The truism that ‘no two deals are ever the same’ has never been more accurate than in today’s climate of intricate production partnerships linking companies from around the world. The main feature in our MIP-TV special report traces the evolution of these partnerships through the complex deals that led to new children’s television shows that are now being marketed at MIP-TV. The report also includes a discussion with U.S. studios on television programming trends, as well as a glimpse into the television markets of Germany, England and France.
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Partners: Bohbot Entertainment & Media, U.S., D’Ocon Films Productions, Spain
How the partnership began:
Kaaren Lee Brown, executive vice president, general manager of Bohbot Productions, g’es to a party at the home of Marv Wolfman, former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, and now working as an independent. Craig Miller, a writer who has worked on such projects as The Smurfs and Mighty Max, is also at the party.
Lee Brown notices some porcelain Pocket Dragon figurines scattered about Wolfman’s living room. It turns out that Miller and Wolfman have been collaborating with Texas artist Real Musgrave to develop an animated series based on the figures he first created 25 years ago.
A few days later, Miller and Wolfman make a formal pitch to Lee Brown and give her the details of the figurines’ international notoriety. (At that time, Pocket Dragons were sold in 47 states and counted 12,000 paying members in organized fan clubs in the U.K., Australia and the U.S.)
Lee Brown’s major concern about the project is that she thinks the creatures are too cute. ‘We wanted to make sure it had attitude and adventure. We [knew we'd] get the younger audience because of the visuals, and I wanted to make sure someone wasn’t writing dialogue that was baby talk.’ She feels Miller and Wolfman, who both have strong backgrounds in action-adventure projects, are perfect for the job.
Bohbot buys the property from Miller and Wolfman, and makes them exclusive writers on the first series, after which they will remain on board as story editors. Musgrave is also part of the deal, and is responsible for creating all the key model art for the series. Looking to establish an aggressive global position, Lee Brown begins searching for a European animation studio.
Bohbot continues its search for a co-production partner, and contacts D’Ocon in Barcelona. Lee Brown is impressed with the quality of D’Ocon’s animation, which combines hand-drawn cels with computer colorization. ‘I think a lot of CGI [computer-generated images] feels very sterile,’ she says. But with the artists on staff, they’re able to scan hand-rendered cels, which allows them to adjust the lighting, shading or the mood of a scene without having to redraw it.
D’Ocon signs on. Pocket Dragons seems to be a natural fit for the studio, explains president Antoni D’Ocon, ‘because the concept and content of the show, as well as the original design of the characters, are very similar to the kinds of shows we like to produce.’ The program’s positioning as wholesome family entertainment and its educational qualities also appeal to him.
D’Ocon, collaborating with Wolfman, Miller and Musgrave via fax and the Internet, produces a three-minute promo, which is presented at MIPCOM in October. The series is well received, says Lee Brown, and presells across Germany, the U.K. and France.
December 1996-January 1997
A formal deal with D’Ocon is finally signed and announced at NATPE, making the Spanish studio a significant financial partner. The studio also takes care of 80 percent of production. Bohbot Productions will oversee the scripts and Musgrave’s work, as well voice casting, which will take place in Vancouver, Canada. It will also control all licensing, TV sales and music rights everywhere except Spain and Portugal, where D’Ocon will retain rights.
Production is well under way. The series is to be presented at MIP-TV, and will be ready for delivery at the beginning of September. Pocket Dragon Adventures will be part of Bohbot’s weekly Amazin’ Adventures block.
Evaluating the partnership
‘They are extremely competent artistically,’ Lee Brown says, commending D’Ocon. Unlike many in the creative field, she says, they have business acumen. ‘And we like them. If you’re going to enter into a long-term relationship, why not enjoy it? My only complaint is that it’s a really long plane ride to Barcelona!’
‘I can say the relationship to date has been wonderful,’ says D’Ocon. ‘The most important thing for me is that both creative teams understand each other.’ As a director, D’Ocon believes he’s able to imagine what Real Musgrave would have imagined 25 years ago on a trip to Barcelona, when he conceived the idea for Pocket Dragons. Musgrave discovered his pocket was a good place to stow his sketch pad, and then began thinking about the kinds of creatures a pocket could hold. ‘The series has come full circle,’ muses D’Ocon.