Head of Sales & Acquisitions, Breakthrough Entertainment [Canada]
On the State of the Business: “Animation continues to be a very popular genre worldwide. However, some interesting shifts are emerging. There seems to be a resurgence of "vintage" or retro characters being introduced to the new generation. For example, 25 years after their successful launch, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be re-launching again.”
On the New Slate: “Breakthrough's new factual, live-action/animation series Stay Tooned is launching at MIPCOM. We are hoping it will attract a more mature audience as it re-visits the iconic cartoon characters many grew up with, from Fred Flintstone to Tweety Bird. Another trend is programs that address environmental concerns, especially those targeting kids and young people. Our fun, new animated series, Fishtronaut is a perfect example. The show targets four- to seven-year-olds and with catchy songs and games, it teaches kids that it’s fun to be environmentally conscious.
“We’re also excited to be working with Breakthrough Animation, Jetix Europe and Teletoon on Jimmy Two Shoes. Jimmy is an irrepressible, thrill-seeking optimist who finds himself in Miseryville, the most miserable place around. The writing and direction on this series is smart and incredibly funny. Kids will love that Jimmy is a bit of a klutz with a heart of gold in this offbeat, miserable place called Miseryville.”
CEO, Zebra TV Channels [Israel]
In addition to having a high entertainment value for young children, our content always has an extra educational aspect. At Hop! and Luli [channels] we have a very holistic approach to creating our programming: First, we finalize the curriculum for each series and then we break our heads on how to best exhibit that content through animation. Since our specialty lies in educating and entertaining young children, we are always concerned with combining visuals and storytelling techniques which specifically match the needs and pique the interest of television's youngest audience, ultimately giving them a place where curiosity, imagination and happiness can thrive. Take, for example, our new animated series, Colorful Rainbow, the goal of this series is to teach children colors and in each episode the main character, a little girl named Rainbow, learns a new color of the day. Here we chose to have the background of each scene stay neutral in black and white colors so that the actual color of the day stands out boldly, making it easily recognizable to its audience.
Producer (Little Nick), SND Films [France]
On today’s climate: “The market place is becoming more and more competitive, with historic broadcasters struggling to maintain their viewer share. In production, few series display both animation of quality and great writing, due to budgets becoming more difficult to finance. The few that are coming out will definitely find a good place on the market.”
New Offering: “Our new series, Little Nick (Petit Nicholas) has all the qualities to become a new classic: It is about children in their daily environment, but it stands out from series in the same vein as it includes parents, grandparents and all aspects of kids in their relationships to other kids, in an environment set in a golden age. It is truly a series for all generations, which the wonderful humor of the original books and the animation style of a CGI technique with a 2D render, all this set in beautiful backgrounds.
“Adapting Little Nick for the small screen is quite a challenge, as Sempé’s graphic style is so specific. I think the artistic team of Method Animation, our co-producer, has done incredibly well, as well as the writing team behind the series. It was a real collaborative effort also with the right holders of the property who have trusted us.”
Director of TV and Merchandising, KIDDINX [Germany]
On the New Slate: “Kiddinx has established Bibi & Tina as a new hit series, boasting a 28.7 percent share in the target group of five- to 12-year-olds in Germany. This series follows the adventures of two horse-loving girls, Bibi and Tina, as they solve baffling mysteries and help animals in danger. With an emphasis on friendship, passion for horses, family, first romance and witchcraft it delivers a guaranteed audience's favorite.
Honored with Gold and Platinum Awards for audio stories and videos/DVDs and with new products like books, puzzles, board games and digital games, Kiddinx represents German quality entertainment with beautiful animation, memorable characters, innovative stories and internationally age-appropriate content.”
Producer, Bardel Entertainment [Canada]
On the new show Zeke’s Pad: “The concept of the show—whatever Zeke draws in his pad comes to life—makes Zeke’s Pad unique, as the control of the show has been placed in the hands of a 14-year-old! It’s a creative, hormonal teenager, with all the regular coming-of-age problems, who’s really driving the stories. As such, the series is easy for kids to relate to. The show takes it to the next step, however, as by drawing in his pad, Zeke’s “regular” problems, end up increasing exponentially to the point of the absurd! Throw in the amazing look of the show, created in 3D, but toon-shaded to look 2D, and you’ll have a hit on your hands!”
Executive Producer, BRB/Screen 21 [Spain]
On the Toon Climate: “Obviously with less investment coming from advertising for our young audience coming directly from TV for the next year, the way now for an independent is to create buzz and viral marketing around a property and attract more investment from other areas such as online games, licensing and digital media through Internet with sponsorships.
On the New Slate: “Our next projects for TV are the next step forward in animated comedies. Papawa (104 x 7) and Suckers (104 x 2) are even better than our previous short format series as we have learned a lot on development, working even more at the animatic stage.
“Our new shows stand even better creatively than Bernard, The Imp or Angus & Cheryl on concept, writing, design—and have more appeal for the audience on digital media and licensing.”
Development and Acquisitions, Guru Studio [Canada]
On the State of Things: “It’s a challenging time in animation, but it inspires creativity and animation styles have never been more diverse—not everything is a 2D Saturday morning cartoon now! Our new series The Buds has a unique look and flavor—because it’s about the taste buds!
“We are a character animation studio just moving into content creation, which has been a challenge, but we are developing shows that broadcasters love, so we know we’re on the right track.”
Script and Licensing Consultant, digitrick [Germany]
“There are more and more timeslots and more emerging media, more good ideas, more dedication of all involved people, but less money. Our new show, The Moffels, is an innovative new show with strong characters and straight-forward stories which respond to the experiences of preschool children. Finding a solution for the financing is always the biggest challenge for a small company, even if you have a much-praised project. Luckily our show was already honored with awards in Germany (children jury) and the U.S.A. It’s a fantastic challenge to find the right partners who are willing to give our show a more international appeal.”
CEO, Mediafreaks Pte. Ltd. [Singapore]
On Today’s Toon Climate: “It's certainly becoming a crowded industry as more countries mature in content creation and enter the market. It's becoming really competitive, but at the same time it pushes the standards of TV animation to a new high. There's also more cartoon series done in 3D and HD as opposed to before. This is great for the audiences as they can get to watch more quality shows.
As cartoon producers, we endeavor to be even more quality conscious and make sure that we produce really good shows so that we can sell them to TV stations and subsequently create good licensing programs around our properties. We developed a style of animation and look that is unique and designed to help children stay focused and learn the good values our show Katakune imparts. The characters are designed to be round and colorful as kids of this demographic are attracted to roundish shapes and bright colors. This helps to keep the child attracted and focused on the animation.”
SVP—Creative Studios, American Greetings Properties
On the Business: “There are a tremendous amount of shows being developed and produced for both young and older audiences. With that, the health seems fine—the challenge is creating a property that becomes a phenomenon in both entertainment and consumer products. Everyone is trying to come up with the next big thing—hopefully it’s in our studio!”
“We work on the high concept of the show and develop relative and
innovative storytelling and imagery to match. Although we are very aware of what is happening around the industry, we try to focus on our core audience and concept—not what the competition is doing. If it’s a great show that has proper distribution and marketing, it will stand out from all of the other stuff. Like everyone, we are trying to stay ahead of the curve and have multiple ways of launching a property that will resonate with our core audience.”
The New Slate: “There are two shows in our studio that we are currently delivering episodes on. Twisted Whiskers: Cats and dogs being stupid and crazy. First and foremost, they act like pets, but when the need arises, they act like humans ... badly. There's a twist in every episode, and every follicle will be rendered in glorious HD.
Maryoku Yummy: The show has an amazing mythology—exploring your wish and where it goes before it’s granted. The storytelling is cute and quirky, the visuals are beautiful and unique.
Exec Producer, Lupus Films [U.K.]
On the State of Things: ‘It is still very tough, particularly in the U.K. where funding for children’s programs has fallen sharply. Our new series The Hive has beautiful, colorful animation, adorable characters and a unique setting.
“We are fully embracing the world of cross-platform for the first time when launching a new broadband channel dedicated to short-form animation, www.4mations.tv. It’s a whole different ball game to TV series!”
CEO, Santo Domingo Animation [Mexico]
“The films and series we are creating are a revival of the best that animation can offer. The Brijes properties are time-travel stories that take the audience into times and places that are not expected. These stories are rich in history, geography and mythology without losing the adventure, action, fun and humor that audiences crave. Sabel: Redemption tells a story in 2D animation that teens and adults will desire. It embodies the sense of rich adventure that mature audiences will appreciate.
“The animation business is going through a cycle that we saw about eight years ago. There is a lot of content, but no place to exhibit it. In a matter of a short time, new outlets will be available and much more original content will be needed. Creators need to keep creating.”
Managing Director, JEP Animation, Germany
“It is getting much more difficult to close the financing for TV series since the broadcasters pay less and less for more rights. We have funny characters, exciting crime stories and a wonderful madness in our new show, Animal Police Department.
Creative Director, Kandor Moon [Granada, Spain]
On New Content: “The TV movie format offers a new groundbreaking way to offer animated content free of the conventions of the episodic TV series. Our movie Extraordinary Tales is going to push the envelope, exploring new graphic styles and targeting the hip teen and young adult target with the horror genre, a very daring proposition in today’s market.”
On the Toon Climate: “These days, our biggest challenge is to keep up with the demands of the market place in terms of creating new TV content that is fresh, new and appealing to the ever-changing audience’s taste. TV animation has never been healthier from the creative point of view. A wide range of new styles and themes are continuously changing our perception of what’s animation. While network television seems to be stalling, cable offers bigger and newer possibilities.”
Head of Distribution and Marketing, Imira Entertainment [Spain]
“Take two established genres, such as detective stories and classic fairytales, give them a twist and you have Sandra The Fairytale Detective. It's our brand new adventure comedy for kids four to eight, a target which is in limited supply in the market these days. The program is a perfect bridge to drive the audience from preschool towards the six- to 12-year-old shows.”
Writer/Director, Prevalent Entertainment, Inc.
“We've brought fun, action and adventure to the family audience while infusing an epic style, elevated genre and feature film quality to The Prodigy. The engaging story structure, symphonic and popular music, and colorful visuals are what we like best about our new toon.”
Founder, Lincoln Butterfield
On the Business: “There are a lot of new shows out there and many more coming up. For us at Lincoln Butterfield, any animated show is good for business. Not only does animation have more longevity than any other genre, but there are also more and more U.S. markets opening up as cable television diversifies. With those two facts in mind, the future of television animation is pretty bright. And that healthy landscape is creating opportunities for both Lincoln Butterfield’s children’s programming and more adult themed shows.
On the New Slate: The writing featured in Lincoln Butterfield’s kids’ shows Tan and NIT: Neighborhood Investigation Team doesn’t underestimate the intelligence of children. I personally believe that most kids are smarter than programmers think. When I talk with kids, I find that they are so bored with most of the animation made for them that they are secretly watching adult shows like Family Guy and South Park, and I think that’s a shame. While these are certainly shows I enjoy, I wouldn’t want my nine-year-old watching them.
Lincoln Butterfield’s kids’ series are structured to provide entertainment for the whole family. Each show features jokes and situations for kids along side different jokes and situations for adults. By opening up the experience and allowing parents to explain what kids don’t understand, we’re making shows the whole family can watch and not feel ripped off. Kids don’t have to be hustled out of the room due to jokes too violent or dirty, and parents aren’t driven from the room by sugar-coated manic nonsense.
Lincoln Butterfield’s adult themed shows aren’t dumbed down either. Our series When in Rome is rooted in real Roman history, which was both decadent and barbaric ... You know, good “old fashioned” adult fun. And our space epic Venture Probe deals with the very adult theme of trying to navigate a soulless bureaucracy while trying not to be vaporized by hostile aliens. What adult hasn’t had to deal with that?
At their core, all Lincoln Butterfield shows offer intelligence, humor and optimism.”
SVP International TV and Merchandising, Scholastic Ent.
The New Slate: “Scholastic creates shows with universal themes that connect with kids from many different backgrounds. Our programs, the new ones and the classics, all present characters who bring to life great, emotionally engaging stories in unique ways. That’s why these shows work on a global scale, in many different cultures. And they all deliver on their promise of “edutainment.”
“Our business is more challenging and more interesting than ever before. We’re navigating new platforms and contributing to new networks. Collaboration is key. We must be where kids are, providing rich online experiences, interactive games, consumer products and promotions. Scholastic’s brands are now developed and produced with all media applications in mind. And it’s our challenge to keep the focus on connecting kids to our brands in ways that fit their individual preferences.”
Content Division Director, Daewon Media
On the Business: “Animation is becoming more and more diverse and versatile on its use of medium. I believe business grounds for animation has expanded with more opportunities, but it doesn’t seem that one animation can dominate the market any more.
Many countries protect and support domestic animation, and there are subtle territorial differences in terms of character/story/genre preference and broadcast regulations. For example, merchandise-driven animation is no longer welcomed in Europe as it is becoming extremely difficult to have them placed on TV.
Thus, it is becoming increasingly clear that the key to international success is to form a successful partnership (whether it be a distribution partner or a co-production partner) with a good company who well understands the characteristics of its territory.
Having to find the right balance between production budget and animation quality is always a big challenge for us. Cutting down the budget may decrease initial risk but we cannot afford to cut down on quality. Obviously, TV animation quality may have its limits when compared to theatrical animations, but I believe it is crucial that we keep a high level of quality in order to have a successful animation series. After all, viewers will acknowledge a quality animation when they see one.
Founder & CEO, Global Telemedia, Inc. [U.S.]
“We are bringing Momo Island to the market, which is one of the new compelling series for kids that takes a complex issue of relationships that is adult in nature, but through the characters and script makes it easy to understand for children. There is a human element in the form of an ‘earth boy’ and then there are the inhabitants of Momo Island that are surreal and ‘creature like.’ These little monsters can portray human traits that are good and bad.. Young viewers can learn while being entertained with fast-moving, clever stories. Technically, the 52-episdoe series incorporates CG technology, along with 3D graphics produced in High Definition.”
VP Operations, Screaming Wedgie Entertainment, Inc. [U.S.]
What Makes Us Different: “A lot of today's animation is mostly recycled shows and characters of the past—barely anything original. Unfortunately, those that are original seem to lack the ability of grasping the audience's attention long enough to keep them entertained throughout an entire episode. What separates our animated series from others is that we feature a large number of ethnicities and cultures for vast audience appeal, then couple those characters with a unique personality and design so that our viewing audience will watch and say, ‘Gees, that character is so much like me!’ Hence, everyone watching will find a character that they can bond and relate to immediately.
“Moreover, looking at the name of our series, Flush & The Unflushables, one would think that it's just one-dimension, potty humor. However, it's not. The humor is quick and sassy, not gross and tasteless. If you're a fan of Mel Brooks, the Zucker Brothers, the Marx Brothers, the Farrelly Brothers, Tex Avery & Benny Hill's humor, you'll love this series!”
VP Worldwide Television Distribution, Sesame Workshop
The Current Climate: “With all the new media platforms that are dedicated to kids programming, I see the animation business as thriving in the global market. Programming has become very targeted at specific age groups, and with new and emerging technologies, there is a wealth of opportunity to mix media to create fresh new characters and content that will appeal to, and engage, each targeted audience.”
The New Slate: “We are extremely excited to bring Bert and Ernie’s Great Adventures, which was originally created for European and international distribution, home to Sesame Street in the United States. Animated by Misseri Studio in Florence, Italy, this all claymation series qualifies as European content and is a groundbreaking endeavor for Sesame Workshop. This is our first full length animated series and we are thrilled to offer broadcasters 52 episodes that highlight the personalities of Sesame Street’s best buddies. My favorite part of this new claymation series is finally being able to see Ernie and Bert wiggle their toes and blink their eyes.
“Also, we are proud to offer a second season of Pinky Dinky Doo which is truly targeted to kids from four to seven years old. This show, which attracts both girls and boys equally, has a unique on-screen gaming element that is also available on the web and is proven to increase comprehension of stories as well as literacy. With the move to a new 3D animation, Pinky busts out fresh new dance moves and viewers will see that her hips don’t lie. Best of all, Pinky Dinky Doo highlights the brilliance and proven track record of Cartoon Pizza’s president, Jim Jinkins.”
Our biggest challenge: “In such a crowded media universe, one of our biggest challenges is finding the right partners and funding to compliment Sesame Workshop’s mission to create innovative content that maximizes the educational power of media to help children reach their highest potential. Sesame Workshop constantly challenges itself to develop strong and engaging programs that appeal to both kids and caregivers that will in-turn be successful for its partners and broadcasters.”
Co-Founder and President, Portfolio Entertainment
“Our new show, Chinatown Cops turns the police genre on its head with its irreverent take on the clichés and conventions of the cop show. Set against the backdrop of a big city Chinatown, the creators have taken the coolest elements of anime, police procedurals and primetime comedy and mixed them up like a karaoke machine on random. The resulting remix is sure to take its rightful place in pop culture as both teens and adults alike embrace Jay and Rick's witty banter and dysfunctional relationship.”
Director, MSL Audiovisual & Media [Spain]
“Our new animated show, Leo Natura stands out because of its natural humor, its environmental teachings and how healthy it is. What I like best about our series is its philosophy: Leo is a vegetarian lion!”
Chairman and Director, Foothill Entertainment
On Today’s Climate: “The TV animation business continues to struggle as more and more opportunities are presented on the web. Just as the live-action business has had to adjust, the kids’ animation is equally having to change. While that does open up new opportunities, it is still a different business model that needs to be understood.
“Creating new looks and designs is always the first step. But also creating assets that are easily re-purposed for all the digital media is now a necessary record step.
“Ironically, it is the tough financial markets that have created our biggest challenges. One never thinks about the kids’ animation business being tied to sub-prime mortgages, but just as all businesses have suffered with tight credit, so has the production business. It is more difficult to finance shows and equity investors are more cautious. It all has a knock on effect for getting productions financed and being able to take advantage of new media business opportunities.”
Exec Producer, Renegade Animation
On the Toon Market: “I hope it’s healthier than ever, and has a big appetite for fruit! What we like best about our new cartoon is that it’s funny! It’s a throwback to the good old days when cartoon characters had fun, acted goofy, had crazy things happen to them and got back up the next episode to do it again! Business has been slow, with everyone being very cautious. This is the time when you have the man power to really get stuff developed and produced, but at the same time are trying to conserve resources until the economy turns back around. Interesting times, to be sure!”
Producer (Freefonix), Cinnamon Entertainment
“It is a tough climate to work in and independent producers like ourselves have to find an angle not just in creating original product but also in the ways to market it. With our latest production, Freefonix, our point of difference is the quality of the music.
We have made more than 50 original tracks with 30 of the world's top producers/writers headed by Magnus Fiennes (a renowned record producer who has worked with Lenny Kravitz, Spice Girls and Tom Jones) and are localizing the music in major territories to bring further marketing opportunities by having local pop stars cross-promote the show and the music in their territory, giving international broadcasters a fairly unique marketing tool. In the U.K. this has been very successful with stars including Jamelia and Justin Hawkins (of The Darkness).
Founder and CEO, Aniboom.com
Today’s Climate: “The boom in animation that began a little more than a decade ago is continuing and gaining momentum. The Simpsons, with 19 broadcast seasons, (and a theatrical feature and merchandise) established animation as a key part of primetime TV once and for all, worldwide. South Park expanded the range of animation, capturing the very desirable (and hard to hold) teen and young adult audience, leading community channels like Comedy Central, MTV, and [adult swim] to edgy animation. I see Aniboom pushing the curve to the next level by enabling creators from all over the world to develop and distribute new animation for all kinds of audiences.
“Now, at Aniboom, I'm on the other side of that equation, and I'm able to make things much better for the folks making the buy decisions on new programming. Because at Aniboom, the content we acquire and develop for TV is "tested" by massive real-world audiences on the web. So when we come to a MIPCOM, we're able to offer content that already has a fan base in the millions.
“When we created Aniboom two years ago, we had no real competition. Then, in the last quarter or so, we find major players in TV (Fox, Viacom/MTV and others) have announced their intent to launch competitive sites. It's pretty flattering and a nice confirmation of our invention, but it's also a challenge. But we remain the only completely independent company in this space; we've earned the trust of both animation creators and media companies that need new product, so we're totally optimistic.”
Chairman and CEO, Cyber Group [France]
“TV animation is booming but at the same time TV broadcasters face increasing challenges that may hurt the producers in the next couple of years. Our new series, Manon is the first of its kind, starring a young loveable character immersed in nature and sharing experiences with all its animal friends. Her kindness is boundless, her generosity overflowing and her enthusiasm knows no measure! The series transmits a clear message: We can live simply. There is no need to own everything in order to take advantage of all life has to offer.”
Managing Director, Cosgrove Hall Films [U.K.]
On the State of Things: “In the U.K. the TV animation business is starved of cash and there will be casualties. Action is needed immediately, as it’s almost already too late. Our new show Squidge & The Hardnuts has a unique, easy, funny and gentle charm which will be popular amongst preschoolers and parents alike.”
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