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The Future Of NATPE: Stalwarts Are Concerned, Yet Committed

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This year's NATPE, held in New Orleans, was down in attendance and exhibitors. Many distributors who did come, opted to hold court in hotel suites instead of mingling with the crowds on the floor. Photo credit: Heather Parlato.

From veterans to newbies, to New Orleans cabbies and hoteliers, all saw that this was not the NATPE of heydays past. It was reported that the attendance was 50% down and exhibitors were down 70% from two years ago. Even those camped out in the suites at the seven-plus hotels did not bring a full contingency. Like in 2002, this years NATPE was a fragmented conference with the majors opting for comfy suites in posh hotels versus having a place on the convention floor.

The only evidence that the majors were in town was the big red square in the middle of the convention floor, called Hollywood Plaza. Each of the big players, such as Buena Vista, Warner Bros., Paramount and others, had a small display with a phone and a person. This was the place to make appointments before trekking by cab to the Ritz-Carlton way up on Canal Street. However, those manning these booths didnt have the full scoop on what was going on in the hotels or even know who was there. Other distributors followed the lead of the biggies and ordered up suites in other prominent hotels.

Off The Floor

The large Latin American contingency grouped together at the Marriott, along with other distributors that had abandoned the floor.

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Jerry Diaz, executive vice-president of Salsa Entertainment came to NATPE to stir up interest in two Salsa projects, Olliver's Adventures (top) and Something Else. Olliver's Adventure © 2001 Ollie's Adventures II, Inc.; Photo courtesy of Salsa Entertainment, a wholly-owned TV-Loonland subsidiary; Something Else © 2002 Loonland UK Ltd./Studio B (SE) Productions, Inc. in association with ZDF.

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Rosamaria Gonzalez, a distributor of childrens entertainment for Latin America, said that she has been in the business for 22 years, and nine years on her own, as Rose Entertainment. For years she had a booth on the convention floor and even reserved a space for one this year. But it was at MIPCOM in October, where everyone heard from NATPE president/CEO Bruce Johansen that the big players were again off of the floor and in suites, that the Latin American group decided they, too, needed suites. Nick Orfanopolus, vice president of NATPE Conferences, helped them settle in at the Marriott.

Jerry Diaz, of TV-Loonlands Salsa Entertainment, was camped out at the Marriott with the rest of the group. NATPE is changing, said the executive vice president. We will stay with NATPE. By coming here we save up to five or six trips and it is a good kick off for MIP-TV.

Another suite holder was AnimEigo. Natsumi Ueki, COO, did not go the 2002 conference in Las Vegas. It was her new chief marketing officer, Denise Anker, who made the decision that if they were going they would have a suite because it would be quieter, more relaxed, offer more time for meetings, and the price was reasonable, even with the NATPE surcharge for being listed in the book and getting badges for the floor. In their Wyndham Riverfront Suite, just steps from the convention center, Ueki said that she was there to sell her titles to TV, meet licensors and to learn more about television marketing. She is aware how powerful television is for her Japanese animation properties. It has been a wonderful experience. I think we will do again next year. Our hope is that NATPE comes back in one location, said Ueki.

Joey DiFrancesco of Raven Moon sought out broadcasting partners for Gina D's Kids Club, a live-action/animated

Joey DiFrancesco of Raven Moon sought out broadcasting partners for Gina D's Kids Club, a live-action/animated "family values" show for 3 to 6 year olds. Created by J&B DiFrancesco. © 2003 Raven Moon Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserve

NATPE is becoming an international show. Domestic NATPE is going away because targeted meetings with station groups are held elsewhere, explained David Carr, of Beantown, a broadcast promotions company, who attends every NATPE. However, he doesnt see a need for a badge. He is there to party with his clients, the marketing executives. Everyone is here because they dont want to be missing. My primary function is to rescue our marketing clients [from strictly business]. It is a good place to get one-on-one with clients to build relationships, said Carr, executive producer of the on-air promotion and television marketing company.

On The Floor

It was obvious that many were missing from the convention floor and the floor was a microscopic portion of its former self.

First time exhibitor Raven Moon brought the Gina Ds Kids Club home entertainment package to NATPE to find broadcasting partners. Joey DiFrancesco, chairman/CEO, was there not to sell but to create partnerships. I have a deal for the broadcaster. I will give them 13 episodes free to broadcast with 100% of all ad sales and participation in 50% of all product revenue from all sources worldwide for five years, stated DiFrancesco. Partnering with the broadcaster is the future of NATPE.

Handy Girls creators Barbara Ciarlantini and Mary Schwartz had a great deal of optimism for NATPE. From their home base in Las Vegas, where they missed the 2002 show, they traveled to New Orleans to present their girl-friendly do-it-yourself show to get worldwide reaction. Schwartz said, We are getting a great response from everyone who has seen it. Being in the U.S. and being able to meet the world has been great. NATPE will be back in Las Vegas for 2004 and will be taking over the Venetian Hotel and the Sands Convention Center, which share the same property. Ciarlantini and Schwartz will be there.

Co-creators Barbara Ciarlantini and Mary Schwartz came to New Orleans to present The Handy Girls, a combined live-action/animation show based on The Handy Girls Can Fix It! book published by Random House in 1984. © Handy Girls, Inc

Co-creators Barbara Ciarlantini and Mary Schwartz came to New Orleans to present The Handy Girls, a combined live-action/animation show based on The Handy Girls Can Fix It! book published by Random House in 1984. © Handy Girls, Inc

ShoPro Entertainment, of Japan, had a formable presence near the entrance of the floor with their latest hit animated series, Hamtaro. John Easum, vice president of licensing and sales, feels that NATPE is becoming a grand L.A. Screening. More business is done on the road in the U.S., he said. But ShoPro will always do NATPE, even though it costs more. It is a way to introduce our executives to everyone.

Colorlands Louis Sek is a veteran of both NATPE and MIP and is committed to attend all of them in the future. The Chairman/CEO of the Chinese production company had a booth for the first time to present his original properties. As a production service you dont need a stand, said Sek. For him the decision to have a booth was an economic one. NATPE is much more reasonably priced. Even if you make one good contact then it is worth it, he said. Though he wasnt booked back-to-back with meetings, he was meeting new friends and gathering information just by being in the booth. Some say that NATPE has lost its focus. It doesnt need a focus. It is a great place for the industry to meet and exchange and build new relationships.

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Building new relationships was the focus of Louis Sek's visit to NATPE. Sek, Chairman/CEO of the Chinese company Colorland Animation, co-produced the Christmas movie In Search of Santa (right), and is currently in discussions with international distributors. Photo courtesy of Colorland Animation; In Search of Santa © 2003 Colorland Animation/Tundra Productions.

Another seasoned floor dweller was Mark Bannon of Wreckless Abandon Studios. Following Decembers airing of their NBC special, A Freezerburnt Christmas, Bannon, CEO/executive producer, was introducing Animation Content, his new marketing company for concept representation. He was surprised by the change at this years show. Ironically, I have had the best meetings I have ever had, he said. I hope that NATPE settles itself out. We meet people you never would have a chance to meet otherwise, here on the floor.

Barry Ward had much stronger feelings about the direction NATPE should take. NATPE is an essential North American market and should be positioned as such, said the president of the Vancouver-based Bardel Entertainment. Indies like Bardel cant afford to go to two European markets a year, he said. He even suggested that NATPE go face-to-face with MIP-TV by scheduling NATPE at the same time and persuading the majors to stay home.

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Mark Bannon, CEO/executive producer of Wreckless Abandon, was at NATPE to introduce Animation Content, a new marketing company. Wreckless Abandon's latest project was A Freezerburnt Christmas (right), which aired on NBC last December and featured Saturday Night Live cast members Chris Parnell, Darrell Hammond and Horatio Sanz. Animation Content logo © Animation Content, LLC. All rights reserved; A Freezerburnt Christmas © Wreckless Abandon Studios. All rights reserved; Photo credit John Loos.

KOCCA is a consortium of Korean Content Producers. This was the first time many of their members attended this U.S. market. Won-Jung Kim, KOCCA spokes person, said the members of the consortium attended to explore the Western market and they did not get a chance to meet any of the U.S. networks. However, they did have success in exposing their properties to those that came by the exhibit. KOCCA will be attending the MIPs, but may consider passing on next years NATPE.

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Barry Ward thinks NATPE is essential for indie companies like his Bardel Entertainment. One of Bardel's most recent projects was The Christmas Orange that aired during the Christmas 2002 season. Photo credit: Juliet Greenberg; Courtesy of Bardel Entertainment. The Christmas Orange © The Christmas Orange Productions, Inc.

Walking The Floor

Many do not need the comforts of a suite or a stand. They are there to meet people, to present their wares and to start dialogs.

Bill Dennis, of Toonz Animation India, is a veteran of all of the markets. The glitz and glamour of NATPE is gone, not that this is a bad thing, said the CEO/president. For him, attending all of the markets cuts down on his travel. The people that were sent to this years show are not generally the decision makers, he observed. He said he would attend next years NATPE in Las Vegas. After all, it is the U.S. market, he said.

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Move over, Iron Chef! pasi's executive producer and creative director Frank Saperstein launched the company's first original series Rats Amore at NATPE. The charming story follows two rats from Italy who work as world class chefs. Photo courtesy of pasi; Rats Amore © 2003 pasi, philippine animation studio, inc. and Surprise Bag, inc. All rights reserved.

Frank Saperstein of the Philippine animation studio, pasi, expressed how overall disappointing NATPE was this year. However, he said he was making more contacts and having more time to spend with his meetings. He had hoped that this years NATPE would have bounced back from the pall of 9-11 and 2002 because of the New Orleans location.

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Joan Vogelesang, COO of ToonBoom Technologies of Montreal, summed it up: I always create opportunities where there are none. And for many, NATPE is still the place to do just that.

While the crazy stunts and promotions of past NATPEs are over, it appears for those that are focused on their business, know whom they need to meet with and why, then NATPE is still a very valuable event. More conservative in nature now than in the past, it is drawing fewer people, but they are the television syndication crowd and that doesn't necessarily impact the world of animation, with its co-production deals and pitches to major U.S. networks. While the MIPs are firmly entrenched as the markets to do international deals, NATPE is still a place to build relationships, have key meetings and do on the floor research prior to MIP TV. So, over the hushed tones of upset over the economy and the market, voices rose to express the value they are still getting from this event, to wish the best for NATPE and to proclaim their commitment.

Jan Nagel is a marketing consultant to the animation industry representing production services and development, and is the president of Women In Animation, Inc., a worldwide professional organization. Jan was also representing the following projects at this years NATPE: El Dia de Los Muertos (Jim Keeshen Productions), Captain & The Quill (Glenn Productions) and Goddess Only Knows (MJ Productions) for co-production and/or distribution.

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Jan Nagel, Entertainment Marketing Diva
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