After making several sales of its children’s television show Iris, The Happy Professor at MIP’ Asia in 1994, Desclez Productions anticipates a welcome response to children’s programs and merchandise.
‘In Asia, the family and children are very important,’ says Norma Denys, vice president of Montreal-based Desclez Productions. ‘So [Asian countries] already have an extremely positive market vis-à-vis kids.’
Not only is the Asian marketplace favorable for television series from the region, but it is becoming more open to new kinds of products from around the world. Locally produced television series will always have secure local audiences, but more cross-over is occurring from North America and other regions to Asia, and vice versa.
Desclez noticed this openness toward new product, including its puppet show Iris, The Happy Professor, at MIP’ Asia two years ago. Asian countries have a long history of using shadow and string puppets, ‘so they already have a culture that loves puppets,’ says Denys. Desclez’s series was one of the first to feature hand puppets, and sold into Hong Kong, Thailand and other Asian countries. Puppets and animation travel well, says Denys, because ‘they are normally not very much attached to one specific culture.’
A program like Iris, The Happy Professor is also ‘refreshing’ for Asian buyers because its educational content and mix of live action and puppets set it apart from shows such as Japanese animated programs, which can be more violent, says Natalie Vinet, senior manager, operations and acquisitions with Malofilm International, Desclez’s parent company.
Desclez and Malofilm expect the new animated series Turtle Island to tickle Asians’ funny bone. ‘It’s a return to kind of the traditional slapstick, fun, zany animation of the old days,’ says Denys. ‘I think it’s going to please them a lot. They have an excellent sense of humor.’ As well, its tropical setting will appeal to this marketplace because ‘you can’t identify it with a specific country,’ adds Denys.
On the merchandising side, Asia represents a good marketplace for products tied in to properties. ‘Normally, if they’re interested in the TV show, they want the licensed products,’ says Denys. ‘They’re very much consumers in Asia; they like products a lot.’
Desclez is particularly keen to explore co-production partnerships with Asian countries at MIP’ Asia. ‘My point of view is always a creative point of view. I find it really fascinating to work with people who are different from me,’ says Denys. ‘The kind of products you get when there’s a counterpoint or a difference are very exciting.’