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Next-gen French animators drive teen toons

The industry buzz is that Europe is over-saturated with animated fare for younger kids, and that programmers are starting to look for toons that target teens and families in order to diversify their schedules. Says Philippe Alessandri, the 30-year-old head of...
March 1, 2000

The industry buzz is that Europe is over-saturated with animated fare for younger kids, and that programmers are starting to look for toons that target teens and families in order to diversify their schedules. Says Philippe Alessandri, the 30-year-old head of the kids department at Tele Images: ‘Because of growing competition in a very selective market, producers must get out of the trap of making series for kids ages six to 12. Broadcasters such as France 2, Canal + and M6 now select series that target a niche.’

Alessandri, who is working on a six-hour prime-time family special called Jules Verne’s Amazing Journeys, points to Futurikon series The Fly as a prime example of a mold-breaking project. This 65 x five-minute short is aimed at the 10 to 14 set, hitherto untargeted by French tooncos. Based on a Lewis Trondheim comic strip, the series quickly attracted Euro broadcast partners like Teletoon, France 3 and Germany’s WDR with its more sophisticated humor. Futurikon is hoping to replicate The Fly’s success by developing another Trondheim creation for young adults called Kaput and Zoski. This 26 x 26-minute series tells the story of two idiotic aliens who want to dominate the world. Distributed by HIT Entertainment, the series is budgeted at US$6.6 million and will go into production this summer.

Futurikon head Phillipe Delarue, age 33, says the toon demo is older-skewing due to: ‘the orientation of U.S. animation and the Manga trend.’ Futurikon is betting on the continuation of this trend by aiming even older with its next project, a 26 x 26-minute sci-fi series called Malo Korrigan that is slated for production this summer. Featuring state-of-the-art digital special effects, this older teen-targeted series is set in the very distant future and follows the capers of a space adventurer. Futurikon is currently looking for financial partners to help cover the US$7.5-million series budget.

The Paris-based toon studio is planning to expand the Malo Korrigan property to include a feature film and video game. ‘My generation is maybe more interested than others in marketing and the potential merchandising exploitation of the series,’ says Alessandri.

Eric Garnet, a 35-year-old producer and head of sales and co-pros for Antefilms Productions, points to the advancement of computer technology and the influence of the Internet as the backbone of this drive to target older audiences. ’3-D and digital techniques favor the creation of new universes and sophisticated graphics,’ he explains. ‘Boundaries are collapsing with the advent of animation on the Web. We are now getting inspiration from the graffiti generation.’

Antefilms has been fine-tuning its 2-D/3-D integration technique for the past few years, and these efforts will culminate in a 26 x 26-minute teen- and family-targeted series called Disco Cops, currently in development. With a budget of US$7.7 million, the toon parodies the `70s with references to both the disco era and TV cult classics. The show stars two cops-by-day who turn into disco stars by night, and 2-D characters will be layered over 3-D settings to render amazing car chases. Canal +, M6, Toonight (an adult extension of Teletoon France that’s poised for launch) and TPS Cinema have shown interest in the series, and Antefilms is considering expanding the concept into a feature film.

The viability of teen-targeted animation has also lit a fire under the French toon establishment. Alphanim introduced a 26 x half-hour teen series called Delta State at Natpe this year. Budgeted at US$10.4 million, the project is a futuristic live-action/animation hybrid about four New York-dwelling slacker superheroes who very reluctantly use their supernatural powers to save the human race.

Millimages head Roch Lener is also looking to tap into the teen animation trend with a Magnus Carlsson concept called Da Möb with London-based Quintus, Sweden’s Happy Life (which intitiated the project), Fox Family and Fox Kids France. The 2-D/3-D series follows the daily adventures of a rock group comprised of three rebellious teens who are muddling through family relationships and suburban life. Budgeted at US$8 million, the 22 x 26-minute series went into production last month.

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