Perhaps it was the sunshine finally making an appearance on the Croisette or everyone adjusting to the fact that according to Reed Midem, there has been a 10 percent drop in attendance at MIPTV this year. Either way, most of the execs we ran into today were reporting a better climate than they expected. As one very busy vp of development described it, ‘It’s a case of last men standing’Those of us who managed to survive and are actually here, there still is a lot of business out there. TV programmers still need to fill their children’s programming hours with new content after all.’
Dr. Christopher Chia, Singapore’s Media Authority exec officer started the day on a very upbeat note, pointing out to the many top-quality animated and vfx-driven projects being produced in his country. MDA recently announced that it plans to spend $250 million to sustain the growth momentum of the region’s media sector during the economic downturn. Among the projects he mentioned in his brief presentation were Shape, a 39 x 5 High Def toon produced by Peach Blossom Media, BIG Communications’ Zigby and Dinosaur Train, Spark Animation’s 3D toon Jack and Character Farm’s Katakune.’
Chia also noted that the Singapore is moving ahead with plans to produce 20 movies in stereoscopic 3-D in the near future. Brian Yuzna of Komodo Films will produce three 3-D features’the first is titled Amphibious and will be post-produced by Singapore’s Infinite Frameworks, which also produced the feature Sing to the Dawn last year. Virtuosity director Brett Leonard has been tapped to direct the second movie and to oversee the production of the country’s top-of-the-line stereoscopic 3D movie production facility.
Debora Forte, president of Scholastic Media was also in town to promote the second season of the company’s highly acclaimed animated series WorldGirl and the CCI co-production Turbo Dogs, With a stellar track record that includes global TV hits such as The Magic School Bus, Goosebumps, Animorphs and successful features such as Tuck Everlasting and The Golden Compass, Forte knows a few things about creating quality projects regardless of passing fads and trends du jour. ‘When we launched The Magic School Bus, everyone told us that this idea wouldn’t work in territories outside the U.S., but we had to assure them that this was a special vehicle that could transform young viewers and teach them about the world,’ she says. ‘We had the same experience with Goosebumps and WordGirl. Our key to success has been about not paying attention to the side-view mirror and the back mirror and staying focused on our vision and our goals.’
In addition to developing several new children’s titles at Scholastic, Forte is also producing feature adaptations of the best-selling book The 39 Clues with Steven Spielberg and a movie version of R.L. Stines’ young adult series Goosebumps with Neil Moritz.
Everyone Loves a Bad Boy
Also riding the successful books-to-toons express is the always Mike Watts, managing director of U.K.-based Novel Entertainment, who co-produces the hugely successful Horrid Henry animated series with his wife Lucinda Whitely. Based on the books created by Francesca Simon and Tony Ross, the 2D-animated series has made a big splash on Children’s ITV.
‘We had 4.14 million viewers in the second week of March, which is quite amazing,’ says Watts. ‘The Henry books are finally launching in the U.S. this month, so we’re hoping that American children can also get to know and enjoy the world of Henry.’ Chicago-based Source Books will publish ten Horrid Henry books by the end of 2010. Watts and company are currently producing a new version of the Horrid Henry stage show in Sheffield as well as fine-tuning a tie-in Wii game produced by Asylum for a November release. Watts says his nine- and 11-year-old kids have seen the show so many times that they say things like, ‘Oh, we think the Bradford production was better than the Sheffield one,etc.!’
Novel Entertainment is currently in production on 52 new episodes of the toon , which will be delivered this spring. The show is currently airing in 27 countries around the world and has a massive licensing program and has quickly become the most successful series for U.K.’s ITV. It’s all proof that everyone can appreciate a strong-willed boy who is mad as hell and won’t take the tyranny of the grown-ups in his life (not the mention his horrible brother Peter Perfect and that rotten Moody Margaret next door!).
Among the companies having celebratory drinks today were TV-Loonland, which is launching My Life Me (a hip-looking 52 x 11 toon co-produced by Canada’s Carpe Diem) and unveiling the first five episodes of Mister Otter (52 x 1.5″), and Toon Boom which is presenting two new amazing releases’Animate Pro (which builds on the software’s feature set and delivers 2D-3D integrations as well as scanning options and compositing capabilities with 50 built-in special effects) and Toon Boom Manager (which delivers full tracking capabilities to monitor the production progress in real time).
We would have gladly stopped by to raise a toast, but the old meeting schedule had us running all over the Riviera building as well as various hotel lobbies spread out on the Croisette to take a wine break! Note to self: Next year, you’re wearing comfy running shoes to all your appointments’regardless of how many stares you get from the fashionable Europeans.