With the U.S.-led coalition dropping bombs into Iraq just days before the market’s kick-off and news that a deadly respiratory disease was rapidly spreading across the globe, the odds were sort of stacked against MIPTV this year. And predictably, the convention floor at the Palais lacked the usual frenzied crush of attendees elbowing their way to get to their next appointments as a result of last-minute pull-outs.
According to event organizer Reed Midem, 267 fewer buyers attended this year’s show, and kidnet drop-outs included Discovery Kids, Nickelodeon and YTV. The number of no-shows resulted in a subdued market vibe and plenty of empty stands. One MIP veteran summed up the mood of the market as such: ‘You know things are slow when [restaurant] service is good.’
On the upside, the event’s overall exhibitor count was up by 3.49% despite the lower buyer turnout. And cancellations meant attendees could engage in longer, more meaningful meetings with folks who did show up. ‘[With so many Americans pulling out], I’ve had more time to meet with European companies,’ says Silver Lining president Diana Manson, who was busy scoping out French co-pro partners for Gaspard, a preschool book-based series about a mischievous black dog with a yen for travel.
While this MIP was bereft of new trends (there’s still a glut in preschool, in case you’re keeping score), the strategic buzzword du jour was diversification, as producers continue to look for ways to ride out the current funding crisis.
Toronto, Canada’s Decode, which has focused on kids animation and live-action comedies to date, was shopping two of its new non-fiction family series: Be the Creature, a 13 x one-hour series produced in association with CBC and National Geographic that takes a birds-eye view of exotic wildlife; and five x half-hour Tous Les Enfants du Monde, a co-pro with Richard Lavoie that explores kid life in non-Western cultures. Non-fiction represents a new but necessary direction, says partner Neil Court. ‘In a thin market, you have to define yourself more broadly. You can’t limit yourself to just animation.’
France Animation, whose very name suggests its genre specialty, has also caught the non-fiction bug. Hoping to build on the success of its first kid doc Insectoscope, the company had three 13 x 26-minute or 52 x six-minute non-fiction series in tow at MIP: Lifesavers, which explores the world of rescue teams; Tales of Transformation, tracking the history of modern conveniences from conveyor belts to recycling plants; and Aquapolis, which dives into underwater life. France Animation managing director Maia Tubiana says the company isn’t abandoning toons, but is trying to complement its core business. FA will co-produce the three series with French doc producer MC4, and the projects will also involve book tie-ins.
Though Nelvana isn’t branching out into kids docs yet, executive VP of business development Doug Murphy says the Canadian toonco is broadening its portfolio beyond preschool to include more original girls, boys action, prime-time and anime projects. On Nelvana’s MIP slate were: The Mall (26 x half hours), a 2-D tween toon about a group of malls rats that Nelvana has presold to Teletoon; Little Miss Spider and her Sunny Patch Friends (26 x half hours), a preschool show based on the Little Miss Spider book property that builds on a Nelvana special; and Oscar’s Atlas, a 2-D series for six- to 11-year-olds about a middle-grader’s adventures in a hot-air balloon.
German distributor EM.TV also showed signs of charting a new demo path with its pick-up of Granada Kids’ tween soap 24Seven, which centers around a group of international students living in a Yorkshire-based boarding house. EM.TV acquired free-TV and pay-TV rights for select European territories and Latin America. According to head of creative affairs Anke Steinbacher, EM will use the show to balance its catalogue, which has tended to focus on preschool and core kids.