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Cartoon Forum 2008 Preview

]> Every year, Europe's animators, broadcasters and distributors gather for a f

April 6, 2018

5 Min Read

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Every year, Europe's animators, broadcasters and distributors gather for a few days of brainstorming and assessing the very best of the new animation in development. Here's a sneak preview of what to look out for at this year's Cartoon Forum.

Founded in 1990, Cartoon Forum attracts more than 700 professionals every year and is made up of approximately 100 broadcasters and 150 investors, 350 producers, 60 journalists and 40 public funding bodies. They all come to assess, and possibly invest in, about 60 animation projects chosen for presentation at the forum. i1_463.jpg

Although the organizers insist that Cartoon Forum is "neither a fair nor a festival," they are very proud of the fact that since its inception the event has given birth to about 300 projects with budgets totalling in excess of €1 billion (U.S. $1.6 billion). And the 2008 edition looks set to add significantly to that number.

Ludwigsburg, approximately 12 kilometers from Stuttgart in Germany's south—chosen because it is home to the Filmakademie Baden-Wurttenberg, one of Europe's leading schools of animation—this year will welcome a total of 60 projects from 14 European countries. Together they have budgets totaling €187.7 million (U.S. $300 million) and which, when produced, will represent 360 hours of animation. However, of these 60 projects, 44 of them, or 73 percent, come from the Big Five: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.

The nature and state of development of the projects on show at Cartoon Forum vary considerably. Some are merely looking for a distributor, while others are in need of their entire budget. And these budgets also have a considerable range from around €250,000 (U.S. $400,000) to €8 million (U.S. $12.8 million).

Ten of the projects that will be present in Ludwigsburg have a budget of less than €1 million (U.S. $1.6 million), another 10 are in the €1–€2 million range (U.S. $1.6–$3.2 million), the majority—12—are in the €2–€3 million range (U.S. $3.2–$4.8 million), seven fall between €3 and €4 million (U.S. $4.8–$6.4 million), six cash in at between €4 and €5 million (U.S. $6.4–$8 million), the €5–€6 million (U.S. $8–$9.6 million) claims eight other projects, while the final six projects are in excess of €6 million (U.S. $9.6 million).

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Not all of these projects are conceived for broadcast. Reflecting the increasing impact of new media, organizers of Cartoon Forum estimate that about 22 percent of the projects at the 2008 edition are designed for mobile, Internet and video games. They also report a sizable increase in projects looking to licensing as a viable source of funding but were unable to provide any statistics on this.

With such a breadth of opportunity on offer, there is bound to be something for almost everyone. Properties showcasing at Cartoon Forum include "Mr. Baby" from France's Xilam Animation, "Abercadabra" from the United Kingdom's Calon and, also from the United Kingdom, Cosgrove Hall's "Squidge and the Hardnuts."

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"Mr. Baby" is a good example of the diversity of Cartoon Forum's offerings. Designed as an initial series of 48x4 minute episodes, it is, says Xilam president and chief executive officer Marc du Pontavice, "a short format designed for an access or primetime slot appealing to a broad family audience, rather than just kids. That's not to say kids won't enjoy it, but the tone and the comedy owe more to 'Family Guy' or the 'Simpsons' than to anything else: Think Dr. House in diapers."

"Mr. Baby" centers around a 15-month-old baby who sits in his high-chair in the family kitchen and causes havoc and conflict in the family with a dry, cynical and acerbic wit seen more in a man of 50 years than 15 months.

The project has a budget of €2 million, (U.S. $3.2 million) and is 65 percent funded. Thirty percent of that funding comes from commissioning broadcaster FR3 and 35 percent from various government subsidies and other French revenue. Xilam is seeking the?remaining 35 percent at Cartoon Forum, although du Pontavice points out, "We are looking for presales and co-financing rather than co-production deals." Xilam will have three episodes available for screening in Ludwigsburg.

Also attending with a pilot is Cosgrove Hall's "Squidge and the Hardnuts." Planned as 104x5 minute episodes aimed at preschoolers, "Squidge and the Hardnuts" follows the comic adventures of Squidge and his best friend Splat who are hurled through space to Planet Hard when their own planet, Splodge, is hit by a wobblequake. Squidge and Splat are globular and stretchy, very much like the planet from which they come. By contrast, Planet Hard is angular and clunky.

Cosgrove Hall Films managing director Anthony Utley says, "We have made a conscious decision not to have anything in place as we very much wanted to launch 'Squidge and the Hardnuts' with a blank canvass at the Cartoon Forum." Underlining just how blank that canvass is, Utley goes on to reveal that "the budget for Squidge could be anything from £2–£4 million (U.S. $4–$8 million) depending on what our partners want." This might seem like an odd approach, but Utley explains his reasoning like this: "Cartoon Forum is a great place to launch a show. If you have a strong concept and design, it is possible to take the forum by storm, which is what happened with 'Charlie and Lola' and 'The Secret Show.' The U.K. kids market is currently very difficult. ITV is hardly commissioning anything, and almost everything at the BBC is being postponed or pushed back, so we wanted to make a big splash at Cartoon Forum."

Welsh animation house Calon, formed three years ago by the management of the late Siriol Animation, ("SuperTed," "Hilltop Hospital," "Under Milk Wood") will be at Cartoon Forum with "Abercadabra." Robin Lyons, Calon's managing director says that, "'Abercadabra' is the most magical town in Wales, and it is also home to 'The Great Cadabras,' the stage name of a group of friends who have formed a secret junior magic society and who perform under said stage name. Calon, which planned the show as 26x26 minutes, has a letter of support from S4C, the Welsh language service from Channel 4, and says Lyons, "We hope to have more interest by the time we get to Germany, where we will be looking for a co-production partner and some prebuys." With the exception of Welsh language rights, most other rights are available.

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