Fix & Foxi, the popular comic strip known to Germans for over 40 years, will begin a new life as an animated half-hour program aimed at the six- to 10-year-old market. The series, based on the adventures of two smart foxes, is a co-production by Ravensburger Film + Television, based in Ravensburg, Germany, D’Ocon Films of Barcelona, Spain, and Rolf Kauka, now based in the U.S. The partners will produce the series of 26 half-hour episodes in three languages: English, German and Spanish.
Ravensburger Film + Television, Germany
D’Ocon Films, Spain
Rolf Kauka, U.S.A.
How the partnership began:
The story of the Fix & Foxi series begins with a long-term friendship between Peter Hille, co-managing director of Ravensburger Film + Television, and Rolf Kauka, the now 81-year-old creator of Fix & Foxi. Hille has been friends with Kauka and his family since 1975, and familiar with the comic since childhood.
Hille suggests an animated series based on Fix & Foxi to Kauka through his company, Europabuch AG. Nothing is heard from Kauka until nearly a year later
Kauka calls Hille, asking for a meeting. Kauka says he has been checking around to animation studios on his own, including Nelvana, Universal and Saban, among others. He wants to go ahead with Hille’s idea for an animated series for Fix & Foxi.
Hille and Kauka meet at Kauka’s home in the U.S. to talk about the development and production of an animated series based on Fix & Foxi.
Creating the series format takes more than one year. Because the original comic is so well known, the challenge lies in revising the characters for today’s television audience, while maintaining their integrity, so as not to change them so radically as to render them unrecognizable to those who had grown up with the comic.
Kauka and Ravensburger sign a license agreement transferring most of the world rights to the Fix and Foxi property to Ravensburger. Kauka holds copyright and rights of last approval.
During this time, Ravensburger teams up with D’Ocon Films to collaborate on The Herlufs, an animated children’s series based on a Danish property. The Herlufs project is a true co-production, with D’Ocon contributing 50 percent of the budget and the majority of the creative work. The roots of the D’Ocon and Ravensburger partnership go back to 1992, when D’Ocon teamed up with Ravensburger on Chip and Charley, a co-production with France Animation. For Hille, working with D’Ocon ‘was a good experience, and this was the reason to continue discussing the possibility of co-producing Fix & Foxi as well.’
The initial deal for Fix & Foxi is, for Antoni D’Ocon, president of D’Ocon Films, ‘very straightforward. In fact, I think it was one of the easiest deals done.’ In speaking to Hille about The Herlufs at MIP-TV, D’Ocon suggests another co-production. Hille mentions that Ravensburger is looking at Fix & Foxi. D’Ocon is familiar with the comic-by coincidence, some of the artists who had worked on the original Fix & Foxi comic live in Barcelona.
D’Ocon agrees to join the production of Fix & Foxi.
D’Ocon officially signs on. The deal is similar to the earlier co-production agreement between Ravensburger and D’Ocon for The Herlufs, with the work and financial participation shared between the two companies.
Financial participation is as follows: Ravensburger and Europabuch AG combined contribute two-thirds of the total DM12.3-million budget, with the majority of this share contributed by Ravensburger, and the remainder is contributed by D’Ocon. Although some of D’Ocon’s contribution to the budget will come from broadcasters, D’Ocon can contribute up to 25 percent of the budget without a presale.
Production on the series begins in January. Ravensburger, with Kauka, is responsible for the development of the series: the content, the main characters and the scripts. D’Ocon is responsible for the physical production-that is, the exposure sheets-and the bulk of the post-production, including a Spanish-language version of the series. Secondary characters, new backgrounds and props are created at D’Ocon in collaboration with Ravensburger and Kauka. The challenge again is to maintain an integrity to the original comic. The final master is delivered to Ravensburger to render the German-language version. Music for the series is also done at Ravensburger.
At present, the majority of the storyboards and the corresponding art design for Fix & Foxi are completed. Casting has been done, and pre-recording, slugging and exposure sheets have also been completed by the co-production teams.
Ravensburger and D’Ocon will bring a promotional trailer of Fix & Foxi to MIP-TV. No presales have been finalized, but offers are in the wings.
Evaluating the Partnership
Challenges in co-production between Ravensburger and D’Ocon? For Peter Hille, these are matters of ‘coordination’ and ‘differences in temperament,’ but the companies have a ‘good relationship, and we have the same target.’ Although animated drawings, by their nature, sidestep the language barrier, for Antoni D’Ocon, ‘drawings and design are obviously elements that are due to subjectivity.’ The challenge when confronted with ‘a variety of opinions on a model or on a background design . . . is finding the happy medium. Consensus is the name of the game.’ For D’Ocon, the ‘main criteria of our co-productions are an agreed upon budget and an agreed upon division of tasks.’ Fix & Foxi is exactly that type of project. Working with Ravensburger is particularly rewarding because of the amount of creative input D’Ocon is given on the Fix & Foxi series.
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