Hosting 80 pitch projects, welcoming 537 companies, and seeing a 13% increase in first-time attendees, this year’s Cartoon Forum saw the European animation scene in boom. With 292 buyers on site, the Toulouse-set event held three days of well-attended TV pitches that ran from Sept. 19 -22. Here are five key takeaways from the event.
Buzz and Attendance
Cheeky French short-form “The Hall of Fail” came up time and again as Cartoon Forum attendees buzzed about the 2D project that gives a loving raspberry to history’s also-rans. Dystopian Y.A. adventure “The Tern” was another major attention grabber, cited as much for its narrative ambition as for its elaborate sci-fi design. Still, if older skewing projects got the people talking, preschool fare got them buying – or at least, drew the largest shares of buyers to the pitch. Projects “Tiger and Bear,” “Wild Danish,” “Trotro & Zaza,” and “BeddyByes” led the pack, with all four titles playing to rooms where buyers accounted for more than 55% of all attendees. Produced by Dutch studio Submarine, the 2D series “Max” (pictured) drew the best of both worlds, playing to a room full of buyers who would then talk up the project for the rest of the event.
According to participation figures released by organizers, Europe’s leading pitching event for TV animation is a 50-50 affair. Still, male directors far outnumbered their female colleagues, with just a quarter of projects selected this year directed by women and some 10% led by mixed gender teams. Parity among producers was slightly more balanced, with 54% of the projects produced by men, 26% by women, and 20% by mixed production teams. In a bid to boost gender parity, Eurimages — Europe’s main cultural support fund for the audiovisual sector — recently introduced new measures offering female directed projects supports of up to 25% of the total budget across all genres.
Series like “Aquaworld,” “Welcome to Permacity,” and “Keiko and the Floating World” built specific narrative worlds around themes of ecological transformation, but widespread environmental concerns could be felt across the board. If anything, it might be faster to list the pitches that didn’t make mention of the subject in some way or another. Pitch projects “The Last Whale Singer” and “The Tinies” both emphasized the use of real-time 3D engine Unreal as a way to substantially reduce carbon footprints, while titles like “Gouti’s Great Journey,” “Feathered Vignettes,” and “Anuki” displayed an acute awareness of the fragile natural world. In animation – as in every other industry – these concerns are on everyone’s mind.
Adaptations and IP
Adaptations of one kind or another accounted for just under 40% of all pitch projects this year, while, for the first time, a delegation of 25 publishers attended the event looking for original titles that could work as children’s books. Cartoon Forum’s Annick Maes tells Variety that the publishing gambit has already paid off and that such delegations could very well become fixtures at future Cartoon events. On the ancillary side, though nearly every presentation made promises of lucrative licensing potential, two financiers cited “Star Stable: Mistfall” as a project that could tap into an extant (and well-oiled) IP engine without having to build the marketing machine from scratch.
A number of this year’s projects focused on issues of diversity and social inclusion, casually representing often-stigmatized identities. Among them, Greek series “My Superhero Husband” and Belgian project “Hamsters” spotlighted queer protagonists whose sexual orientation was not central to the story. Championing diversity of a different kind, “Maddie + Triggs” followed the adventures of a 7-year-old girl whose visual impairment was less the centre of the story than a consequence thereof. In terms of visual design, the production team used bold colors with signature character palettes, strong geometric shapes, and minimalistic background styles to establish an aesthetic accessible to as broad a vision spectrum as possible.