MIP JUNIOR & MIPCOM EDITION SPECIAL REPORT
Rising to the
A look at the latest developments in the French animation sector.
By Mansha Daswani France’s animation industry remains one of the most prolific in the world, thanks in large part to the continued support for local kids’ programming by the free-to-air broadcasters.A recent report from the audiovisual promotion association APA revealed that the public broadcaster France Télévisions aired 845 hours of local animation in 2008, while the commercial networks TF1 and M6 aired 334 hours and 127 hours, respectively.The 24-hour DTT children’s service Gulli, meanwhile, chalked up 2,943 hours of French animation (including co-productions).And that’s just in the terrestrial arena—on the pay-TV front, Canal J and Tiji are among the kids’ channels regularly commissioning from French producers. In fact,the consensus among many in the French animation sector is that the level of local commissions remains healthy.“We are [currently] producing six shows,” says Christophe di Sabatino, a co-executive chairman of the MoonScoop Group,one of France’s biggest animation production outfits.“We haven’t seen a decrease.” “We are in production with about 60 half hours,” notes Pierre Sissman, the chairman and CEO of Cyber Group Studios.“We think that by this time next year, we’ll be at about 90 half hours.This time last year we were at 20 half hours.” A SMART MIX
Cyber Group Studios has been growing by double digits for the past four years, explains Sissman, who adds that a key strategy has been making sure that the company is conversant in a range of styles. Cyber Group’s biggest hit is Ozie Boo!, which was recently ranked as the mostexported French animated series over the last five years, and its newer preschool portfolio includes Guess What?, launching on Tiji this fall, and Tales of Tatonka, which is slated for a 2010 delivery. For older kids, meanwhile, Cyber Group is co-producing with Timoon Animation
and Korea’s SAMG the 52x13-minute HD series Fish’N’Chips, and, Sissman says, there is plenty of new content in development. The venture is also expanding into 3-D animated feature films targeting kids and families. “Our vision is to try to provide high-quality entertainment for children, but to really focus on stories and on technology,” Sissman notes. “We’re delivering an image that makes our shows very appealing.” The well-established animation studio Alphanim—perhaps best known for its motioncapture series Galactik Football—is taking a similarly broad approach to its business strategy. Last year, the company became a division of the veteran film producer Gaumont, in large part to expand its feature-film capabilities. On the slate for this year is Eleanor’s Secret, set for a December release in France, to be followed up by Santapprentice in 2010. “Since the creation of the company, we have always put a lot of effort into development,” says Clément Calvet, the managing director and producer of GaumontAlphanim.“In trying to find new talent and new formats, none of our shows look quite the same.We are proud to present projects for all demographics, all formats, all types of design.We want to be global.We want to reach kids with all types of entertainment.” With about 20 series in some stage of development or production,Alphanim will be showcasing a number of new projects at MIPCOM.The slate includes a third season of Galactik Football, in time for the World Cup, accompanied by an MMORPG [Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game];the Canadian co-production The Mysteries of Alfred Hedgehog, with the first episode for buyers to screen; and Mouss & Boubidi, a series of 2-D non-verbal comedy interstitials.The company also has new seasons of Gawayn and Matt’s Monsters to offer buyers. While pointing to Gaumont-Alphanim’s strong production pipeline, Calvet adds that the company is looking to expand its catalogue with thirdparty fare. PUMPING UP THE VOLUME
That’s a path that MoonScoop has taken, adding to the output from its division in Los Angeles (formerly known as Mike Young Productions), as well as its facilities in Paris and Wales. At MIPCOM, MoonScoop will be talking to clients about its new M6 commission Tara
Duncan, co-produced with India’s DQ Entertainment, the second season of Dive Ollie Dive!, and the acquired property Gasp from SLR Productions. Mediatoon Distribution similarly benefits from a broad catalogue, which features output from its sister companies Dargaud Media, Ellipsanime, Dupuis and Storimages, as well as other producers. Home to a library of classics like Tintin and Cedric, Mediatoon is also touting the updated The Garfield Show, and is launching two new brands in Cannes. Chumballs is a 26x13-minute action/adventure show for France 5, while Contraptus, based on a comic book, is a 3-D 78x7-minute production for Canal J and Gulli. “Thanks to the originality of each catalogue from each producer (Dargaud, Dupuis, Ellipsanime, Storimages), Mediatoon is able to bring to the market a very wide
Funny bunnies: Strengthening its preschool portfolio, Cyber Group Studios heads to MIPCOM with Guess What?
Listen up: Ankama’s Wakfu is a multiplatform property that includes a series for M6 as well as an online gaming community.
Universal love: Once Upon a Time...Planet Earth, from Procidis, teaches kids about protecting the environment.
choice and array of shows,” says Jérôme Alby, the director of sales at Mediatoon Distribution.“There are all kinds of shows—preschool and programs for older kids; all formats, from shorts toons to long, feature animated movies; and obviously a lot of 2-D shows, and more and more 3-D and CGI shows.” When asked about the trends in the French kids’ market today, a number of producers and distributors point to the increase in the volume of short-form shows commissioned. “French broadcasters are developing more short series, but the market continues to innovate,” says Valérie Vleeschhouwer, the managing director of AB International Distribution, which is bringing Ariol and B.F.F.: Best Friends Forever to MIP Junior. “As far as France Télévisions is concerned, there is no downturn [in volume],” adds Eric Vernière, the VP of international sales and presales at France Télévisions Distribution (FTD), which has placed Potlach the Farm and Missy Mila Twisted Tales, among other shows, with broadcasters worldwide. “But it’s a different investment—a few years ago they were doing only half-hour series, now they have reduced the number of flagship programs a little bit and they are commissioning a lot of short-format series.” One of these, Podcats, is among FTD’s lead kids’ titles at MIPCOM.
Wild one: GaumontAlphanim is highlighting The Mysteries of Alfred Hedgehog.
A relatively new player in the TV-content arena, the digital media specialist Ankama is bringing to the international market the multiplatform series Dofus Pets, consisting of 104 90second episodes. “Nowadays, kids are spending more and more time on the Internet,” says Jérôme Chatelain, the international sales manager at Ankama. “We have to create concepts where TV and online meet and create interactions for deepening the viewers’ experience.” Ankama is also rolling out the M6 commission Wakfu. “The TV series is at the center of, and is based on, a crossmedia concept, including an online game, comic books and licensed product,” Chatelain says. “I think French broadcasters are asking for more quality and originality for their future shows and Ankama’s concepts are perfectly in line with their requirements.” SPINNING A NEW WEB
Procidis is also lining up a range of new-media elements for the latest series in its Once Upon a Time franchise. Once Upon a Time…Planet Earth, combining 3-D animation and real-life images, aims to educate children about protecting the environment.The 26x26-minute show will be accompanied by interactive DVDs, a website, mobile games and more. Procidis’s six previous Once Upon a Time series have each been broadcast in more than 120 territories. Cyber Group’s Ozie Boo! has rolled out in more than 160. Numerous other shows that originated in France can attest to a similar track record. The international market has certainly proven to be receptive to French animation. Indeed, the genre dominates audiovisual exports from the country, according to figures from CNC—the state-run organization Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée—and TV France International. But maintaining that growth won’t be easy. “The animation market is experiencing some maturity issues,” says Cyber Group’s Sissman. “There is an issue of survival for many studios around the world. People will have to reinvent models, not only in terms of how they do business and how they co-produce, but also in terms of content.”