The Cartoon Forum kicks off its sixth year on September 19, this time in Galway, Ireland.
Apart from the new location, little has changed for the three-day event.
‘The main objective,’ says director-general Marc Vandeweyer, ‘is to improve the financing of new animation projects, so we put the focus on that and nothing else.’ No fancy new sessions or gizmos, just a platform for animation producers to secure cash for budding concepts and future series.
The Forum is exclusive to Europeans across the board and the aim is to help them compete in a marketplace dominated by North America and Japan.
The European market is geographically fragmented-comprised of 18 countries-and markets such as MIP-TV and MIPCOM often prove too busy and too generalized for animation producers, who tend to get lost in the shuffle.
‘The producers asked us to have a meeting that was a small market where they could have all the broadcasters and investors together around one table to discuss new projects,’ says Vandeweyer.
Essentially, the event is one large pitch session where approximately 100 new projects are presented to about 70 broadcasters and 60 investors. The heavyweights are in attendance, including top producers such as Bertelsmann, Ravensburger and Hachette, along with the major broadcasters-Canal+, TVI, BBC, ZDF and more-as well as the leading video publishers of Europe.
In total, Vandeweyer estimates there will be about 500 delegates this year, the cap he and fellow organizers have placed on the event to keep it small. As he points out, the size of the event is critical to its success. ‘If there are too many people, they can no longer discuss the projects together.’
Intimate and relaxed are the qualities the Forum wants to be identified with. ‘The most important thing is that all the producers and broadcasters are together during the day,’ says Vandeweyer.
Part of the plan is to keep producers on track in the early stages of their projects by eliminating as many distractions as possible. ‘There are so many contradictions and opinions that it’s much better to have all the broadcasters together when we discuss a project in the first meetings. This was why we invented [the Forum].’
Each day starts with a 30- to 45-second presentations of producers’ short reels. Pitch sessions take place in three meeting rooms throughout the day. The option is available to producers to bring along creatives, but for the most part, Vandeweyer says producers attend with only their trailers in hand.
Projects presented the previous years are allowed one more stab the following year simply because it often takes more than one year to get the financing in place.
At the end of the event, there is an awards show and the title for Best European Animated Film of the Year is selected from a shortlist of five films. Past winners include Nick Park’s The Wrong Trousers and Michel Dudok De Wyt’s Le moine et le poisson.
In the first five years of operation, one-third of the projects presented at the Forum have been completed or are currently in production. The number of participants has increased 100 percent since the first year, and broadcasters and investors have nearly tripled since 1990 when only 45 delegates attended.
Statistics also show about 435 hours of programming or 110 productions have been initiated via the event. According to a document released this year by the Forum, over ECU258 million of financing has been generated via its efforts.
In addition to the function itself, the Forum is in the business of collecting data on the European animation industry. Recent information indicates that France is the leading country in this area, accounting for nearly half of the projects that are realized across Europe.
The data also show that the need for the Forum continues. The time required to raise financing is on the increase-from three months to two years since 1990-and it can take up to four years for a series of 26 half-hours.