European animators celebrated 10 years of the Cartoon Movie event in March, where investors and distributors viewed completed films and works in progress.
Cartoon Movie is the sister event to the Cartoon association's Cartoon Forum, which concentrates on television animation, itself set up 20 years ago. The events support and promote the European animation industry through the auspices of the European Union's Media funds, and bring together the creative and commercial sides of the business.
The picture of animation across Europe is a very unequal one with differences in national attitude and support illustrated by the state of the industry. France, which has a quota for French productions for cinema and television broadcasting, is the most vibrant industry in Europe.
Indeed, of the 123 fully financed films produced or in production in Cartoon Movie's 10 year history,
That said, many of today's animated feature films are co-productions across the EU, maximizing the subsidies that are available and spreading the skills and employment base.
Speaking at the event, managing director of Cartoon Marc Vandeweyer said that there were commercial successes as a result of the Cartoon Movie events, notably because there are more distributors attending the event and animated film audiences were growing in Europe.
"In the past two years, in particular, animation has become recognized by distributors as part of their lineup, and there are more European distributors at this year's event," says Vandeweyer. "That distributors are involved in animated film proves that there can be a business and money in European animation."
However, Vandeweyer adds that he would like to see a pan-European distribution strategy developed in the future. He was also concerned that the UK had such a poor track record at the event.
Although the quality of concepts and animation produced in Europe was extremely high, Vandeweyer picked up on criticisms of weak storylines on some of the projects. "Some producers go into production too quickly," he says, "when there needs to be more work done on the script."
Of the projects shown at the event, completed films set for distribution this year included the ground-breaking 3D production
Fly Me To The Moon
from Belgian Wave Pictures;
from Futurikon Films, Trixter Productions, LuxAnimation and Mac Guff Ligne; and
from Rothkirch/Cartoon Film and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Among those still in development and the early stages of production were a number that were being worked on alongside existing and potential television series. For these projects, licensing was already on the agenda as they looked for financial backing to get the films completed.
Irish Magma Films had two co-productions at the event—
Oops! Noah is Gone
, a film and television series in development, and
Niko & The Way
to the Stars
, a Christmas-targeted film to be released later this year.
Head of animation Moe Honan pinpointed the importance of consumer products licensing as part of the funding package. She says, "From a finance point of view, people want to see the potential of an animation. And the lead in time for consumer products is very long, so on these two projects we have learned to start thinking about merchandise earlier, and we're trying to get better at that."
Stelios Ziannis is head of world sales for Kinowelt, the distributor for the German/French co-production
A Case for Friends
, which tells the back story of the
book, published in 30 countries, and German TV series. He said the licensing program would be based on the film script and handled separately from the existing consumer products program.
"We are initially looking at book publishing, a CD, and a video game all based on the script," says Ziannis. "For product, the most important thing is to have a brand."
For the Danish project,
, from Rambling Rose Animation Studio in co-production with partners in Hungary and Germany, a licensing program kicked off before the animation was even underway.
Producer Valerie Saunders said that several lifestyle and publishing licensees, including Egmont, became involved in the project when the original concept was planned for a television series. The TV series and merchandise program is now on hold in favor of the feature film being developed, a project that has already been picked up by Disney Nordic.
"Although merchandise was not part of the original creative concept," Saunders says, "people started showing interest in it from the artwork. It helped out with some upfront fees to work on the project."
As the event goes into its second decade, Cartoon Movie participants are becoming much more aware of licensing as a source of production funding.
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