MIPCOM Day One: Sweet Deals and Discoveries

We got the usual flurry of news about series pickups, acquisitions and exec shuffles on the first day of the 25th edition of the MIPCOM market, which is taking place this week at the Palais de Festival in Cannes (Oct. 5-8). The official word from organizers is that over 12,000 participants are attending the confab’which is less than the 2008 edition which attracted 12,500 delegates, but about 500 more than MIPTV in April.

Freemantle Snaps Schwartz

Among the big animation news today was that well-liked industry veteran Sander Schwartz was snapped up by Canadian outfit Fremantle Corporation to head up its new children and family entertainment division. The Emmy-winning producer was responsible for many of Warner Bros. Animation’s acclaimed toons such as Justice League, The Batman, Xiaolin Showdown and Teen Titans. Schwartz was head of Warner Bros. Animation from 2001 to 2007 and most recently served as president of international production and head of Sony Pictures Television Intl.’s global production group in London.

Sander Schwartz

Mr. Davenport’s Latest Stroke of Genius

One of the exciting parts of working the MIPCOM Palais beat is meeting up with some of our favorite animation producers and learning about their upcoming projects at an early stage. The day started on a bright note with a visit with the brilliant Andrew Davenport, the co-creator (with Anne Wood) and writer of two of the U.K.’s most acclaimed and popular shows, Teletubbies and In the Night Garden. Davenport is at the market to promote his latest creation, CG-animated series Tronji, an intriguing 30 X 30′ show targeting six to eight year olds.

Andrew Davenport

The series is described as a landmark multi-media experience and centers on the adventures of a group of comical, absurd characters who live in a place known an Tronjiworld. The show also features three live-action children who enter this bizarro world to help battle a catastrophic phenomenon known as Wobble that sucks life, color and happiness away from their world.

‘The point of the show is to ask children to identify what they’re good at, so that they can use their skills to solve the problems around them,’ says Davenport, who is impressively articulate during our early morning meeting. ‘It was important for us to create this playful environment so that kids can practice these skills and help them learn without being obvious about it and hiding these lessons within the narrative.’

A Ragdoll production for the BBC, Tronji‘s first 15 episodes ran on the Beeb, beginning in November of last year. This elaborate production will also have a major Massive Multiplayer Online Game component. Judging from Davenport’s previous efforts, this clever new offering is poised to take off in a big way globally’it might just take a little while before the rest of the world catches Tronji fever. Just think how long it took for Americans to really relax and enjoy the glory of The Teletubbies! ‘When you try to explain the show to people, it really sounds quite complicated,’ admits Davenport, ‘but you’d be surprised at how quickly kids catch on to all the different stories and the show’s various components.’

Grown-Up Fare

And now for something completely different…we decided to check in with the gifted Richard Morss of Straandlooper Animation, which is a busy toon studio located in the town of Holywood in Northern Ireland. Morss, a TV toon veteran whose many credits include Lifeboat Luke and Tiny Planets is shopping a very clever and decidedly adult collection of animated shorts called Small Tragedies. You’ll just have to see these witty ditties to believe them, but once you sample them, you’ll want to pass them on to our friends virally. The one Morss screened for Animag was a hilarious song about a middle-aged red-neck guy who needs a lot of assistance from the blue pill in bed. Another big Straandlooper sleeper is Hector, the Fat Arse of the Law, a 12 x 15 spoof of those classic hard-boiled British cop shows that pop up on TV regularly. To find out more about these spirited, off-the-wall toons, visit www.straandlooper.com.

Check back with us tomorrow for more MIPCOM discoveries, including close encounters with Jerry Seinfeld and Joan Rivers. Yikes!