Despite the lousy weather, most of the toon execs I cornered today seemed pretty happy about their business meetings’of course, they would just say that to the gullible press, right? It was a bit depressing to see the vast space occupied by Warner Bros. Animation in previous years (Sander Schwartz, please come back!) ‘ and the sight of tumbleweeds blowing through the empty booths in the Palais left us with deep feelings of trepidation about the brown sink-hole we like to call the global economy. But enough with the depressing talk. Did you hear that Entertainment Rights, the company that owns the licensing rights to Postman Pat, Rupert Bear and Basil Brush, was sold to Boomerang Media, backed by a U.S. private equity firm managed by the co-founders of Classic Media? The good news is that 90 jobs were saved for the time being. The disturbing news is that the company still has debts of more than $188 million’too bad we can’t blame that on Bernie Madoff or the weasels at AIG.
Not everyone is seeing the drop in market attendance as necessarily a bad thing. As one smart exec at a very popular animation studio told me today, ‘The time wasters stayed home this year, so we had a lot less people just wandering in and asking for meetings and dropping off their cards that we would never do business with.’ Most others were confessing that they don’t see a fast recovery happening anytime soon: ‘We give it at least another year,’ they’d say with a strange distant look in their blood-shot eyes.
A Crazy Squirrel and a CG Elephant
Lynn Chadwick, VP of worldwide sales and distrib, and Colin Bohm, VP and managing director of Nelvana Enterprises, were kind enough to walk me through some of their Toronto-based studio’s upcoming toons which are launching this year early this morning. A new series (52 x 11) about a neurotic, agoraphobic and paranoid critter called Scaredy Squirrel has an arresting, clean look and a strong fan base as it’s inspired by a series of books by Melanie Watt. Also on the horizon is Hot Wheels: Battle Force 5, a slick boys action show featuring the Mattel toy brand and the much-anticipated The New Adventures of Babar, which puts a CG spin on the beloved lit property. In this 26-parter, co-produced by French shop TeamTO, the classic elephant is a grandfather and his relationship with his eight-year-old grandson is explored in colorful and entertaining episodes. The show is slated to air in the fall of 2010/spring of 2011. ‘We like to keep the classical roots of the property, but give it a contemporary spin with the CG animation,’ said Chadwick.
Last of the Jurassic Generation
The talented team at Seoul, Korea-based Daewon Media (Noonbory and the Super 7) gave me a sneak peek at some of the art created for their upcoming new CG-animated series GON, which is based on the popular manga created by Masashi Tanaka. The award-winning comic-book follows the wordless adventures of a spunky dinosaur which roams the natural world after the extinction of his fellow creatures. The studio will be introducing the new show at the next MIPCOM Junior market in October. (Look for a special behind-the-scenes article about the new toon in the MIPCOM Junior issue of Animag this year.)
Bernard Signs Up for 3-D Movie
Carlos Biern, head of co-pros at the innovative Spanish studio BRB, told me that he’ll be taking the shop’s hit property Bernard to the next level. Yes, the clean-living polar bear will be the star of a 3-D stereoscopic movie, slated for the summer of 2012. Also on tap is a new 70-minute TV special and DVD release that will be titled My Friend Bernard and will co-star a shy boy named Sam who joins the bear on a comic adventure. The animation is done by the Barcelona-based studio’s Screen 21 production house. BRB’s other hot toons at Cannes include the jazzy CG-animated shorts series The Secret Life of Suckers (about the adventures of a wide variety of car window toys), Papawa and Angus and Cheryl. BRB is definitely on a hot streak these days.
Another Gem from Aardman?
Miles Bullough, head of broadcast at Aardman Animations, gave me the good news that his phenomenal Bristol-based studio has yet another new animated TV series in the pipeline. Titled Peppy + Rex, the 52 x 10 toon mixes 3D stop-frame with 2D animation. ‘In every episode, a young boy named Peppy is inspired to draw a picture, so he draws himself and his dog Rex having all sorts of amazing adventures,’ said Bullough. ‘He meets pirates, fire-breathing dragons, monsters, and then he comes home to the real world and shows his mom and dad his drawing and they put it on the fridge. It’s quite lovely.’ The real-word portions of the show are done in stop-motion, while the imagined drawings portions are 2D-animated by the studio. It certainly seems like the kind of project we can all look forward to’creative, smart, beautifully crafted and innovative.
Let’s just end our third-day MIPTV wrap on that positive note, in hopes that a lot of deserving animated projects get the partners, buyers and finances they were hoping to find at this recession-soaked market. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we’ll soon see the day that kids will stop watching annoying, shrill shows featuring precocious singing/dancing fame-harlots (insert your own favorite word here) so that well-made toons can bounce back at markets all over the world.