French-Australian co-production Santa’s Apprentice is set to open in Australian cinemas in the second half of 2011.

The feature animation has an all-star local voice-cast including Shane Jacobson, Magda Szubanski, Delta Goodrem and Hugh Sheridan and recently won the UNICEF award at the Annecy International Animation Festival in France. The award recognises the best animation which highlights the goals of the convention on the rights of the child.

Santa’s Apprentice follows the story of seven-year old Nicolas as he struggles with the ups and downs of being the next Santa Claus.

The co-production was led by Gaumont-Alphanim and Avrill Stark Entertainment and also marks a return to the big screen for Australia's Flying Bark Productions, which is also producing a 3D feature animation of its iconic Blinky Bill series.

Creative producer Avrill Stark said the film is a delight for children of all ages.

"We had a fantastically talented Australian team working on the key animation of the film headed up by Ian Harrowell and a wonderful composer in Nerida Tyson-Chew whose music, with a 50 piece orchestra, brought the emotion of the story to life. It is a true honour for all involved for Santa’s Apprentice to win the UNICEF Award at this year’s Annecy festival.”

Santa’s Apprentice was released last year in France, where it sold over 100,000 tickets in the first week and 650,000 over the life of the release. The film made over €3.2 million at the box office and has also been sold to other countries including Austria, Canada, Greece, India, Russia and the USA.

The film will be distributed in Australia by Becker Entertainment.

Check out the latest issue of IF Magazine (June-July #141) for a special on the local animation industry, featuring Flying Bark Productions.

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