Starz are the Limit: The Word on the Growing Studio
HK: Independent investor-driven projects have clearly been hit hard. There are several projects we were chasing that fell through as a result. But by the same token, the economy underscores the need for a studio like Starz Animation Toronto, where high quality theatrical animation can be produced for so much less than the major studios typically spend. We feel animated features that are made for less than $100 million -- in some cases way less -- is a growing niche.
On the TV side, I think this coming MIPCOM is going to be really interesting. I am hoping that it is more upbeat and we see more people being able to put their projects together, get them funded. I have heard from almost everyone across the board that it is “quiet.” Yet at Film Roman we have just got a rush of new projects to bid so I think the tide is turning Animation has such a strong return on investment and long, long life on TV, which makes it hard to overlook, especially in this economy. We have lots of work already on our plate, and -- fingers crossed -- we think the future looks bright for our niche.
RD: What's your opinion of the U.S. television animation market currently? How about globally?
HK: Television is a tough marketplace right now, especially in children’s. The television funding model was difficult prior to the recession and now it is only getting tighter. What is more is the number of available animation slots is down as more live-action is being added to the kids networks across the board. A lot of distributors I know are looking to diversify their catalogues, adding live-action, reality, to keep their profits up. While it is easier for distributors and networks to diversify, it is harder for animation companies. We aren’t going to start going out and do live-action! So where we are looking to sell must become even broader and how we are funding must become even cleverer. I think a lot of people are making their shows internationally and if they can back into the U.S. as an acquisition -- great! But if they can’t, they have launched their show and are making a go of it without the U.S. On the flip side, we are getting a new major player with the addition of the new Hasbro network with Discovery, so it isn’t all doom and gloom. Plus Disney’s XD is coming on strong. I think soon we will have five networks in serious play in the U.S., plus several others, and that could help. If, as we talked about earlier, a few more networks begin to pick up adult series there could be some bright spots. And it’s still too early to discount the possibilities in the broadband space.
RD: Can I have a four-picture deal about a turtle that goes outside his shell and wackiness ensues?
HK: Uh… let me think about that one Rick. My first thought is… no. What did I tell you about “wackiness ensues!?” In a show logline… it is always a sign of trouble.
Rick DeMott is the director of content for Animation World Network, VFXWorld and AWNtv. Additionally, he's the creator of the movie review site, Rick's Flicks Picks, which was recently named one of the 100 best movie blogs by The Daily Reviewer. He has written for TV series, such as Discovery Kids' Growing Up Creepie and Cartoon Network's Pet Alien, the animation history book Animation Art, and the humor, absurdist and surrealist website Unloosen. Previously, he held various production and management positions in the entertainment industry.