John Bullivant reports on Europe's 2002 Cartoon Forum, covering the hot properties and some issues that should be addressed for the future.
This year saw Wales as the host for the 13th Cartoon Forum. Llandudno on the North Wales Coast, a region that inspired Lewis Carroll the famous writer of Alice in Wonderland, was the remarkably pleasant and beautiful location paying host to some 750 European animation and television executives.
Bigger and Bigger
Both Welsh and English executives might be forgiven for fearing that the notoriously wet Welsh weather might put something of a dampener on proceedings. Not so though! The rain politely bypassed Llandudno and gave the visitors from 15 different European countries the best possible feel and sight of the stunning Welsh countryside.
Cartoon Forum just gets bigger and bigger. This year 82 projects, the largest number ever, representing 488 hours of programming with a total budget of 298 million Euros, were being presented. How many of those will end up being fully financed though is anybody's guess. Cartoon is in danger of being a victim of its own success. Only two or three years ago it had the relaxed, informal feel of a festival rather than a market. Yes there was pressure, yes it was competitive, yes people were there to bewitch the key broadcasters whose support could green-light their show. However, there was always an air of camaraderie, an element of surprise and the real chance of a producer having to fight off competing bids from broadcasters, distributors and potential co-producers for their show.
TV-Loonland presented two shows, Tucker (left) and WereKids, which were well received. Tucker © TV-Loonland AG/Tucker 2002; WereKids © Telemagination/WereKids 2002.
A much respected and talented participant at Cartoon over the last few years has been Happy Life from Sweden. Their projects are invariably strong and their presentations always entertaining. This year was no different. They presented Last Girls, 26 x 22' target at a 15 plus audience. Four international young women, reluctantly sharing an apartment in Paris was the premise for this stylishly designed series. The challenge many felt they faced was: could they persuade key broadcasters that an animated series like this could find a slot in their competitive schedules?
Lastly it seems vampires are in, in Europe. Two well known companies Hahn Film from Germany and France Animation from.you guessed itFrance both brought projects featuring vampires. Little Vampire, 52 x 13' from France Animation was targeted slightly younger at a 6-9 years audience while Hahn Films' School for Vampires, 52 x 11', played older at 8-12 years. In the former, Little Vampire befriends an orphan Michael and finds a new friend as well as plenty of day light fun. While in the latter, Ollie the central character is a vampire who can't stand the sight of blood. More than a slight disadvantage in school where bloodsucking comes before ABC or 2 x 2 on the curriculum.
Looking back over the last thirteen years of Cartoon Forum, it is a real testament to the dedication and success of the organisers Marc Vandeweyer and Corrine Jenart that Cartoon has achieved such prominence in the annual calendar of animation and children's television events. The future challenge will be controlling the beast they have worked so hard to create! For all the increase in the number of projects being presented, said projects are chasing an ever-reducing amount of European broadcast Euros. Likewise the quality of projects has not increased proportionately to the submissions. Interestingly, and to this point rightly so, the organisers have not carried out any creative selection of proposals. Moving forward one wonders if this is tenable. With such a large number of programmes to screen in three days, key players, broadcasters and investors need to feel they are going to find strong product. The fact that 82 new projects are presented is not now what we should be shouting about. It's about presenting stand out shows that broadcasters and investors will fight over; quality product that will play the world over. That's what will ensure Cartoon continues for another thirteen years.
John Bullivant is the managing director of Kickback Media, a company he started this past fall. John says, "After nearly fifteen years of busting a gut for other people, it's wonderful just to be doing your own thing, your own way. The absolute best thing is, it doesn't matter if it doesn't work out — I just had to have a go!"