Furopeans are coming to NATPE in increasing numbers, and they are bringing with them an unprecedented amount of children’s television animation, a reflection of a thriving animation industry in Europe.
In 1996, Europeans produced 700 hours of animated series, compared to 60 hours a decade ago.
The majority of Europe’s animated film production consists of longer-format shows, mainly 26 x 26 minutes, which represent 42 percent of the titles available on the European market.
France and Germany, still emerging as producers of animation, and Great Britain, which has firmly established a reputation in humorous shorts and TV specials like Bob’s Birthday or Wallace and Gromit programs, together account for about 50 percent of all series produced in Europe.
Major French players like France Animation, Saban International, Ellipse Animation, Gaumont Multimedia, Carrère TV (which has just opened an office in Los Angeles) and AB Productions are all stepping up their efforts. For them, NATPE has become a very important market for distribution and co-production even though French program exports to North America are only about seven percent of France’s total exports.
Marina Productions is screening Little Hippo, a 52 x 13-minute show for children age four to eight, for the first time at NATPE, and is developing The Princess of the Nile for delivery in September ’98. The company has also signed a syndication agreement for next fall for Mr. Men with Summit Media Group and a merchandising deal with Leisure Concepts, both for the U.S.
Spain is producing more long-format series, as is Belgium, whose first big production is Carland Cross, created by Odec Kid Cartoons and distributed by TFI International.
Italy’s RAI TV is becoming more active in animation, making a comeback with productions such as the feature film The Blue Arrow, produced by La Lanterna Magica and distributed by Sacis.
Things are also changing in northern, central and eastern Europe. Interactive Television Entertainment, a Copenhagen-based company involved in the development, production and delivery of interactive concepts for television, like the 3-D game Hugo The Troll, has opened an office in Los Angeles to develop sales and marketing activities throughout the U.S. and Latin American markets.
Hungary’s Varga Studio, which recently created its own production unit, Varga Plus, is coming to NATPE with five new series or TV specials. Among them is The Adventures of Brer Rabbit, a modern adaptation of Afro-American folk tales.
European producers know that it is necessary to go to the United States to develop business, but increasingly Europeans and Americans are teaming up for ideas and financing.
Christian Davin of France Animation, which has recently joined forces with North Hollywood, California-based Film Roman on Storm Commander and Time Clash, says the trick to co-producing with American independent producers is entering into a partnership very early before production starts. ‘Our method is to develop together and to go forward jointly in both markets with the same products.’
European producers are also looking increasingly towards ancillary markets and are opening new relationships with other partners, such as toy companies. Gaumont Multimedia, headed by Marc du Pontavice, made strong gains last year with its action-adventure series Dragon Flyz and Skydancers. Toy lines from Abrams/Gentile Entertainment were sold in over 70 territories worldwide. For the upcoming series The Magician presold to Televisa in Mexico and scheduled for delivery in the fall Gaumont has brought Italian toy company Giochi Preziosi on board.