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Change of Plans: Cartoon Forum Pivots to Virtual ‘Business First’ Affair

Alex Player (Bee Prod/Cyber Group Studios/Webedia; France)
Alex Player (Bee Prod/Cyber Group Studios/Webedia; France)

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Change of Plans: Cartoon Forum Pivots to Virtual ‘Business First’ Affair

***A previous version of this article originally appeared in the Sept./Oct. ’20 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 303)***

Despite firm plans to become the first in-person fall animation event of the year, France’s popular Cartoon Forum was recently forced to reimagine its 2020 pitch fest when Toulouse fell onto the government’s “red zone” list. Now, the 31st edition will be showcasing 86 new animated series from 24 European countries and facilitating meetings online to potential production and financing partners around the world from September 14 thru 17.

Cartoon Forum’s general director Annick Maes tells Animation Magazine, “The theme of this edition is ‘Business First,’ because it has been our anchor for making what we hope will be the right and appropriate decisions,” she explains. “At the Cartoon Forum, projects come first, since it’s around these presentations prepared with care and determination by the producers that our entire event revolves and must focus. A successful Cartoon Forum means new TV series will be created which have found financing or that are driven by strong European co- production. This success is the result of professionals meeting, working together, and producing the extraordinary creativity of the animation industry.”

Daisy and Dot (KEDD Animation Studio; Hungary)

Daisy and Dot (KEDD Animation Studio; Hungary)

Patterns of Growth

The Forum will be spotlighting 86 animated projects from 24 European countries with a total budget of 381 million euros (and a proposed 521 hours of content). As Maes mentions, the overview reflects the growth of animation throughout Europe, with France continuing to take the lead with 34 projects, followed by Ireland with eight, Denmark and Spain with six, the U.K. with four and Belgium, Finland and Germany with three shows each.

She adds, “The projects selected tend to present more and more female protagonists (Finula Gilhooley, Goat Girl, Femmes and Fame, Princess Arabella, Gemma & The Defenders, for example). Also, an important number of projects promotes inclusiveness and the acceptance of differences and disabilities (See Baldies, Foreverly Friends, Moo and Roo Take the World). We also have five projects from previous Cartoon Springboard editions, which is an event organized for young talent.”

According to the director, series targeting kids and families stay the main focus of European animation production. Among those, there are comedies and adventures that try to teach fundamental values such as inclusion, diversity, empathy, solidarity, the importance of friendship and family bonds, but there are also stories that, with humor and endearing characters, tackle more complex and sensitive issues like cancer, grief, bullying, ecology and the waste of natural resources.

Giuseppe (La Boîte/Les Films du Nord/Nadasdy; Belgium/France/Switzerland)

Giuseppe (La Boîte/Les Films du Nord/Nadasdy; Belgium/France/Switzerland)

Pitches from the Pros

Attendees will be able to sample new shows from some of Europe’s best-known animation companies, including France’s Folimage (Anuki), Xilam Animation (Gemma’s Quest), Millimages (The Springs), Dandelooo (The Upside Down River), Cyber Group Studios (Monster in My Pocket), Ellipsanime Productions (Wonder Waï), Vivement Lundi! (Super-Lucha) and Autour de Minuit (Two Little Birds), among others. The line-up also includes new series by Belgium’s Lunanime (Tommy Pepper), Denmark’s Copenhagen Bombay (Rabarbar), Ireland’s Dream Logic (The Ghastly Ghoul), Spain’s Motion Pictures (Agus & Monsters), U.K.’s Paper Owl Films (Mr. Dog) and Italy’s Gertie Production (Relè).

Maes points out that new talent represented by producers and directors working on their first projects hold a special place in Cartoon Forum’s lineup. Some of these newcomers include Hanna & Nana (Jam Media, Ireland), Baldies (Cofilm, Czech Rep.), The Very Hairy Alphabet (Eagle Eye, Germany), Blue Figures (Laidak Films, France), and Felix! He Can Explain Everything (Sacrebleu Production, France). These projects were launched at Cartoon’s pitching event for young talent.

As Maes and her team put the finishing touches to their annual gathering of European content creators, she says she is looking forward to spotlighting all these amazing new projects. “They are the real stars of the Cartoon Forum,” she believes. “European producers dare to innovate by incorporating modern and unusual graphic styles, and by creating intelligent, clever and entertaining content for children as well as reaching new older target groups. We hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Forum in September.”

To learn more, visit www.cartoon-media.eu/cartoon-forum.

A Cartoon Forum Sampler: A quick look at some of the new shows that will be pitched at the Forum this year.

Rabarbar

Rabarbar

Rabarbar

This charming 2D-animated series (26 x 11′) from Denmark’s Copenhagen Bombay studio follows the adventures of a young girl who moves with her barbarian parents to the ancient metropolis of Weinlos — home to a host of fantasy creatures (trolls, elves, etc.) who adhere to a strict social hierarchy. Studio founder Sarita Christensen tells us, “The show is created by the talented Rune Ryberg, who is a very strong comic-book artist and animator. He is super creative and able to create the most whimsical and crazy characters with his designs. Our well-regarded writer Stephanie Wahlstrom has also created very many shows for children in this target audience (six- to 11-year-olds). I believe that this team is very strong and together they have shown us a different way approaching relevant topics such as identity, friendship, family, bullying and the importance of standing up for yourself.”

Hey Fuzzy Yellow

Hey Fuzzy Yellow

Hey Fuzzy Yellow

This innovative preschool offering is billed as “a show like you haven’t seen before!” Produced by Germany’s Toon2Tango, Italy’s Mondo TV and Jungle Fruit in the U.S., the series uses an unconventional curriculum basis to equip children with 21st century skills and an approach that “mirrors the parenting values of Millennials,” per the official description. We love the colorful designs and the attractive visuals which support a hybrid magazine format showcasing the arts, academics, exploration and logic/emotion. As the producers point out, “Hey Fuzzy Yellow sits in a place where no other show sits: in spite of it being strongly curriculum driven, it has lots of music and is also the funniest preschool show you have seen in a long time!”

Goat Girl

Goat Girl

Goat Girl

Ireland’s Daily Madness is bringing a fun and hilarious show about a 13-year-old girl who is raised by mountain goats and has to attend a regular boarding school with regular humans. As producer Lindsay Adams tells us, “When I started Daily Madness, the first show I wanted to option was an animated comedy with a female lead. I was looking for the animated answer to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt by Tina Fey! After two years of attending markets, we just realized that it didn’t exist anywhere as an option we could pick up… so we locked Shannon George and Kristina Yee in a room together for three days in August 2018 to come up with a bunch of concepts. They came up with a beautifully simple and hilarious idea: Goats are cool, what if a girl was raised as a goat?”

Adams points out that Goat Girl is definitely not a show made for girls only. “Comedy is comedy and laughs are laughs,” she says. “Therefore, this is a gender-neutral series for a gender-neutral audience. However, we are all aware that when it comes to down-to-earth, slice-of-everyday-life comedy shows, they tend to lean towards boy lead characters (and majority male creators/writers). This is where Goat Girl stands out. Behind the scenes, having a series that is created by women, directed by women, produced by women and written by women also helps to ensure that we continue to move towards more equal representation in the comedy sections of the animation industry.”

Belzebubs

Belzebubs

Belzebubs

An animated show about a family of Devil worshippers may definitely be a first! This offbeat 13 x 22′ series is based on a popular webcomic by JP Ahonen, who started drawing this family of metal cultists as a therapy project. As Finnish studio Pyjama Films CEO/producer Terhi

Väänänen explains, “The comics quickly gained a half a million online readers. We originally joined the project by making two animated music videos for the band, but in the series we’ll be focusing on the horrendously adorable family life of the Belzebubs. Our aim is to flesh out the comic’s characters and their stories and use the comics’s slice-of-life glimpses as an inspiration for the series’ overarching storyline.”

Väänänen says the 2D animated show is made for a young adult audience, but it stays away from the typical cynical outlook on life and relationships that similar shows have. “It’s breaking taboos, especially on religion and sex, but instead of mocking them, its approach is warmhearted banter. You can describe The Belzebubs as Addams Family meets Modern Family. The family and the band members worship the Devil, but their daily, even mundane struggles are relatable for anyone!”

The Olive Bunch

The Olive Bunch

The Olive Bunch

Cyprus-based animation studio Pixel Group is showcasing a beautiful 2D animated show about three friends living in a charming Mediterranean town. Amira, Stephano and Yani live in Cyprus and search for their place in the world through carefree and inventive play. They’re often guided by advice from Grandma Lola and her folk tales that connect her to the land of the olive grove. “We are a studio established in Cyprus and this is our second TV show to be pitched at the Forum,” says the show’s co-creator and producer Maria Pavlou. “The team developing The Olive Bunch has worked on animated series and short films for world-wide brands like Disney, Nickelodeon, Amazon Prime and Netflix.” In addition to Pavlou, the team includes Katerina Pantel (show co-creator and art director), Magnus Kravik (director and storyboard artist) and Michael Papanicolaou (lead character animator).

Zombillenium

Zombillenium

Zombillenium

Two of France’s top animation houses Maybe Movies and 2 Minutes will be back at the Forum this year with a really fun show based on the spooky comedy saga published by Le Journal de Spirou, which inspired the acclaimed 2018 movie by Arthur de Pins and Alexis Ducord. The 12 x 26′ show (2D/CG mix) centers on an amusement park run by a cheerful gang of quirky monsters, hired by the Devil himself! Co-producer Chrystel Poncet says, “Our goal is to develop and consolidate a meaningful European franchise that deals with our culture, our values, gives food for thought and entertains! We truly think that Arthur de Pins’ ground-breaking concept has all the right ingredients for that.”

Poncet points out that the show’s serialized format, mix of comedy and suspense, high-quality cinematic look based on de Pins’ elegant graphic style and the fantastic soundtrack make the show a winning proposition. She and many of the series’ creative team, including showrunner de Pins and director Sabine Hitier will be attending the event in Toulouse. “Cartoon Forum is the first step for us to debut our show on the European scene,” Poncet says. “It’s a great opportunity to catch the attention of show buyers and potential partners.”

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