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A Closer Look: French animation sets out to conquer the world

A year ago, French and other European animation professionals gathered atthe third "Crossroads of the Image of the Indian Ocean" to discuss Europeancartoons. At this event, financing is always a hot topic of discussion.France is the third largest producer of animation worldwide, after the U.S.and Japan. Production itself has greatly developed in recent years with theproliferation of television channels. In 1988 there weren't any 26half-hour episode series being done in Europe, now there are dozens everyyear. French companies meet the needs of these new domestic televisionchannels and have recently exported a few shows as well. What exporting ashow does not add to the bottom line, it more than makes up for it inprestige. However, one weakness in France rests in the virtual absence ofdistributors that contribute to production financing. With only a fewexceptions, distributors assume none of the risk and this partly explainswhy France actively seeks international co-venturing.

Korean, Hong-Hong and Taiwanese production companies were very wellrepresented at this year's MIFA (Annecy International Animation FilmMarket) and some of them were actively seeking to make co-production dealswith European companies. This is definitively a new business trend whichwill in some cases provide French animation companies with significantcomplementary funding. Meanwhile, French companies continue to turn toNorth America, as illustrated yesterday in Los Angeles. TVFI, a tradeassociation supporting the international sale of French TV programs,together with UK-based company MediaXChange, presented a French AnimationEvening, with a screening of "La France s'Anime" ("France Gets Animated"),a compilation of 19 French TV series pilots. These encounters successfullybrought together European producers with American producers and TV buyers.

According to Christian Davin, President of the French Federation ofAnimation Producers, the opportunities for co-production between the twocontinents have multiplied, while the cultural gap that separates them isless important. Americans are less reticent than they used to be regardingartistic collaboration, and it's no longer rare that a series conceived inEurope can find partners and markets across the Atlantic. Plus, France doesoffer some special advantages: In addition to funding from the EuropeanCommunity, France has the distinction of benefiting from the financialsupport of the CNC [The National Cinematography Center]. Thanks to variousfinancial mechanisms, a French production can benefit from financing by theCNC for 20% to 30% of the costs of a production made in France. For thatreason, France is very appealing to other countries. Regardless of themotivations, it will be interesting to see how the animation market evolveswithin the continued globalization of the entertainment industry. And fromthe agitation prevailing at the World Trade Organization Conference rightnow, international co-venturing might not be as easy at it seems...

AWN's Annick Teninge reported on the third "Crossroads of the Image of theIndian Ocean" conference in the January 1999 issue of Animation World Magazine.

In last month's issue, Valérie Rivoallon profiled France's National Centerof Cinematography and discussed the many opportunities, including that allimportant funding, that the organization provides to its native filmmakers.