British animation has become a cultural mainstay as impactfully crucial to U.K. pop culture as just about anything else imaginable. To explain why this phenomenon has occurred and continues to this day, top minds from the industry came together at Brand Licensing Europe 2019 to take part in the “Story Board - The Best of British Animation” panel.
During the panel, the collection of thought leaders detailed how they’ve built successful and authentic story-driven brands that have lived on through the ages. Specifically, they identified why the importance of getting a story right is essential to a brand’s success and why story drives brand longevity.
A Tale as Old as Time
“British stories have a habit of being re-created and re-created and that really speaks to something working at the core,” says panellist Oli Hyatt, managing director, Blue-Zoo Productions.
As Hyatt detailed on the panel, many of the greatest animated stories in U.K. history have been retold countless times. Going back to “Peter Rabbit” and “The Snowman,” classic stories have been retold in new shapes and styles through the years. That ability to be re-formatted into something new for generation after generation speaks to the successful heart of every story in the British Animation catalogue.
Global Stories Speak to The Human Experience
“You need to tell a story that resonates with a global audience right away in a way unlike any time before,” adds panellist Sean Clarke, managing director, Aardman Animations.
That ability of the classic stories to be rejiggered also speaks to why the brands themselves succeed. At their core, each tale is just a simple, focused story that can transcend time, space, and even nations. That last part is especially important in an era where streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu run the world. Successful storytelling never goes out of style. It is why Clarke and Aardman Animations have been able to continue to succeed as an independent story maker year-after-year. They’ve identified stories that speak to people across the world.
Story-First Properties Are Key
During the panel, Clarke and the rest of the speakers specifically highlighted the importance of their story-first work in the animation industry. Due to the independent spirit of their companies, they each had the time to build great stories that were made by passionate storytellers who live for their work. Not, necessarily, salespeople who, while great at their job, live to find the best way to make a deal.
“Letting a salesperson like me into a writer’s room is like letting a wolf out in the hen house,” states panellist Allison Watkins, director, global consumer products and T.V. distribution, Coolabi.
The Resources to Succeed
That focus on the storyteller aims to create brands that can live on well after the story originally intended to be told has completed. The franchises built from these brands were organically extended, not manufactured. The organic nature of the storytelling speaks to another of the core aspects of great British storytelling which is ensuring that the stories themselves have the resources to grow and evolve until it is ready for primetime.
“We spend more money on story than any other part of our process,” states panellist Mikael Shields, chief executive officer, Acamar Films.
So, while great stories don’t always lead to licensing success, British animation properties prove that it is apparent in so many successful properties. As the panel showcased, the timeless, honest stories are key the ones that live on no matter the region, era or medium.