Executive Q&A: MIPTV 2009

The first quarter of the year finds international animation content producers and buyers heading over to Cannes for the MIPTV market (March 30-April 3) and the Cartoons on the Bay festival (April 2-3) in Tiglio, Italy. We surveyed some of the top animation execs attending these events to get a solid take on the state of the global animation business in 2009. Here, they talk about some of the new toons they’ll be taking to the market as well as offering timely advice on how to survive the tough economic climate:

Weiling Kwok, Executive, Xianghong Film & TV

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

We are aiming at strengthening our international cooperation at the same time as keeping our original production.

—-

Mike Young, CEO, MoonScoop Group

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Our new Twisted Whiskers series, based on American Greetings’ massively popular greeting cards line, features squash and stretch animation with fur-covered, goofy, bug-eyed animal characters’all done on a television budget. The fur (and the budget) presented quite a challenge, but we and our co-production partner Dataquest have created a project that will be a ‘game-changer’ in the industry. The end result is an envelope-pushing series two years in the making, which has pushed the limits and may simultaneously break the hearts of many a rendering farm.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

Chloe’s Closet is one of our newest series and I have a strong personal attachment to it since we created it based on ideas inspired by my own granddaughter named Chloe. My wife Liz and I watched the way Chloe interacted with her little duck security blanket who she named Lovely Carrot. When she played with Lovely Carrot, she seemed completely mesmerized and was truly enjoying the magical world she was creating in her mind. We’re hoping to re-create that same dynamic of how kids play and interact with these imaginary friends. It’s truly created from a child’s perspective. It’s all about Chloe using her imagination and totally role-playing the character that she dresses up as. Each episode is a quirky and unexpected adventure. The series is an animation hybrid of Flash, 2D and 3D CGI sets. It has a preschool math curriculum and features models that parents and children can make using household items. We are very proud of the way the show has turned out.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

We would plan a bank robbery except they have no money. We have hunkered down and stripped back our G and A (but not our artists) and we’re producing slightly fewer of our own shows. We also have some great work-for-hire projects in the pipeline. We need to try and survive the next 18 months. We also have a fresh sales impetus on our current as well as past shows. We are also using group-wide economies of scale to better effect, including being under one brand, MoonScoop.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Do not wait for others to dictate your business. Build value by real ownership. Now is the time to be bold.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you …

I’ve got a merchant bank that will invest in my property. This has virtually never been true and certainly not now.

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

Spending time with my grandchildren. I got them all soaked to the skin paddling in rain puddles last week and spent the day washing and drying all their clothes. There are six of them after all. Golf (which I also play) merely adds to the stress.

What is the personal guilty pleasure you’re not willing to go without no matter what!?

Supporting Cardiff City ‘ the greatest team in football the world has ever seen.

Larry Feign, Director, STVDIO Media

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

Love of rock-n-roll combined with love of furry animals (not that kind of love!) combined with being a goofball.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business … what are your survival strategies for the near future?

Cheaper whiskey for my animators.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

I AM a small, independent animation producer. Advice: Marry a doctor! If they can’t finance your projects, they can at least get you antidepressants.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you…

“We’ll definitely buy this series after you’ve finished the production.”

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

Swedish vodka.

What is the personal guilty pleasure you’re not willing to go without no matter what!?

#3: Snickers bars (#1 is too gross for a family magazine and #2 is already married’hey, just kidding!).

Carlos Biern, Co-Production Director, BRB Internacional

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Toys living inside of a car are things everybody can identify with and are the heroes of our new show The Secret Life of Suckers. When you put the creators of Bernard or Angus & Cheryl writing behind it and a wonderful design you have a HIT!

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

Art toys & URBAN music have been our everyday inspiration for creating these unique characters. There were thousands of funny stories during our brainstorming sessions. Many of them happened inside of our own cars and some of those were too imaginative and kind of surrealistic!

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business … what are you survival strategies for the near future?

It is a difficult time to bring forward new brands as most of the networks are not too open to take risks on new shows. So we are primarily pushing more our well known show brands like Bernard or Angus & Cheryl in new fields on financing while setting up new ways of financing through videogames.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Buy a Wii and an iPhone and use the online videogame shops for Playstation and the Xbox 360. Don’t try to start development of your next show until you spend four weeks understanding these interfaces, designs and storylines.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you…

This is the next Simpsons, Pok’mon or SpongeBob.

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

My third coproducer right now is using more creative ways using new technical production skills without losing the art and the craft!

What is the personal guilty pleasure you’re not willing to go without no matter what!?

My beloved island Formentera in the Mediterranean sea.

Adam Tootla, Senior Vice President?, Marvel Studios

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Super Hero Squad is a first for Marvel. First time we are self-financing, self-distributing, first Marvel Universe show inclusive of characters across all of our character lines and our first action-comedy series. This is Marvel’s single biggest non-theatrical initiative and we are putting full corporate efforts into this across all divisions. We expect it will be an evergreen franchise for many years to come!

Ann Austen, SVP of Development, Cookie Jar

Which aspects of ‘Tales From Cryptville’ make it unique and creatively fresh?

The Cryptkeeper himself will be state-of-the-art mixed media; we’ve added an environmental spin on the original subtext (vs. the Cold War era paranoia of the original comics) and most importantly, our storytelling is a departure from the original anthology format to a narrative one. Even the Cryptkeeper himself will have a role in the narrative, not just be a passive narrator.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Seek the unexpected. Don’t be afraid to take creative chances, and always have passion for whatever you do.

Muriel Thomas, Head of Sales and Co-Production for E1 Kids, E1 Entertainment

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

First, visually our shows are quite unique and they are complimented by strong storylines which appeal equally to boys and girls. Additionally some of our shows such as Peppa Pig and Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom incorporate humor that encourages parents to endorse the properties and enjoy the shows sometime as much as their kids.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

This is a question for the authors but I strongly believe that their own kids were a good source of inspiration.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

The current financial situation will certainly have an impact but we are strongly positive about [animated] shows. We believe that they will continue to travel well and their high quality will stand out.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

To keep projects as close as possible to their original concepts as it’s impossible to please everyone’

Don’t trust anyone who tells you ….

‘You are the very first person seeing this brand new project!’

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

No. 1 would be comfortable shoes and No. 2 to enjoy it.

What is the personal guilty pleasure you’re not willing to go without no matter what!?

It’s a secret!

Raquel Benitez, CEO, Comet Entertainment, Inc.

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Is a great and dynamic movie, we are very excited to be part of it. Around the World, for Free! is a wonderful comedy movie full of edgy characters and adventures.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

Our inspiration comes from many different sources but mainly: life itself.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

Controlling the expenses, reducing costs and being more selective about advertising, markets to attend, etc.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Try to focus on just one property that you really believe in, do not diversify your efforts.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you ….

‘No problem!”Normally it means there is going to be a big problem later on!

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

Always try to find some time off to walk by the beach.

Aron Dunn, Director of Creative Development, Portfolio Entertainment

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Big or small, this business runs on talent. A smaller independent company’s strength should be a passionate, and infinitely capable, tight-knit team. So, recruit, cultivate and retain the most talented people you can find. Keep an open dialogue with your creatives through the ups and downs of development. Keep them fit and engaged through the grind of production. And, give them the room and resources to play between projects. Because, the best idea in the world isn’t worth a thing if you don’t have dedicated and talented people to execute it perfectly.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you….

‘…we only have a few minor notes.’

What is the personal guilty pleasure you’re not willing to go without no matter what!?

How can you have guilty pleasures when your job involves reading comic books and playing videogames? Seriously!?!

Cristina Brandner, Managing Director, Neptuno Films

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

[show is Megaminimals, about animals in nursery school] This unique design! Such a sweet expression in a square head!

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

Seeing our little son coming back from school so happy.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

Keep kicking’

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Build good concepts with good designs and there will be a space for you.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you ….

‘You look younger”

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

I’m very lucky to be at the French Riviera!

Richard Morss, Joint MD and Executive Producer, Straandlooper

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Small Tragedies is a collection of thoughtful but funny individual short films’each of which are designed to become ‘mini brands’ of their own, supported by online presence, publishing and more stuff about the issues raised by each particular tragedy. The rhyming narration to each film enables a fast paced, non-linear visual story telling technique. The format allows us to tackle difficult and truly tragic subjects such as plastic surgery gone wrong, obesity and the global credit crunch in a way that is thought provoking, but hopefully not ultimately negative or depressing. While the shorts will be published online, and as books and DVDs we believe that the collection will also work for TV.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

I had wanted for a long time to do a show about all the rubbish of our lives’pointless vanity surgery, fiscal greed, obesity, self-obsession, meaningless fame, etc.’but did not want to do something filled with hate and anger! The doggerel idea gave us the chance to do that, and hopefully to be outrageous and funny and black without mortally offending anyone.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business’what are your survival strategies for the near future?

In our case we are trying to get content directly to the consumer as soon as possible in its life. We cannot afford the long term risks involved with the traditional TV market, and have to ‘monetize’ our IP in every way we can as soon as we can. Otherwise, grow vegetables and pray!

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

We are pretty small! I would hestitate to advise anyone. I think the market is so changeable that we are all making it up. Unless you have access to massive state subsidies however, I think the tactics I outlined above are a reasonable way to move forward.

Prentiss Fraser, Vice President and Head of Sales, E1 Entertainment

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Majority Rules has an amazing up-and-coming cast, the scripts are great and it’s a very cool combination of live action and animation ‘ a winning combination.

Frank Saperstein, SVP’Animation and Children’s Programming, E1 Entertainment

DISCUSSING ‘THE DATING GUY’:

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

The stories of [The Dating Guy] focus on the dating misadventures of 20-something urban youths. We combine real-life, plausible situations with outrageous and other worldly events to create a unique blend of sophisticated yet irreverent humor.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

The real life dating exploits of one of the show creators was the springboard for the series concept.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

Play your cards close to the vest, be cautious about how you spend your money, and make sure you do a killer job on the orders you do have because that is how you will be judged.

Sjoerd Raemakers, Director of Commercial Affairs, Telescreen

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Frog & Friends stands out from other series because of both its quality and philosophical content, based on successful books. The jazzy music adds unique flavor to the total atmosphere. In our eyes, the series is a must-have for every broadcaster as it looks nice and is very entertaining, yet with good values and philosophy.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

In first place, the total philosophy inspired us. Plus Frog is considered as a strong international publishing based brand. In addition it follows our ideas that beautiful Dutch publishing properties such as Frog should have a chance in animation and we would love to bring them to a wider, international audience.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

Do what we have always done: Find decent partners, do not overspend and as a company do not take too high risks. Every project should be a valuable addition and should have a positive influence on the company’s performance as such, but not key to the existence of the company.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Work with people and organizations that are established. Think in the same line and do not try to invent the wheel again. Be willing to share. And don’t trust anyone who tells you … that he/she is the best.

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

Stay within your own scope of how to do business and always believe in your properties and clients.

What is the personal guilty pleasure you’re not willing to go without no matter what!?

Be straight and honest. Though at given times, it is better not to stress this too much.

Kanji Kazahaya, Director of Int’l Department, Toei Animation Co. Ltd.

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

It is Fresh Pretty Cure, the new and the 6th season of the Pretty Cure series.

Fresh Pretty Cure aims at a wider audience than the previous seasons, from preschool to upper grade school, girls as well as boys.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

We believe that our animated series are world-class.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

We believe that it is a good chance to exert our strength as the animation studio with more than 50 years history.

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

I would like to present our animation to more TV channels or buyers.

Moreover, I would like to create more occasions to show our animation to more children in the world.

Joseph Walker, Co-Founder/Associate Producer, Lincoln Butterfield

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

All of our shows have a core of optimism. On N.I.T.: Neighborhood Investigation Team, for example, the characters’ unbridled optimism gets them into trouble, and it’s that same optimism that gets them OUT of trouble.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

Our shows draw a great deal of inspiration from our personal experiences. Venture Probe draws from many unfortunate customer-service incidents we’ve encountered over the years, N.I.T.: Neighborhood Investigation Team was inspired by Robert Hughes’ experiences growing up in Northern Michigan, and RIP, M.D. comes straight out of Mitch Schauer’s love of old-time movie monsters.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

Keeping our operating overhead as low as possible. This has been our strategy since we founded the business. Low overhead provides us with a flexibility which will allow us to explore creative and adaptive financing techniques.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

If there is any doubt you need it ‘ there is no doubt ‘you don’t need it.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you ….

Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

I look around and realize, “Hey! I’m on the French Riviera!”

What is the personal guilty pleasure you’re not willing to go without no matter what!?

Sushi in all shapes, forms and sizes.

Chloe Van den Berg, Executive Director ‘ International, Entertainment Rights Plc

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Tinga Tinga Tales is a brand that connects’it connects generations, people, traditions and ambitions. It connects the past with the present, the funny with the wise, the traditional with the modern and the young with the old. No other brand will so uniquely connect with so many audiences.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

Tinga Tinga Tales is an animated preschool series that tells the tales of how your favourite animals came to be, such as ‘Why does Giraffe have a long neck?’ The series is inspired by traditional African folktales and delivers these stories with a contemporary twist. The show’s beautifully produced imagery is hand-painted by local artists and is inspired by and based on the famous Tinga Tinga art of Tanzania.

Deborah Forte, Executive Vice President, Scholastic & President, Scholastic Media

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

At Scholastic Media, we are inspired by our audiences and their needs. We develop shows that fill a variety of educational, social, emotional and developmental needs for kids from many different backgrounds. Whether it’s addressing vocabulary paucity with WordGirl, modeling the skills of teamwork and good sportsmanship with TurboDogs or fulfilling a child’s innate curiosity about how things work with Chicken Socks, we’re focused on what will ignite the minds of young viewers.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are your survival strategies for the near future?

Even in tough economic times, I remain very optimistic about the short-term (and the long-term) prospects for our business. In keeping with Scholastic’s promise to bring high quality entertainment for children and parents, the value served with consistently promising educational content will last through the ups and downs of the economy. We will continue to work closely with our development team to make sure the Scholastic product offers value through long lasting, dependable educational entertainment.

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Scholastic’s WordGirl provides quality entertainment while feeding a child’s need to learn literacy and vocabulary during a key developmental phase of their life. It’s now in its second full season, so the great ideas keep rolling in and great episodes keep rolling out. This creative mix of education and entertainment has proven to be a successful way to engage children in the learning process while continuing to be uniquely engaging. The Emmy Award-winning writing, the hilariously talented cast of comedians and the trendy animation ‘that’s what keeps WordGirl unique and fresh.

Caterina Vacchi, Senior Manager / Executive Producer, Atlantyca Entertainment

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

The magic, in the production of [Geronimo Stilton], has resulted from combining the mix of the strong classic appeal (classic fashion, etc.) of “trusted” characters while at the same time incorporating some of today’s ‘cool,’ all wrapped in modern charm. And of course, the stories’you have to love Geronimo’s stories! They are simply hilarious.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

For us obviously, Geronimo Stilton is based on the award-winning, multi-million selling international series of kids’ chapter books of the same name. Our challenge in developing Geronimo into a new ‘television star’ was to maintain some of the cherished characteristics our readers have grown to love (and expect) while adding a slightly “fresher,” new style to Geronimo, suitable for TV and ready to capture the hearts of young audiences everywhere.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

Really great properties and really strong concepts always survive in different financial environments. This is a motivating time for all of us; a time to get back to basics, a time to pursue and develop new potential partnerships, to deliver on quality and content.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

We are small, so, maintain perseverance and seek nothing but top quality. Consistently do your best.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you ….

That they are always right.

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

Laugh’lot’s of laughter, whenever possible.

What is the personal guilty pleasure you’re not willing to go without no matter what!?

Since it’s a personal guilty pleasure’I prefer to not reveal to anyone :) ))

Christophe Goldberger, Head of Distribution and Marketing, Imira Entertainment

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Sandra the Fairytale Detective is a unique twist on two classic genres: fairy-tales and detective stories. The series is full of adventure and fun but also combines magic and popular characters and stories that children know and love. Each episode is like going on an exciting new journey with some of your favourite friends!

Jo Daris, General Manager, Studio100 Animation

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Kerwhizz is a unique mix between live action and animation, offering an interactive experience for kids and their parents. The world’s first preschool quiz, excels in quality of storytelling and animation. The vibrant colours give the show a very distinct look and feel and the merchandising range stands out in packaging and product innovation.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

When our production partners first showed us the concept, we bought into it straight away. We have always wanted to make a mixed show (live action / animation) and Kerwhizz was the perfect property for it. Looking at my family I noticed how vividly children are involved in simple quiz questions and how much satisfaction they get out of that. This led me to believe that filling this gap in the market was a sure winner, and it turns out to be true.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business’what are you survival strategies for the near future?

In all honesty we were one of the lucky ones not to be affected so much by this and the reason is our diversification strategy. Although it is hard to find investment partners in the current climate and although merchandising revenues are under pressure, we found that people are still very much prepared to invest in content through DVD/VOD sales, through live entertainment and through theme parks.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Find a strong partner and make sure you have all the elements in place to support the show once it’s on air. Making a show is one thing, building a brand is another.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you ‘.

‘ They are not affected by the financial climate.

Adam Shaheen, President/Executive Producer, Cuppa Coffee Studios

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Reality TV deserves to be punched in the face and served a dose of its own medicine! Life’s a Zoo humorously serves up just that. It’s an adult animated reality format with great writing, cool music and excellent production values’not something usually associated with reality TV.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

With 200+ reality shows out there, there’s room for a funny one, we thought! Besides, who doesn’t want to see what happens when you lock a panda, a monkey, a pig, an alcoholic bear and a gay crocodile in a luxury mansion?

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

We find that doing good work with sound budgets helps us flourish, not just “survive”.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Think about the work and the idea first, not your checking account.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you …

Broadcasters are looking for “x”‘they change their minds like people change underwear!

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

Business as usual. There’s money out there, but people are using the climate to spin their wheels. You have to be persistent and trust your gut.

Jane Wu, Executive Producer, ZN Animation

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

[Zeng He's Voyages to the West Seas] is about the famous Chinese explorer Zheng He and his adventures out at sea. We believe it’s the first time that this important part of Chinese history has been captured and made into an animation series. Throughout the storyline, realistic values in life such as camaraderie, team-spirit, self sacrifice, friendships, etc. are presented … entertaining and yet educational.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

To share with the world a part of our Chinese history and culture.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…What are you survival strategies for the near future?

To be more selective on the projects that we embark on, and work only on themes that have a strong appeal, locally and globally.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Everyone has to start somewhere … don’t lose sight nor hope. The main thing is to be driven by your passion and commitment.

Tim Bryans, Studio Manager, Straandlooper Animation Ltd.

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Small Tragedies is unique in that it is a series of individual shorts packaged together as a series. Each individual Small Tragedy has its own design and animation style and each short tackles a very different issue in its own indomitable fashion. The shorts will be created using a variety of animation tools and techniques and utilizing designers from all over the world who will bring their own distinct design influence to bear on the project. It promises to be an extremely entertaining and visually striking series.

Hector is an interesting property in that each individual feature length mystery can be packaged as a series of shorter pieces building to the complete set, so that the series is more flexible and therefore accessible to broadcasters with schedule restrictions. Beyond broadcast however, Hector will be rolled out across multiple platforms, with a comprehensive online and mobile presence that will feed into the animated mysteries to create an extremely compelling property. Alongside the online presence that accompanies the mysteries there will also be a series of ‘Making of’ and ‘Behind the Scenes’ shorts and blogs that will document the fictional highs and lows of filming the series.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

Small Tragedies was born out of our the very real humor and tragedy that you can view on TV every day in programmes such as Celebrity Fat Club, 10 Years Younger, You Are What You Eat, Big Brother and X Factor. Small Tragedies puts a subverted comic spin on issues such as obesity, vanity and celebrity in a new and entertaining way that will appeal to people aged between 18 and 80 with a dark sense of humor.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business’what are your survival strategies for the near future?

Our company strategy has been in response to the changing television market as well as the global financial downturn. Financing animated content is more difficult than ever, so producers are having to look at business models that minimize risk and create returns on investment at any earlier stage. Straandlooper is looking to adopt a more direct-to-consumer approach, prioritising the emergent and more democratic markets, while at the same time backing this up with solid packaged publication of DVDs and other ancillary products. We must now regard TV as a licensing opportunity rather than as the grand arbiter for the content we make.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

I have heard this over used, but it still rings true: Content is King. Content producers are indeed facing hard times, but if your focus remains on creating high quality content cost effectively and distributing it to as wide an audience as possible through the more democratic online and mobile platforms that have become prevalent of late, then you are always going to remain competitive in the market place. At least that is what I keep telling myself!

Stephanie Betts, Director of Development and Licensing’Animation, Breakthrough Entertainment

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

Producing Parker is driven from the female perspective, which separates it from other animated adult series. When developing the style of show, we decided it needed to have a very sophisticated and urban look to appeal to a female audience, who may have never watched animation before. In our storytelling process, we drew upon topics that all women could relate to and laugh at, which developed the fresh look and feel of Producing Parker.

Kim Cattrall, one of the stars in our series, portrays an out-of-control (and sexually charged!) talk show host with the kind of energy and comedic delivery that will entertain both men and women week after week. She embodies the word ‘fresh.’

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

Producing Parker is inspired by every young working woman out there who is trying to have it all, but takes themselves a bit too seriously. The series is meant to relate to all kinds of women and the absurdities we face in this modern world (do I buy the $300 pair of jeans or eat this week?!).

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

Kraft Dinner, for the entire crew! Just kidding. On future projects, we’re trying to find solutions to bring costs down by partnering with other production companies to share in the costs. We’ve always been involved in co-productions, but they’re becoming more and more crucial in order to complete the financing. Finding companies with strong international and creative sensibilities to partner with is key.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

It will never get easier, it will always be tough, but don’t give up! There’s nothing else like this industry and we’re all lucky to be a part of it. Focus on making great work that’s creatively driven and it will happen! OR run the other way, as fast as you can.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you ….

‘We’ll only stay for one drink,’ or ‘It writes itself.’

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

Isn’t that why they serve ros’ with every meal?!

What is the personal guilty pleasure you’re not willing to go without no matter what!?

Sour candies and Red Bull, I’m addicted.

Gregory Payne, Chairman, Foothill Entertainment

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

The creator of Boy and the Dinosaur is a young new U.K. artist who brings a fresh and creative ‘voice’ to the project. Being from the North of England, his take on things is just a little bit different.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

The creator’s inspiration for this project came from watching his young son play with a favorite toy dinosaur.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

My biggest suggestion is to ‘conserve cash and cut costs.’

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Since we are one of the smaller, independent companies I should definitely take my own advice and ‘conserve cash and cut costs.’

Don’t trust anyone who tells you…

‘That they can get your show on the air.

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

Drink better wine.

What is the personal guilty pleasure you’re not willing to go without no matter what!?

Traveling with my wife Jo.

Daniela Flower, VP International Sales, Ludorum

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

The new series of Dennis and Gnasher, based on the iconic characters from The Beano comic, published in the U.K. by D.C. Thomson & Co., is fast-paced, action-packed and humor-driven with specific appeal to children aged five to 10.

This is the first new series of Dennis and Gnasher in over 12 years. It combines a bold graphic approach using outlines drawn in black to give strong definition, dynamic perspectives and solid construction, drawing on the best traditions of the comic strips from which Dennis and Gnasher are taken.

Today, in many of the series targeting this demographic, content is centred on a struggle between good and evil. By contrast, Dennis and Gnasher tells funny stories’the scripts, written for an international audience, ensure the high octane humor is driven by strong narrative rather than slapstick and springs from the irrepressible nature of two best friends.

The series presents a new take on old-fashioned fun. We live in a world where children are increasingly wrapped in cotton wool, and hemmed in by political correctness. Dennis and Gnasher is a refreshing celebration of childhood, as adults experienced it; boys just being boys, inventing, building and getting up to mischief in a cheeky and charming way. Our heroes are active, not sedentary, creative, not uninspired; they take whatever the world throws at them and turn it to their advantage.

The theme tune and musical score, majoring on guitar, bass and drums, positions the series apart from the more classic cartoon genre, tuning in to the indie and grunge pop influences popular with the target audience.

The overall effect is to deliver action and fun in a contemporary, urban setting recognisable to today’s audiences the world over.

Jyotirmoy Saha, Co-CEO, Sparky Animation

Which aspects of your show make it unique and creatively fresh?

From the looks of it, Jack is another complete adventure and fun show for 6-9ers. But the unique thing about it is that, without being “in-your-face” the show teaches kids a lot of interesting facts and concepts. Whenever we talk educational shows we always think of a student-teacher kind of interaction (where someone talks and viewer listens) or a preschool education show with song and dance. Jack is very different. It educates without being an educational show. And the great thing is that the characters have their own online site that is a user generated bank of information for kids.

What was the inspiration for your animated series?

The reason why I first became interested in Jack is that I spent hours with my kids every week on the Internet helping them find interesting facts about everything under the sun. One of the biggest problems I find is that there is almost no place on the web where you can get interesting information in a kid-friendly manner. When the project was brought to me, I thought this was the perfect way to reach kids with cool facts. We developed the idea further to make it a strong online proposition as well. So now we are going to launch the broadcast of the show and the online component together. Even before the show is ready for delivery we are getting very strong interest from broadcasters.

Everyone is aware of how the financial climate is affecting our business…what are you survival strategies for the near future?

Irrespective of the climate, there will never be a substitute for the freshest ideas. At Sparky Animation we are looking out for good projects even more agressively. Even at the cost of indefinitely deferring our personal upsides, we are taking bolder steps towards growing our business and investing in better shows. Our thinking is that this financial climate will probably last for about two years or a bit more. IF we are careful and judicious about our investments now, when all of this comes back to normal again, we will emerge as an animation business that is much stronger than many of our bigger counterparts today.

What is the soundest advice you can give smaller, independent companies and animation producers?

Don’t sell the shirt off your back just to get involved with a co-production partner. Your money is just as important as anybody else’s. If the commercial deal is not equitable, then you need a new partner.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you ….

‘I can sell that show for you in a minute.’

What are your personal strategies for dealing with the stress of the market?

Work harder… you won’t find the time to get stressed!! But seriously… I treat stress by spending time with my family or on the tennis court. It has always been the same, tough market or not.

What is the personal guilty pleasure you’re not willing to go without no matter what!?

Long drives in my BMW and good Scotch Whiskey. Never together though…