Bob Swain travelled to the 15th Cartoon Forum in Santiago de Compostela and reports back about how the event continues to move forward from strength to strength.
Fifteen years on and Cartoon Forum continues going from strength to strength. The first edition of the European co-production event was staged on the Spanish island of Lanzarote back in 1990. Moving from country to country each time, this 15th anniversary brought it back to Spain and the medieval Galician town of Santiago de Compostela.
The format of the Forum is now well established -- and it works. Producers apply with a project -- of which around 70 are selected to participate. Each is given a 40-minute slot -- with presentations taking place simultaneously throughout the event in three separate rooms. Broadcasters, distributors, investors and all those with an interest in a project come along for the pitch.
Its a system that provides a serious shortcut in the process of putting together co-production partners -- with a simultaneous pitch to all potential partners. Producers also get a chance to look at other development projects that might be suitable to partner on. And with 8000 animation professionals sharing an extremely pleasant three days, it certainly makes for the best networking event in the European calendar.
Over the past 14 years, 301 of the 966 projects presented have gone on to be fully financed. Allowing for the fact that a number of projects from the past two years are still assembling their financial package, this represents a healthy one-in-three success rate. The total value of series produced after starting at Cartoon Forum comes to around a billion euros.
This year, 69 projects were presented from 15 different European countries -- including two from new member states Poland and Slovenia -- representing a total 461 hours of programming.
This year was a great success. Many of the participants told us it was the best Cartoon Forum ever. The venue, the projects and the weather all contributed to its success, says joint managing director Marc Vandeweyer.
As in previous years, the final night was also time for the Cartoon DOr -- Europes top award for animation shorts. Nominees come from festivals staged over the previous 12 months so it pretty much represents the best of the best. This years jury was made up of Joanna Quinn (U.K.), Francis Nielsen (France) and Piet De Rycker (Belgium).
The winner was Fast Film from Austrian filmmaker Virgil Widrich. A remarkable homage to movie history, it combines elements from live-action films with printed and folded objects in a fast-moving and highly original production. Some asked whether it was animation. But who cares when the results are as powerful and original as this.
The four other nominees were Concert For A Carrot Pie by Heiki Ernits and Janno Poldma (Estonia), Le Révolution Des Crabes by Arthur de Pins (France), LInventaire Fantome by Franck Dion (France) and Through My Thick Glasses by Pjotr Sapegin (Norway).
The most popular new series launched during the main business of the Forum was The Secret Show from British studio Collingwood OHare Ent. -- a pitch that attracted a record 282 people including 147 investors. A well-known company with previous form of successful launches at Cartoon Forum like Oscars Orchestra, Yoko! Jakamoko! Toto! and Gordon Gnome, director Tony Collingwood and producer Chris OHare decided to go one better this time and produce an entire 13-minute episode for their presentation.
Aimed at kids 7-12, it is pitched as a secret show about secret people doing secret things. In fact, its so secret that it doesnt even have a place of its own in the schedule. So each episode begins by closing down the Fluffy Bunny Show and stealing the slot for what is essentially a comedy Mission Impossible, starring special agents Victor Volt and Anita Knight. The plan is to produce an initial 52 episodes.
The project that everyone was talking about was Little Princess from the Illuminated Film Company. Based on the successful series of picture books by Tony Ross, this 10x11 pre-school series follows the adventures of the insatiably curious Little Princess and all the things young children love and hate. A five-minute trailer for the series suggests a beautifully animated production to come.
The best-attended French project was the CGI series Minuscule from Futurikon. The 78x7 series looks at the insect world through a microscope in search of its surrealistic comedy.
Also from France, the Millimages pitch Dan And Mr Perfect was another hit. Do you dream of being perfect? Dan Noose has found the answer. Success, brilliance and a sense of humor -- he has it all as soon as he turns into Jack Perfect. But perfection doesnt always lead to happiness.
More French craziness came in the shape of Marathons anarchic 52x13 project The Squad -- starring the combined superhero lunacy of a cat, a super-charged grandmother and an Indian chef. The producers compare the concept with the likes of Fairly OddParents or SpongeBob SquarePants.
Ellipsanimes 26x26 series, The Farm, is set to be another member of the crazy gang, with its wacky comedy aimed at the whole family. Standout element of the trailer was its beautifully rendered cartoon meets 3D look.
Following on the heels of its success with Lilly The Witch, Irelands Magma Films came up with yet another winner in the shape of Pirate School -- a project that it again presented with German studio Trixter Prods. Based on Colin McNaughtons popular book Captain Abduls Pirate School, its a comedy adventure mix for six to 12 year olds. This is one school where the students get guaranteed adventure!
Leading the charge from the new countries of Europe -- the EU expanded from 15 to 25 member states in May of this year -- was Slovenian production company Qollective. Already boasting strong experience in computer games, the pre-school series The BeBuzz represents a first move into series animation. And judging by the positive response from investors, its a company that looks set for success.
The only other project led by an Eastern European studio was Leroy and Rabbit from Studio Miniatur Filmowych in Poland -- a proposal for a 26x26 series that presents the life of a crazy family from a childs point of view.
Welsh studio Siriol Prods. came up with an original looking combination of live-action and animation for Are We There Yet? Each story begins in live action with a young girls boredom at what seems like a never-ending car journey. This gives way to fantasy when her three toys spring to life and the show switches to animation -- apart from the live-action girl. Partners are being sought for 26x10 episodes.
Another utterly original visual style was presented by Scottish studio Red Kite with its primetime pitch Imp De Negro. Its dramatically simple designs are drawn entirely in black and white, telling the tale of a little devil with big ideas. The diabolic hero thinks he is pure evil -- but fortunately for the rest of us hes quite pathetic at his job.
And while were on the subject of original visual styles, there was Harolds Planet from Indie Kids. Born of the wonderful Website www.haroldsplanet.com, the series goes out with Harold to explore the innumerable bizarre creatures and happenings on his very weird home planet.
If you ever had to put up with a truly horrible brother or sister, then youll know all about the world of Horrid Henry -- a charming 26x26 series proposed by Fimbles producer Novel Entertainment. The concept is based on a series of best-selling books by Francesca Simon.
U.K. CGI house Optical Image was in apocalyptic mood with a vision of the Earth in the future, as the Junk Planet. The proposed 13x24 series features a bunch of renegade junk robots together with a lone human kid. Together, they have to save the planet from evil junk warlord Letchworth.
Atomic Ent. was back with its series based on an earlier TV special concept called Hardy Perennial Pizza. Its a fantasy show that reveals a strange nighttime world where everything out in the streets is actually growing -- street lamps, post boxes, road signs. The young Arthur rides out on the back of his cat to investigate.
Irish studio Zink Films presented the 26x26 CGI comedy adventure Katie Baloney Saves The World. Ten-year-old Katie and her inventor grandpa are all that stands in the way of the Earth being taken over by the Villainous Clay.
Another popular CGI pitch was Enjo from Danish producer Funkhauser Film. Based on the journeys of a nomadic people through a hostile fantasy environment, its Lord Of The Rings flavor has been well designed for maximum gaming exploitation as well as an initial series.
And in futuristic CGI mode there was, of course, P3K Pinocchio 3000 from local Santiago heroes Filmax Animation. With a movie based on this updated version of Pinocchio already completed, the plan now is to develop a 26x26 series based on the same designs.
Next years Cartoon Forum will take place from Sept. 22-24 in the Danish town of Kolding.
Scriptwriter, author and editor Bob Swain has been part of the international animation scene for longer than he cares to remember.