‘Combat Wombat’.

Like a Photon Creative’s animated family franchise The Tales From Sanctuary City continues to rack up overseas sales, ranking as one of Australia’s most successful exports.

The second film in the trilogy, Combat Wombat, which opened in Australian cinemas last weekend as an alternate content release, has been pre-sold to more than 100 countries by Odin’s Eye Entertainment, with more deals in negotiation.

Directed by Ricard Cussó and produced by Like a Photon’s Nadine Bates and Kristen Souvlis, the Screen Queensland-supported franchise kicked off with The Wishmas Tree. The third title, Daisy Quokka: World’s Scariest Animal, is in post.

The Tales From Sanctuary City franchise has been amongst our top selling titles over the past 18 months,” Odin’s Eye’s Michael Favelle tells IF.

“The confidence that our distribution partners have shown has been phenomenal with several distributors snapping up the complete franchise as a package while others such as the UK want to see each film before committing.

“With COVID-19 affecting each country differently, some distributors such as KinoSwiat in Poland remain committed to theatrical releases (The Wishmas Tree reached #2 at the box office) whereas others like Signature in the UK are opting for Premium VOD releases followed by physical media. Either way, the future is looking rosy for this franchise and we hope we can keep making them.”

Among the territories that acquired all three are Germany (Splendid), Portugal and Spain (Big Picture), Poland (KinoSwiat), Ukraine (Monumental), Yugoslavia (Blitz), Israel (Filmhouse) and Vietnam (Green Media).

Bates tells IF: “Like a Photon Creative is incredibly proud of Combat Wombat and the entire franchise. We’re embracing a new level of representation and empowerment both on screen and off.

“As the media landscape continues to get harder and harder for Australian indies, we’re thrilled to keep making extraordinary Australian content not just for Aussies, but the whole world.

“LAPC’s fundamental ethos, across all our projects, is about bringing diversity to the screen. Combat Wombat embodies that ethos by celebrating a middle-aged, curmudgeonly, frumpy woman (who happens to be a wombat) as a superhero who embraces her own body as her ultimate super power.

“By having phenomenal talent like Deborah Mailman as our heroine we’re also bringing Indigenous voices to children’s content, which is imperative.”

Mailman’s character Maggie Diggins becomes Sanctuary City’s superhero after she begrudgingly saves a rookie caped crusader named Sweetie (Ed Oxenbould) from doom.

The resident superhero, Flightless Feather (Frank Woodley), has his feathers ruffled by Maggie’s rising stardom, not helped by his PR manager CeCe (Judith Lucy), who is keen to dump him in favour of representing Maggie.

As Flightless hatches a plan for Maggie’s demise, she uncovers a conspiracy that will put the city in grave danger.

Bonsai Films’ Jonathan Page released the film on 42 screens, mostly one or two daytime sessions, grossing $11,000, before the home entertainment release via Universal at the end of this month.

Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell said: “Combat Wombat was popular at a few sites but we didn’t really expect huge crowds for it. Nice to have an Aussie kids movie though. ”

Like a Photon was among the 20 or so leading producers that wrote to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and all MPs last week, warning that abolishing the free-to-air broadcasters’ children content quotas will force many companies to close and result in thousands of job losses.

“The impact of the latest screen quota and Producer Offset amendments on Australian kids content producers is incredibly detrimental,” Bates says.

“There is essentially only the ABC that will now commission any Australian kids content and it already has a limited pool of funds. Why the streamers haven’t had quotas enforced on them is beyond mind-boggling.

“In the international territories where this has occurred, the local creators have thrived, local culture has been appropriately preserved and the impetus to fund an entire screen industry has been lifted off the governments. It’s insanity that they haven’t made the same moves here.”

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