Although she’s technically Nelvana’s new head of European development and international co-production, Emmanuele Petry is casting her net much wider to find fresh content. Having gleaned a lot of insight into broadcast buying patterns during her 13-year tenure as head of international sales, Petry has a pretty good idea of what will sell. For example, she knows that international buyers are currently looking for comedy-adventure series for six- to 10-year-olds, so she plans to make that a driving focus. ‘I’m going to drop older-skewing, prime-time concepts and early-age preschool shows from my priority list for now. There’s no market for it, so why waste the energy?’
Petry’s first co-production project will be a publishing property from Random House Australia called Pearlie in the Park. Penned by Wendy Harmer, the book is about a fairy who works hard to keep her park in order, making sure the flowers open and the spider webs glisten with dew, as well as keeping an eye on the kids who come there to play. For example, she guides lost children home and soothes the ones who are afraid of the dark. Petry, the Nelvana team and Wombarra-based Australian co-pro partner Sticky Pictures are devising an animation strategy for the series, and a pilot episode should head into production by year’s end.
Petry is also keen to join forces with Latin American companies after a recent trip showed her how much untapped talent is waiting to be discovered in the region. She says animation houses she visited in Argentina and Brazil have developed the expertise to service toons from years of working in the advertising industry, but they’re also starting to work on their own original TV concepts. Fishtronaut, for example, is one property that really caught Petry’s eye. Developed by Sao Paolo, Brazil’s Pinguim, the concept is about a fish who has to put on an old-fashioned scuba helmet filled with water to visit his landlubbing best friend. Petry was also quite impressed by Argentinian studio Hook Up, which is working on an anime-influenced show called Roméo about a boy who’s in love with a mysterious, shape-shifting girl.
Of the 40-odd ideas Petry takes a look at each month, she says three things determine whether they’ll be picked up by Nelvana for development: They have to play into current market demand, they have to be original, and finally, they have to live up to the standard of what Petry would have watched as a kid. ‘I always liked shows that were about creative energy, like Sesame Street and Pippi Longstocking,’ she hints.