A Look At Europe's Cartoon Forum with John Bullivant
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HK: Everyone's looking for girls' shows.

JB: It's kicked in the last 12 to 18 months where somehow it's been deemed sensible to have a strong female protagonist. It started with things like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Clueless, and now is starting to move into animation. I think it may run into difficulty in terms of the next 2-3 years. You're going to go, 'Oh, we've seen that. We've done girls in all the possible scenarios,' and then people will go back to something else. But it's about time. Long overdue in some ways. It's more about having an appealing character. But the world is changing. Broadcasters are discovering that the child audience is less dominated by the boy controlling the remote.

HK: Plus more kids have separate TVs now. Gone are the days of fighting for the remote.

JB: Yes, absolutely.

HK: Did you want to talk about your shows?

JB: Yes, because that's partial and biased and boring! We presented a show called Ponqwiffy under the Telemagination banner, which we think is a strong show -- that's why we took it there -- and it's been commissioned by ITV. It's about a group of dysfunctional witches. It tends to play up more their personality and their relationships rather than being kind of like a magic oriented show, with lots of spells and catastrophes like when spells go wrong. It had a very positive reaction. We think it has a lot of potential and there was significant interest afterwards. I think it was one of the strongest shows that was presented there. I don't think I'd be arrogant enough to say it was the best, but I'm pretty sure it will go into production at the beginning of next year. We're in the business of finalizing the broadcaster interest that followed on from our presentation.

Cartoon d'Or nominees Jonathan Hodgson, José Miguel Ribeiro, Benoît Feroumont, Fabien Drouet and Siri Melchior.

HK: Excellent, make sure we get that press release.

JB: Shall do.

HK: What do you think about the overall selection of projects there, their quality and the range?

JB: I think there was an excellent range of projects chosen, a very strong cross section. Everybody had produced the necessary materials to a high standard. However, it's hard to say because every producer that turns up thinks that they have a strong show. We work in a very subjective industry, so I think it's unfair for me to say, 'The quality was low this year.' I don't think it was one of those Forums where there are two or three shows that absolutely everybody goes crazy over. This Cartoon Forum didn't have that for whatever reasons. It was much more of a mixed reception. Some people liked some shows, other people didn't like others, but I wouldn't say that meant the quality was lower necessarily. But also you have to have a certain number of things in place like a domestic broadcaster and European support, produce certain materials, then present a pilot. The selection committee is not operating on a, 'We think this is a good project.' They operate on the basis that if you meet these criteria of broadcaster supports, the right kind of materials, an international co-production partner or interest, then yes, you will have an opportunity to present your project. Then they let the market decide.

HK: Projects need to come to the Cartoon Forum with a domestic broadcaster interested?

JB: Yes. They have to have interest from a domestic broadcaster, whichever country they come from, and have support from another European partner, which could be a distributor or a co-producer. There's usually a writer because -- while I think you only need one script for the Forum -- a broadcaster has to have seen a full set of scripts or something, to be able to turn around and say, 'I will broadcast this, subject to the successful development of financing.' You have to present a sufficient amount of materials so that others will be interested in coming in or being part of the financing.

HK: So, you are really there to get the last pieces of the puzzle put together.

Cartoon Forum attendees enjoy the lawn and courtyard outdoors.

JB: Depending on who you are determines the company you are looking for, the key pre-sales that will put your series into a greenlight situation. You could be a significant distributor that actually feels fairly confident about going into production, but what you're using the Forum as is an opportunity to present the project to a whole range of broadcasters. One of the things that Cartoon Forum gives the producers is...the table's slightly turned. If a producer has a strong show and it's presented and it's one of those shows with a huge buzz, then you may have three broadcasters from the same territory all of whom would be interested in it. It is one of those very rare occasions where the power lies with the producer. It's not very often that a producer is in the position to say, 'We presented a show. You know there's a huge buzz on it and you know that your competitors are interested.' It then becomes the seller's market when literally 99 percent of the time it's the buyer's market. That doesn't happen in this kind of open forum anywhere else basically.


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