Pete Hammond

The 65th Cannes Film Festival officially kicked off today with dual press events by Paramount for The Dictator and DreamWorks Animation for Rise Of The Guardians (distributed by Paramount) that provided the only real visible major Hollywood presence. Leave it to Sacha Baron Cohen to cause major trouble and a massive traffic jam as he marched down the Croisette with camel in tow in character as Admiral General Sacha Baron Cohen CannesAladeen. An army of paparazzi followed his journey from the Carlton Hotel, to the Le Voilier brasserie across the way (where the entire entrance is plastered with signage from the movie), to Ralph Lauren’s shop next door (where the camel and photogs were left outside). Of course, staging a major Cannes photo stunt like this is expected with his movie opening in the U.S. today. What better way to drum up publicity than to launch a takeover of the Croisette? Like what happened at the Oscars and The Dictator CannesCinemaCon, things threatened to get out of control as traffic snarled in both directions as far as the eye could see, and the Gendarme grew nervous. But that didn’t faze Baron Cohen, who stopped to shake hands with DWA’s Jeffrey Katzenberg at the Carlton’s outdoor cafe. Reaching out to Baron Cohen — who was a voice actor in DWA’s Madagascar 3, premiering here Friday — Katzenberg was heard yelling “Mr. Dictator! Mr. Dictator!” Never believing too much publicity is enough publicity, Baron Cohen was also scheduled for a Carlton Beach press conference later to continue The Dictator’s international push.

Related: ‘The Dictator’ Spills “Kim Jong Il’s Ashes” All Over Red Carpet Host!

Just before this stunt, Paramount and DreamWorks Animation showed off 25 minutes of its big holiday movie Rise Of The Guardians. Although footage previously was presented to the press in LA and NY as well as to exhibitors at CinemaCon, this was the most detailed look yet at the ambitious toon co-starring Isla Fisher (Baron Cohen’s wife). Called an “animated Avengers“, it was labeled by another co-star Alec Baldwin as “the Justice League of childhood” because the film unites a group of iconic heroes including Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Jack Frost in order to fight the classic Boogey Man. Guardians has the look and feel of the kind of movie that could turn into a major animated Oscar contender. Giving it even more cred are its executive producers Guillermo del Toro and William Joyce, who won the animated short Oscar this year. The film’s voice cast also includes Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, and Jude Law.

Related: Can Cannes Make A Major Mark On The Oscar Race Two Years In A Row?

Pine, Baldwin, Fisher, and director Peter Ramsey participated in a Q&A after the footage was shown. Baldwin called the film the most beautiful animation he’s ever seen on screen and praised DreamWorks Animation for consistent quality (guess he wants to keep working there). Asked which ‘guardian’ most influenced his life, Baldwin named Marty Singer, the entertainment litigator. And if there was any doubt about the status of 30 Rock, he said, “I have loved doing my TV show, and we are coming back for just half a season and then it’s over. But they are the funniest people I have ever met in my life.”

Katzenberg uses Cannes every year to promote his product, so he introduced the event in person. At the breakfast reception beforehand, he expressed excitement about both of DWA’s films this year. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted opens June 8th as part of the festival’s official selection. As for Guardians, Katzenberg told me DWA had a sneak of the film last week in Orange County at the AMC At The Block and the results were great. He’s been looking for truly original material and says this film really fits the bill of the DreamWorks Animation philosophy. As The Avengers continues to prove daily, putting a group of iconic figures together in one movie can do wonders at the box office. Katzenberg obviously is hoping that kind of cinematic lightning will strike here, too.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.

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