Cartoon Network Europe and New York-based Sunbow Entertainment have recently partnered to develop a new animated program. The half-hour, 26-episode series, Fat Dog Mendoza, is the first co-production undertaken by the channel’s five-year-old European division and the first production in a two-program, multiyear deal with Sunbow. With a tentative launch date of September 1999, the show will target four- to nine-year-olds in a mid-afternoon time slot. Cartoon Network Europe has financed an unspecified percentage of the project, and Sunbow is in the process of finding additional European partners.
‘We’re very optimistic about our involvement in this production,’ says Finn Arnesen, vice president of programming and development for Cartoon Network Europe. ‘In five years, Cartoon Network has really made its mark, and this signals the direction that animation is taking in the European market.’
This new direction has included switching from pan-European broadcasting from the U.K. base to individual country feeds. The regional system allows the service to better target its audiences through language and scheduling in territories such as France, Spain, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands.
‘It’s pretty easy to deal with broadcasting regulations in each country since Europe is quite open,’ says Arnesen. ‘It’s the cultural differences that really impact which cartoons will do well in specific places.’ Cartoon Network’s focus groups and research have indicated, for example, that French audiences enjoy story-driven historical characters, while slapstick cartoons are popular in Holland. Scheduling is also important, and what works in a prime-time slot in France may not be successful in the Italian market, says Arnesen.
‘It was always our intention to better focus on the specific regions,’ he says. ‘I’d like to think that the individual feeds will encourage the development of more European animation projects and an increase in regional programming.’
Additional reporting by Andy Fry.