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Cartoon Movie's New Visitors: U.S. Distributors

Ron Diamond discusses Cartoon Movie 2001 and the band of U.S. delegates that attended looking to increase the opportunities of bringing European animated features to America.

The third edition of Cartoon Movie, held in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany from Thursday, March 15 - Saturday, March 17, 2001, embraced a new presence. This year's newly welcomed guests? U.S. distributors. Surprised? A joint effort between AWN and Cartoon Forum, a delegation consisting of five representatives from leading American distribution companies were invited. In an effort to bring even more opportunity to its members at the already successful Cartoon Movie, this first ever U.S. delegation was invited to learn from and participate in the three days of intensive sessions, presentations and meetings.

The delegation included: Artisan Entertainment representatives, Lori Nahama, Director of Family Home Entertainment Development & Acquisitions, and Todd Schwartz, Manager of Acquisitions & Production; DreamWorks SKG's Fritz Meier; Twentieth Century Fox Feature Animation's Vice President of Production, Catherine Winder; Universal Pictures' President of Visual Programming, Hugh Rees-Parnall; and myself, delegation organizer and leader, Animation World Network President and Co-Founder Ron Diamond.

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The coalition and friends. Right side of table (front to back): Catherine Winder, Todd Schwartz, Marie Beardmore, Hugh Rees-Parnall and the BBC's Colin Rose. Left side of table (front to back): Ron Diamond, Fritz Meier and Lori Nahama.

The intent behind inviting a U.S. delegation was to introduce Americans to Cartoon's unique sales marketplace, in hopes of facilitating the sale of European features to the U.S. mainstream theatrical market. The delegation attended most of the sessions and despite the lack of immediate commitments, valuable contacts were made and many European producers went away with strong U.S. contacts.

The six person delegation was interviewed privately by the Cartoon organizers about their candid impressions. The collective opinion was that the event was extremely well organized and that it was the best of its kind. This is due primarily to the positive nature of the presentation sessions, the excellent moderators and preparedness of the producers. What kept these distributors from signing on the bottom line was the level of productions presented did not compete with the sophistication of the American marketplace. This is not to say the stories or the production values were less then marketable, but it was discussed that the majors' approach to the theatrical release of animated feature films in the U.S. was only open to anticipated blockbuster successes. The leading U.S. distribution companies were not interested in releasing movies that had a maximum potential of earning only 25 to 50 million U.S. dollars.

Recognizing that the works presented at Cartoon Movie could indeed earn as much as 50 million dollars in the U.S. theatrical marketplace, the Cartoon organizers determined that it would be worthwhile to pursue another delegation for next year's Cartoon Movie. However, this time they will focus on U.S. distributors who want to release theatrical features in art film cinemas. Cartoon Movie producers need not write off main stream American distributors right away though due to the need for potential Oscar nominees.

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Fritz Meier, Catherine Winder and Ron Diamond. © AWN, Inc.

As a newcomer to the world of European animation what most impressed me was the quality and variety of the films presented. The organizers of Cartoon Movie did an outstanding job of presenting a wide array of films that fit the varying needs of the distributors. The films themselves were a joy to watch and represented the high quality of European animation. I found that the open atmosphere of Cartoon Movie helped foster work that is expressive, bold and innovative. This supportive environment provided an incredible opportunity for productions to find the right distributor for their product. It was a wonderful experience to meet with so many different people from so many countries all sharing their love and enthusiasm for animation.

Fritz Meier DreamWorks Animation Development

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Cartoon Movie was a well-organized, truly impressive event. The basic underlying philosophy behind the conference was that of collaboration. Cartoon Movie provides an opportunity for producers to pitch projects and spend time together with distributors and financiers in a casual yet professional atmosphere. By getting these various parties together, it is inevitable that strategic relationships, critical to getting a project off the ground, will be forged. This approach has been instrumental in building the animated television business in Europe and I believe that it will, over time, have the same positive affect on their movie industry.

Personally, Cartoon Movie was a beneficial experience in that it provided me with a clear overview of the European animation industry. It also gave me insights into how the development and story process works in Europe in comparison to that in North America. I believe these insights will be beneficial in doing business together in the future. Finally and most importantly, I got to meet many talented individuals with whom I have begun to build, what I hope to be long-term relations.

Catherine Winder Vice President Production, Fox Feature Animation

Ron Diamond is the co-founder and co-publisher of Animation World Network. He also serves as executive producer and founder of Los Angeles-based Acme Filmworks, an animation commercial production company.

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