MIPJunior Wrap: A Weekend Postcard from Cannes

It could have been the perfect sunny weather or various reports that the global economic woes would be slowly lifting by the time the new year rolls around. Whatever the reason, the kids programming and animation professionals attending MIP Junior at Cannes’ glam Carlton hotel this weekend (Oct. 3-4) seemed to be enjoying a renewed sense of optimism and energy. As one indie animation producer put it, ‘It couldn’t possibly be worse than what we saw at the MIP-TV market this spring.’

According to event organizer, Reed Midem, over 1143 shows were available for 500-plus buyers to screen at the digital library. Although the show got to a slow start on Saturday, you could hardly move through the jam-packed lobby of the Carlton on Sunday.

Mahmoud Bouneb, exec general manager of pan-Arab Al Jazeera Children’s Channel delivered the event’s keynote on Sunday, in which

he discussed the challenges of the Arabic production center to compete in the international marketplace.

He noted that the channel has projects in development in various locations such as New Mexico and that it has a budget of $100 million for its two channels (30% of which goes to preschool channel Baraem TV). He added that the network is seen as a strong, independent performer, but it’s publicly funded and not actually profitable at this moment.

Meanwhile, a few blocks down the Croisette at the Martinez Hotel, DQ Entertainment and ZDF-Germany hosted a special screening of a complete episode of their new CG-animated series The Jungle Book. Co-produced with TF1-France, NBC Universal, ABC Australia and Moonscoop in France, 20 episodes of the impressive-looking show will be ready by the fall of 2010. After the screening, DQE’s president Tapaas Chakravarti acknowledged the hard work of the multi-national production and also presented a special Achievement Award to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, which was accepted by Josh Berger, president of Warner Bros. Entertainment, U.K. Chakravarti also mentioned that plans are underway to produce the second season of the show in stereoscopic 3-D for home viewing. On Wednesday, DQ plans to make another big announcement about a hot new project the studio is launching. (Tapaas has a great flair for dramatic presentations, so we’ll be all ears!)

In other Junior news, on Saturday afternoon, the jury for the 2009 Licensing Challenge picked Formula Fun Intl.’s Franco and the Formula Fun as this year’s winner. The 52 x 12 CG-animated series is set against the world of motor racing and follows the adventures of a six-year-old boy named Franco and superhero cars that trek the world and fight the evil schemes of supervillain Rossi the Chameleon.

The other selected nominees were Fuss Farm (Electric Circus, Wooki Kim), Geronimo Stilton (Moonscoop/Atlantyca), Manon (Cyber Group Studios), The Happets (Anera Films S.L.) and The Hive (The Hive Enterprises Ltd.)

The big newsmakers are waiting for this week to grab the headlines at MIPCOM (Monday thru Thursday). Among the hottest tickets is a special 20th Anniversary tribute to The Simpsons on Tuesday where series creator Matt Groening and exec producer Al Jean will share creative insights about their phenomenal toon and will chat with Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me). On Wednesday, Groening will receive the key to the city of Cannes from the mayor. Jerry Seinfeld, Lisa Kudrow and Joan Rivers are among other familiar faces from the American TV landscape who are slated to make appearances at the Palais this week. Stay tuned for more daily reports and the announcement of the most-screened animated shows at Junior.