This week you’ll be hearing from Jordan Geary who has just returned from Cartoon Forum in Stavanger, Norway. We sent Jordan over to Norway for two reasons: 1) He will be overseeing Little Airplane’s London office this fall, and; 2) He looks like a Viking. I also thought it would be good for Jordan to spend some time meeting with our friends and colleagues in the European television community. I am always struck by how much more cooperative and interconnected kids’ television is in Europe and it sounds like Jordan experienced the very same thing. So, without further ado, here’s Jordan’s report.
When Josh and Little Airplane asked me to attend Cartoon Forum in Stavanger, Norway, I was elated. I have wanted to visit Norway since I was a young boy. I grew up fascinated by stories about Norwegian Vikings and trolls and you could often find me bobbing my head while I listened to 80′s hit “Take On Me” by Norwegian band A-Ha. As you can tell, I was a major dork…but one interested in Norway nonetheless.
So as I emerged from the airplane into the crisp, clean air of Stavanger, Norway, I was excited for what lay ahead. I hopped on a bus to go to my hotel and saw that everyone on the bus was chatting to each other. I soon realized that ALL of the passengers were children’s television producers, broadcasters and investors. I had heard beforehand that Cartoon Forum chooses a new, exotic locale every year and, as a result, the festival had a reputation for transforming sleepy hamlets into riotous villages full of television people. As I looked out of the windows at the cute, colorful, quiet houses on the water I thought to myself, “People of Stavanger, I hope you know what’s coming your way!”
After I threw my bags in my room, I went over to Rode Sjohus, where the Cartoon Forum welcome dinner was being held. It was at that dinner that I realized just how many people had made the trip to Cartoon Forum. Every square inch of the restaurant was packed, which was no small feat as the place was enormous. I also got my first taste of Norwegian cuisine, which consisted of crab and shrimp and a variety of colorful meats that I could not identify but were delicious nonetheless.
The next day the Cartoon Forum attendees met up for a special event. Cartoon Forum was taking its guests on a cruise through the fjords of Norway, at an area called Pulpit Rock.
As the cruise ship pulled out, I spoke with many of the fantastic people attending Cartoon Forum this year. I met the charming Tom van Waveren of Cake Entertainment and told him he reminded me of Vince Vaughn. I also met up with some of the brilliant BBC ladies, including Jackie Edwards of CBeebies and Sarah Muller of CBBC, pictured below.
It was on this cruise that I became convinced that Sarah Muller, always the life of the party, has some Viking blood in her somewhere. While on the cruise, rain started to pour down from the dense gray clouds above and everyone ran inside. I stayed outside as long as possible, snapping photos and videos of the beautiful fjords but then I dashed inside after getting completely drenched by the freezing rain. Only Sarah, God bless her, stayed outside the whole time. We all waved and conversed with her through the ship’s windows, telling her how very brave she was.
After the rain let up, everyone went back on the deck to take in the amazing views. The ship steered its way through breathtaking mountains and waterfalls and I couldn’t take photos quickly enough. Sometimes there is just too much beauty to be captured.
After the cruise, I spent most of the rest of my time in Norway at the main Cartoon Forum venue, Stavanger Forum. The venue was a new-looking building with screening rooms for pitches and a big hall for communal lunches. I was consistently amazed at how friendly and easy-going everyone was. It’s rare to find an entire building of people who are at the top of their fields who are so easy to talk to and get to know. Jan-Willem Bult of KRO Youth, for example, graciously invited me to play soccer with him, despite my complete lack of anything resembling soccer clothes (or soccer skills for that matter).
Evenings were filled with cocktails and some fantastic meals. One dinner was hosted by HiT Entertainment and was at a place called Mexico Restaurant. I went in a little skeptical because I had no idea what to expect from Mexican food in Norway. But I am happy to say that it was some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had north of the border.
On the final day of Cartoon Forum, the organizers announced they would be holding next year’s event in Hungary. I’ve already begun to look forward to it. They also unveiled the winners of their Cartoon Forum Awards, which were voted upon by attendees. The winners were Brown Bag Films (Producer of the Year), Cake Entertainment (Investor of the Year) and NRK in Norway (Broadcaster of the Year). As I watched the winners smiling on the stage with their trophies, I looked to the audience, expecting to see some dejected faces. To my surprise, those who hadn’t won were smiling even wider, happy for their colleagues. That’s the thing that makes me really appreciate the animation community in Europe: Everyone seems to be rooting for each other here.
I felt really honored to have been so accepted into this amazing group at Cartoon Forum and I’m looking forward to my new experiences heading up Little Airplane’s UK office this fall. I hope you’ll all stop by for a visit and a cup of coffee. Er, I mean, tea.
With the festivities winding to a close, everyone met up one final time for the Cartoon Forum farewell dinner, hosted at the same Rode Sjohus from the first night. It was at this event that I looked at the menu and saw the memorable meat I had mentioned earlier. Dinner that night was to be reindeer. My immediate response was to hold off on dining, simply out of respect for Rudolph. Then I had a realization: Prancer, Dasher, Donner…a lot of reindeer were complete jerks, not letting Rudolph play in their reindeer games and whatnot. Like many of the others, I eventually joined in and the meal was extraordinary.
On the final morning, as I boarded the plane to head to the Little Airplane UK headquarters in London, I looked over my shoulder at the beautiful land behind me. Although I was sad the trip was over, I had to smile. My trip to Cartoon Forum was everything I could have asked for and more. Thank you to Little Airplane, the organizers of Cartoon Forum and the wonderful people I met for making it such an amazing experience. Would I soon forget my trip to Stavanger? Norway, Jose.