MIPCOM Preview: Trendwatching with Toon Toppers

MIPCOM-2012-150

 

We caught up with some of our favorite small-screen animation business execs prior to the MIPCOM market to get their take on the TV climate and the forces that are changing the toon landscape this year:






Mary Bredin – VP, Development & Acquisitions – Guru Studios

How is 2013 shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors: What I like is that there is less panic now about the digital world–producers seem to be adapting and figuring this new model out. We can make Google or Netflix a partner now. The content business can evolve and still make sense. Maybe. The mergers are telling in this new world order–DHX with Cookie Jar–big consolidation in the Canadian market. I am still struggling with how free VOD and DVD rights can sit side by side but for the moment, they seem to be.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for this MIPCOM market: Advice I always give myself: See as many different types of people as possible and make the market as creative and fun as possible! Find people you connect with and work with them.

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years: It’s the same: Put a face to a name … so that the rest of the year on Facebook and e-mail you can at least have some connection!

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course: Still loving Phineas and Ferb.

Most annoying toon trend of the year: For me it’s Annoying Orange–despite my love of Fruit Ninja–I am just not a big fan of the whole talking fruit thing!






Brendan Pollitz – Creative Director – Toon Goggles, Inc.

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? 2013 is shaping up to be a year in which producers and distributors are in position to take more control over the direction and revenue streams of their content. The wide availability of IPTV channels on IPTV solutions such as Set Top Boxes, Connected Televisions and Tablets allow for matched visibility while keeping control of Intellectual Property rights.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Keep the value of your content in mind when negotiating deals. Do not give to the point where the success of the project is solely dependent upon what one or two networks choose to place in front of children in any given season. Keep in mind that network television’s business model is based on a “turn and burn” approach to acquisition of new content.

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? This year we are looking to expand our global presence; we will be looking to partner with rights holders who have content available in multiple languages. We are also interested in 3-D Stereoscopic animations as well as live-action shows/movies.

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! Cartoon Network has a funny show called The Amazing World of Gumball and another called Adventure Time.

Most annoying toon trend of the year: I happen to enjoy all styles of animation and there are not any trends that I can say I’ve found particularly annoying this year.






David Freedman – Animation Writer, Show Runner & Voice Director

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? The pressure is on to nail quality first, quantity second. You have 180 episodes of fodder? Nobody is that interested anymore. Now that kids can watch anything anywhere… the shows actually have to be good. For preschool it has to be hypnotic, for older kids, it has to be funny. And hopefully different.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Make it good. Make it surprising!

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? There’s a few more buyers, but everyone has less money. So again it comes down to being good.

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! Phineas and Ferb continues to delight and surprise.

Most annoying toon trend of the year: There is nothing annoying with toons. If it’s a toon, I’m happy. So I suppose the only annoying thing is cheap reality programming for kids. Or that reality show about the annoying “Honey Boo Boo Child.” Hypnotic, but it hurts my eyes and my soul.






Mohd Naguib Razak – Director General – FINAS (Malaysia)

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? As the economic recession was experienced in 2012, it was evident that broadcasters worldwide were gradually becoming more selective and had a limited budget. Therefore, it was crucial for producers to think outside the box by aggressively approaching distributors and various new media platform operators in the effort of distributing programs in the economies of scale. The situation at MIPCOM 2012 is expected to reiterate itself, however previous experience will help synergize relationships between global buyers and Asian producers, as Malaysia’s world-class, unique and cultural content will continue to be in demand. In 2013, developing animation programs for various multi-platform purposes will be the way to go, as consumers are spending more time on smart phones and smart TVs, and gradually less on a traditional TV.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Any serious producer will spend a good three months to prepare for a major trade mission, such as MIPCOM. Setting your focus and clear objectives of the mission will be crucial to success–whether to sell your content, find co-production partners or simply explore or seek critical feedback of your content in development. Preparing a set of marketing collateral, including posters, flyers, DVD showreel and presentation proposals, should not be forgotten. Finally, securing your meetings at least two to three months ahead of MIPCOM will help to engage with quality meetings with potential partners.

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? Malaysia’s FINAS has been increasingly aggressive and instrumental in the efforts of developing its entertainment and media industry. There is no exception to this year’s MIPCOM where FINAS will come full force with a large delegation of companies, which includes many new companies. Kamaruddin Siaraf, Secretary General of the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture is expected to lead more than 30 Malaysian companies to MIPCOM this year.

As a result of the implementation of various government incentives and the development of its industry, FINAS will be making highlights in its success of bringing almost 200 new titles available for sales and acquisition, including feature films, documentaries, dramas and animations. Global buyers will be looking for High Definition content, especially documentaries, animation programs and 3-D stereoscopic feature films with excellent vfx, namely Bola Kampung: The Movie, War of the World: Goliath, Vikingdom, Malaysia: Sanctuary of Faith – The Mosque, The Church & The Temple. The ultimate goal will be to promote and introduce the great variety and quality of programs available in Cannes, and encourage many more new co-productions with international producers.

For the first time in history, FINAS and MDA (Singapore) will be co-organizing a networking reception party in MIPCOM, in the efforts to welcome and attract even more foreign partners to co-produce animation projects in the heart of Asia.






Edmund Chan – Managing Director – Animasia Studio

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? It is evident that ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations] markets are the fastest growing region for both consumption and production of digital content globally and will further expand as a hub for digital content development. Economic volatility in the first world regions, such as North America, Europe, Australia, etc. have lowered demand there, leading to a major shift in the ASEAN region. It is expected that global animation producers and studios are increasingly looking to setup or partner with studios in ASEAN for outsourcing and co-productions. Meanwhile Asian studios from Japan, China and Korea have moved aggressively to Malaysia for animation co-productions.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Animasia Studio, as a world-class producer for animations in the past 10 years, would like to emphasize that the importance of all exportable animation is about “Quality.” We sincerely believe that the virtues of a “Quality Animation” can only be derived through pure dedication and passion. It may be a long journey ahead, but only patience through critical feedback, research and experience will bring entry-level animation creators to the competitive and commercial level where major studios and broadcasters will begin collaborating with them. Visiting MIPCOM will be a first step to observe and engage with the industry.

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? As Animasia Studio is fast recognized as one of the leaders in quality animation productions in Asia, the studio is its metamorphosis phase of expansion and diversification from a 2D digital animation studio to a state-of-the-art 3D CGI fully equipped animation & new media development center. During MIPCOM 2012, Animasia is poised to excite the market by introducing their first-ever 3D Stereoscopic animated movie, Bola Kampung The Movie, based on a popular animation series on Cartoon Network Asia, Disney Channel Asia, Media Prima and RTM. Animasia will be in MIPCOM Jr and MIPCOM with the objectives of seeking for buyers, distributors, investors and even producers who may want to discuss about potential co-production projects.






Irene Weibel – VP, International Co-Productions & Development – Nelvana Studio

Top 5 Things Creators should do to get Ready for MIP:
• Get lots of rest

• Plan and schedule your meetings
• Pace yourself
• Practice your pitch and make it work for 30-minute meetings
• Be ready to follow up with materials

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? The state of animation is strong and exciting. At Nelvana, we are excited about the shows we have in production (like OH NO!) and the shows we have on the air like Scaredy Squirrel and Mike the Knight. There are so many great shows out there which raises the game for everyone. The sophistication of creators, artists, designers and technology make it a very exciting time to be in animation.






Irv Holender – CEO – Multicom Entertainment Group

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? There is a tremendous amount of product that fosters creativity on the one hand, but clogs the marketplace on the other. With the popularity of CGI, the ability to produce animation has become global, making it more difficult for new projects to get off the ground. Burgeoning production worlds like China and India are creating new challenges for even industry giants like Japan. Furthermore, with today’s most popular programs based on existing licenses, truly original properties have it that much harder in today’s environment.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? A compelling presentation with both visual and storytelling elements intact is a must in order to rise above the competition. The industry is very different from the days when we were producing Saturday morning shows with built-in markets.

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? Through 45 years of attending MIP, I’ve learned that despite whatever faith I have for a particular project and whatever new strategy that’s built into its presentation, the program’s quality needs to be top notch and lend itself to today’s marketplace, especially in our competitive industry. With Mask Masters‘ 3-D element, we hope to tap into this still growing and exciting trend. MIPCOM is the only market that gauges what we can expect for tomorrow, allowing us to create content that understands the needs of broadcasters.

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! As a grandfather and as someone who has been in the business for many years, I’m a strong believer that animated shows need to leave kids with the feeling that they’ve learned something new. Education can be achieved on many levels–through pure edutainment programming with built-in lessons to series that introduce kids to new worlds and expand their way of thinking.

Most annoying toon trend of the year: Excessive violence is a trend I just can’t get behind. As cartoons continue to embrace violence, they step up the game by introducing hostile characters and darker storylines that, while often embraced by older audiences, are detrimental to young imaginations.






Nat Abraham – President, Distribution – Breakthrough Entertainment

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? While the children’s animation market continues to be strong, it is increasingly congested with the sheer volume of product coming from virtually all parts of the world and especially Asia. So the challenge is to have strong character development within the stories to stand out. A secondary challenge in this maze of content is to try and get the Broadcaster’s attention when there is so much animation being pushed out almost weekly.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Simpler is better. Shows with overly complex narratives and season-long character arcs are typically hard to pitch, and even harder to execute, especially if you’re new to the game. Given the trend towards lower budgets and tighter schedules, and the hurdles needed to navigate today’s TV landscape, it’s better to develop a strong, simple concept with clearly defined (and well designed) characters, as well as create a unique world.

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! Adventure Time is really something special. It’s the way cartoons were meant to be: Pure imagination, unleashed in a wonderfully rendered world, filled with absurd stories and ridiculous characters, and grounded in great design and animation. It defies formula, challenges convention, not to mention has producers running around asking, “How’d they do that?”

Most annoying toon trend of the year: The notion that technology will save the day. There will never be a tool that replaces good storytelling. The same goes for character development, animation and design. The best artists are the ones who use those new technologies to augment and extend their own skills in an effort to push boundaries and be creative.






Thom Chapman – Vice President – ToonBox Entertainment

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? Clearly it will be the best year ever for TV animation. Doesn’t it always get better and better?

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Know your market and who you are pitching to as much as possible.

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? More focus on alternative broadcasters, IPTV, OTT, mobile, etc.

What is your favourite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! The Amazing World of Gumball

Most annoying toon trend of the year: Is this a trick question? That Orange, I guess.






Steffen Kottkamp – Managing Director, Programs – KiKa

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? Still, as a result of the economic downturn, TV animation producers and distributors will face some negative trends like less great projects in the pipelines, whether national or international companies. And less investors and distribution companies are willing to invest in new projects, especially not in the more risky ones which means less original content, more brands.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Prepare yourself and know your possible clients well. Make your appointments in good time since TV execs, especially, are always busy. Come up with new ideas, but don’t spend too much time on ideas for preschool shows. There are too many real good ones out there.

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? Our strategy didn’t change compared to the last markets. We’re still searching for animation series for our core target group of six- to nine-year olds. KiKA does not pre-buy but either co-produces or acquires programs. As you might have realized already, we are not interested in buying preschool programs at the moment, anyhow, feel free to present yours as it may be the one!

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! Disney Pixar’s Brave, Aardman’s Band of Misfits, Hahn Film/March Entertainment’s Mia and Me.

Most annoying toon trend of the year: Same as last year: Taking famous brands animated in 2D and transform them into 3D CGI animated programs. There are not many programs out there which are worth the effort.






Francesco Manfio – General Manager – Gruppo Alcuni

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? I am convinced that 2013 will mark a new phase of recovery and renewal for our sector, after two rather negative years.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? The only advice I can give is to not try to copy productions which have been or currently are successful. In the last few years “copying” has unfortunately become an extremely damaging practice. We are continually presented with series which seem to be the exact copy of existing ones. I strongly believe that our work should be above all about continuously searching for new ideas, new content, new graphic styles.

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? In order to respond to a market which is undergoing major changes, Gruppo Alcuni is striving to follow new and innovative paths. A particular example of this is our newest series Symo & Rose, which will be available for broadcasters in the first quarter of 2013, but as of September 2012 and up until the end of the year, members of the Benetton Kids Community will be able to get exclusive sneak peeks of the series online. Children from around the world will get the chance to “fall in love” with the series which can then be picked up by broadcasters, boosted by the web success.

Most annoying toon trend of the year: As mentioned above, without a doubt it’s “copying”!






Carlos Biern – CEO – BRB Internacional

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? The only way to succeed is to have a well-furbished brand on a new show. Very few networks, unfortunately, believe in new characters for the international market in 2012. Brands, interactive and international content is the best way to move on with animation for the next two years!

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Don’t ever follow the negative comments about the actual economic climate and never talk about the crisis. Make shows international and avoid being expensive. Believe in what you do and love it!

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? There are very few shows in production so that is an advantage for those great shows which are already in production and ready to go… to be sold, if they are good enough! There are more and more channels and IPTV broadcasters hungry for good shows. I guess markets such as the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will be more and more important for the next three years as they are great countries to work over licensing and applications.

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! I am a big Jelly Jamm (from Vodka Capital) fan!

Most annoying toon trend of the year: To make a show based on a classic character known by the parents produced in 3D with a script and tone that just makes happy the editorial person in his 60s and the daddy instead of the four- to 10-year-old audience!






Oliver Ellis – Joint MD – Hoho Entertainment

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? It’s going to be another tough year with broadcasters continuing to delay commissioning decisions and finding finance an ongoing challenge. However, the expected U.K. tax break is going to be a much needed shot in the arm and will put the U.K. on a level playing field in terms of attracting and keeping production work in the U.K.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Be original, have a well thought through concept and research the schedules of the broadcasters you are going to pitch to so that the pitch is targeted correctly.

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? It isn’t much different. We continue to find the right broadcast home for our carefully crafted concepts. In many ways, the strategy for financing needs to take place outside the television market of MIPCOM where resources are too stretched.

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! Almost Naked Animals

Most annoying toon trend of the year: Derivative series because they lack imagination and originality–but they pop up every year.






Louis Fournier – VP Sales & Acquisitions – Portfolio Entertainment

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? 2013 will be another challenging year for the TV animation industry. Demand for quality programs should increase but fresh supply will remain limited because production financing remains difficult. For producers and distributors that have a knack to create or attract good projects, the coming year will nevertheless have its rewards.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Do your homework. Find out what the leading broadcasters are looking for, which producers have a good track record in working with creators and getting the projects financed and which distributors can best serve their productions. Follow your passion but be strategic, patient and realistic.

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? This year Portfolio is launching Doki, a brand new animated series produced in partnership with Discovery Kids Latin America as well as Season II and a Christmas Special for The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That! What is different is that in addition to selling our new series, we will be more than ever on the lookout for new partnerships and creative deal making to sustain growth. Production financing is challenging and most companies need to think outside the box and evolve their business models.

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! Phineas and Ferb

Most annoying toon trend of the year: Stereoscopic 3-D animation for TV.






Guillaume Hellouin – CEO of TeamTO

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Don’t think outside the box, get rid of the box!






Philippe Alessandri – CEO – Tele Images Productions

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? The animation market is still very competitive but there will be more buyers in 2013 with the arrival of broadcasters in emerging countries, VOD platforms and internet channels. But will acquisition prices go up accordingly?

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Think outside the box. With so many mainstream animation series these past years, the animation industry looks for more innovative shows, especially for comedies.

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? This year, our new series will be sold with an online game to offer an interactive experience to the kids and increase the broadcasters’ website audience.

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! Sorry for not being original, but I’d say the last season of The Simpsons that I enjoyed watching with my kids.

Most annoying toon trend of the year: Too many pretended comedy series which are not funny at all!






Andrew Cole-Bulgin – Co-Founder & Joint CEO – Komixx Entertainment

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? 2013 is looking very exciting for the British animation industry. Not only are there new channel outlets, such as IPTV, but the proposed tax breaks will really help producers. John Lasseter famously said, “Art will always challenge technology, and technology will always inspire art.” This is very true, and is one of the reasons why the animation industry is so exciting at the moment.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Know your audience and plan, plan, plan ahead!

How is this year’s MIPCOM strategy different from previous years at the market? This is the year for Toby’s Travelling Circus. It is also the year of digital, of knowing how to deliver to your audience on digital platforms, and understanding the importance of this.

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! I would say Tickety Toc–the reason being that it is fantastically produced.

Most annoying toon trend of the year: Silly voices–it’s annoying because there seems to be a real lack of thought behind it.






Caterina Vacchi – Executive Producer – Atlantyca Entertainment

How do you think 2013 is shaping up for TV animation producers and distributors? 2012 was certainly a challenging year, I really hope that 2013 will be the year in which the business is actually revitalizing itself. It will be good to see new and fresh ideas all around, in terms of the state of production. We hope that the state with the digital market, on the distribution side, will continue to evolve in a more clear and concrete way, permitting producers to fully exploit all of these new avenues not just in terms of brand awareness, but also from a financing and economic perspective. I think we’ll see some new developments on this side, but I’m not sure that 2013 will be the crucial year to understand the dominant business model.

What kind of advice do you give animation creators as they get ready for the MIPCOM market? Good question… Being an animation creator, our advice, on the creative side, is always the same: have a good idea! New ideas are a big deal, in this market there are still new and innovative ideas which have not already been exploited, it’s time for some fresh and innovative content. On the other side, my advice to animation creators is to not limit your concepts. Animated series for television is the core of our business, but as producers, we cannot forget how kids have changed and are constantly changing. They require more immersive content; content that crosses all platforms, so we are required to develop and create content which crosses-over, that has a transmedia approach.

What is your favorite animated show of the year, besides your own, of course! Wow, this is very difficult question… I really like Peppa Pig (even if it’s not so new) and even Justin Time is a very good show. Among the Italians, Mofy is very well animated and an example of poetry! I’ve seen some great new projects that are now in production, I look forward to including them as my favorites in the near future.

Most annoying toon trend of the year: I think I’m repeating myself, but there is such a trend in renewing dormant properties. There are so many incomparable projects available or being produced with such strong kid appeal. I’d like to see some of these fresh new programs. Things are changing, but we’ll see at the market.