Your Dreams,’ was written in English, and our focus groups have told us that the use of this particular language, in many instances, enhances their viewing pleasure.”

In a year where major entertainment channel launches have been announced from Inner Tube to MSN to My Network TV -- and not to mention webisode contenders by numerous animation outsiders -- Farrow is confident his musical can find a home with a major, “big-buck” producer.

“We have a meeting scheduled for June with Dual Star Entertainment, which is the management company for teen stars Ashley Olsen and Mary Kate Olsen, and also for the Sprouse twins,” says Farrow. “The Olsen Twins would be great for either a live feature or an animated film. What people forget is that the Olsen Twins can sing, and in fact, they actually have a number of music CDs that have gone multi-platinum. So we are awaiting this meeting with much anticipation and confidence. Something always seems to pop up out of nowhere.”

Farrow adds that Sarah Jessica Parker’s Pretty Matches production company, which has a two-year production agreement with HBO, is still a contender for production rights. “Sarah Jessica was a child star herself, and there is a feeling in the New York entertainment community in which she is a leading light that the recent ‘slut glut’ on television may soon turn into an embarrassment of riches."

But Farrow is open to smaller projects as well, from animation experts or even advertising agencies who are interested in animating any or all of the 13 songs that have already been recorded by Broadway stars on the “In Your Dreams” CD for their own purposes. “We have a song called ‘I Was Born To Reign’ which would be perfect for someone to animate as a spoof on Hilary Clinton’s rumored run for the presidency,” says Farrow. “And if you listen to it, you will see what I mean.” http://myspace.com/inyourdreamsthemusical

At Cannes, says Farrow, the likely outcome of this screening frenzy is that distributors with full release slates will resist the temptation to overpay, while hungrier firms with something to prove will shell out the big bucks. “Our film can probably be made right here in New York for under $5 million,” Farrow admonishes the movie industry. “So don’t go spending all your money on escargots.”

Movie studios that are vying for Cannes gold include Columbia Pictures, which is launching Sofia Coppola's revisionist take on "Marie-Antoinette," starring Kirsten Dunst in 18th century corsets; Sony Pictures Classics, which is introducing Pedro Almodovar's dramatic "Volver," starring Penelope Cruz in a role inspired by Anna Magnani; Paramount is debuting Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Babel," starring Brad Pitt; and Al Gore’s global warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth.” In addition Picturehouse will show Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth"; Lionsgate will show William Friedkin's creepy thriller "Bug," Fox Searchlight has Richard Linklater's controversial "Fast Food Nation;" and Warner Independent Pictures will show Linklater's animated adaptation of the Philip K. Dick sci-fi noir "A Scanner Darkly."

Unlike the Cannes Film Festival, which is a film festival, “In Your Dreams” is a large-scale, splashy, teen musical –- with just a dash of political satire. It centers around Helen, a seventeen-year-old girl who appears in three different incarnations: Black, Pink, and Blue.

What is helping to fuel the “In Your Dreams Express,” according to Farrow, are its 13 ingeniously lyrical songs, performed by a number of top Broadway singers, including “Trailer Park’s” Drama Desk-nominated Leslie Kritzer, “Wicked’s” Laura Bell Bundy, “Les Miserable’s” Jodie Langel, “Little Shop of Horror’s” Kerry Butler, “Thoroughly Modern Millie’s” Gavin Creel, “Hairspray’s” Jackie Hoffman, “The Full Monty’s” Sloan Just, and Anika Larsen, Danny Rocket and Anthony Rapp from “Rent.” Rhythm and blues artist Shayna Steele is also a contributor.

The stage version of “In Your Dreams” will see a showcase production at Ars Nova, the famed Manhattan performance incubator, later this summer, says Farrow. http://broadwayworld.com/viewcolumn.cfm?colid=9263

Among those in the motion picture industry with a growing awareness of the significant market value that a theater-distributed rival to Disney’s cable-based “High School Musical” has to offer are Chris Meledandri; Joss Wedon; Ryan Kavanaugh of Gun Hill Road; Thomas Tull and Scott Mednick of Legendary Pictures; Stephen Quinn; Steve Bratspies; Roy Spence; Polly Cohen; Mark Gill; Jeff Robinov; Sasha Alpert; Bunim Murray; Oliver Obst; Melrose Investors; Bob Osher; Steve Bing; Jeff Skoll; Tom Jacobson; Nathan Lane; Marc Platt; Gus Gustawes; Kenny Miller; David Brookwell; Sean McNamara; MarVista; Matt Dearborn; Michael D. Jacobs; Fernando Szew; Paul Federbush; Andrea Arnold; Hal Lieberman; Ed Begley Jr.; Daniel Battsek; TalkStory Productions; Brookwell McNamara Entertainment; Ray Lawrence; Richard Kelly; Ben Silverman and Reveille Studios; USA Entertainment; Gayle Troberman and Rob Bennett at MSN; and Vanessa Taylor at Pretty Matches Productions, which is currently producing “The Washingtonienne,” a sit-com for HBO about a Senatorial intern who discusses product placement opportunities with a Washington Insider during her lunch break.

The $170 billion teen and tween entertainment market continues to be a major focus this spring for a number of content providers. For example, over the course of its twelve airings (January 20-April 21, 2006), Disney Channel's break-into-song "High School Musical" reached 36.5 million unique total viewers (persons 2+), 20.1 million households, 10.3 million kids 6-11 and 11.1 million tweens 9-14. The premiere of "High School Musical" delivered the highest ever household ratings for Disney Channel original programming. Traffic to DisneyChannel.com surged with the premiere of "High School Musical." Within a 24-hour period after its January 20 premiere, 1.2 million unique visitors logged on to DisneyChannel.com -- the most ever for the site.

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Jeff Barge
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