German producer Hahn Film recently announced its first children’s programming entry into the U.S., Ted Sieger’s Wildlife, which will air next year on Fox Family Channel, and is also expanding internationally with the opening of production studios in Taiwan and Vietnam. Susanne Boehm outlines Hahn’s strategy of appealing to the U.S. with international product.
While our children’s series have found success at home, until recently, they had yet to find an outlet in the U.S.
Benjamin Bl-mchen and Urmel, both children’s productions, are practically household names in Germany, noted for the positive atmosphere they convey. They are fitting for young children, are humorous and have a high animation quality.
Animation has been booming in the U.S. market for the last 10 years, creating a huge demand. While this presents an opportunity for European producers, the main problem is that European projects don’t necessarily appeal to U.S. audiences. U.S. programmers are more into action-packed, relatively violent series. Plus, U.S. audiences are used to seeing shows based on the average American family. European series, on the other hand, are generally less violent and more educational, more in tune with positive moral values. European animation also has a definite cultural identity. The question is if European programming can attain an international popularity and success in the U.S. without just becoming remakes of U.S. products.
One of our projects, Ted Sieger’s Wildlife (co-produced with German broadcaster ZDF), is a perfect example of the possibility of being European and still having an international appeal. The series has been packaged in 13-minute episodes for Germany, and five-minute episodes for the international marketplace (U.K.-based HIT Entertainment is distributing the international version). This series of animated shorts aimed at preschoolers and older children is very European, using a subtle humor. The quality of the stories, their innocence and the positive outlook on life that they convey are especially suitable for very young and impressionable audiences. The series’ bright colors and strong musical sense capture kids’ attention and the format of two or three stories per episode makes it easier to keep their interest, plus the simple style of animation can be easily understood in different markets.
Other current children’s projects include Simsalagrimm, a TV series based on the Grimm fairy tales, and a feature film entitled Abrafaxe, which will be released in the year 2000, just in time for the 25th anniversary of the popular East German comics. Although these projects are based on German motifs, they too have an international appeal.
Susanne Boehm is head of media relations at Hahn Film in Berlin.