Following through on its strategy to become a full-fledged TV property-launcher and to expand its expertise into film, Paris-based toon production group Carrère (of Scheherazade and Argai fame) has just acquired a majority stake in two prominent French companies: VIP, France’s leading licensing agency; and France-based Les Armateurs, which has renewed its commitment to animated feature production.
‘We are interested in investing in companies that have developed strong know-how in their own sectors,’ says Carrère managing director Anne Evrard. ‘The idea is to synergize across the group to launch new projects, but our global objective is to become an important audiovisual pole in Europe-involved in production [animation and live-action], distribution and merchandising.’
The VIP deal gives Carrère a much-needed launchpad into the world of merchandising. Jean-Michel Biard, who founded VIP in 1968, will stay on as CEO, as well as joining Carrère’s board of directors along with VIP head of development Patricia de Wilde.
‘First we intend to develop new series based on well-known characters already licensed by VIP,’ says Biard. ‘We will also select Carrère TV productions that have merchandising potential and are about to attain European rights packages [TV, video and merch] and be spun off as feature films.’ One series every year or two will undergo the full property treatment, according to Evrard, and the first one could be Argai.
Though it will soon be amalgamated into Carrère’s La Plaine-Saint-Denis offices near Paris, VIP will hang onto the rights to its existing licensing portfolio, which features properties like Snoopy, Zorro, The Marsupilami, The Pink Panther, Angela Anaconda and T’Choupi.
The deal with Les Armateurs, headed by Didier Brunner (creator of toon feature Kirikou), was signed in mid-January. Les Armateurs is currently in production on three feature movies. First up is T’Choupi, adapted from the same-name TV series that was co-produced by Les Armateurs and VIP. Next on the slate is Rendez-Vous in Belleville, a follow-up to award-winning short La Vieille Dame et les Pigeons (co-produced with Montreal-based Productions Pascal Blais and Belgium’s Odec Kid Cartoons), and The Boy Who Wanted to be a Bear.
The company will also lend its skills to Carrère’s first feature film project, an animated version of biblical tale The Three Wise Men.