Animators and kids in the UK have a new place to go and seek out the latest cool toon projects. Broadcaster CBBC has expanded its Cartoon Works web portal to host a mini-site called My Toons that showcases animated shorts from all over the world. In fact, an international call for submissions attracted so much content, and subsequent attention, that the mini-site has become a destination for the channel’s six to 12 viewers just a few weeks after its mid-summer launch.
CBBC head of acquisitions and drama development Sarah Muller explains My Toons was originally conceived as a means of supporting the UK animation industry by providing a limited low-risk window for creators to promote a character or concept and earn a small license fee. Her plans have changed since the mini-site helped bump traffic up across most of CBBC’s animation-based sites by 50% in its first four weeks.
‘The success of My Toons, in terms of numbers, means that we might just carry on mixing it up a bit with existing content from around the world – it seems to be a showcase that isn’t normally available for our audience,’ says Muller. However, she adds that promoting, supporting and encouraging homegrown UK animation remains the prime focus. And, of course, there’s the possibility that some shorts could become potential pilots.
To that end, CBBC’s acquisitions team pitches in, scouring the industry for new animation from sources that range from budding under-18 animators and experienced independents to established studios. Single pieces of content varying in length from 10 seconds to just under four minutes are ideal for MyToons. Muller also enlisted the help of external project managers like Aardman alum Helen Brunsdon, who bring with them encyclopedic knowledge of the animation industry, to get the mini-site up and running.
Muller says the last several months spent tracking down cool and unique comedic content has paid off by imbuing My Toons with a YouTube-like sense of novelty and surprise in a safer environment for kids. As a result, it shot to the top of the most-watched content on CBBC’s website in its first month online.
Every week, My Toons features a new set of five shorts, and the five from the preceding week join a see-more-videos area at the bottom of the page. The most successful shorts, determined by measuring views and compiling kid ratings scores, will be presented as a My Toons-branded 15-minute primetime block that will run on CBBC on special occasion days throughout the year (i.e. Bank Holiday Monday in August, Halloween and Christmas). ‘Shorts can get lost in a schedule,’ says Muller. ‘This is a way of really promoting them – the block will be repeated over and over again during a very good spot on the schedule.’
Muller’s team is constantly on the lookout for new content and welcomes submissions either by email to email@example.com or snail mail to My Toons, Room E817, BBC TVC, Wood Lane, London, W12 7RJ. In addition, a link for pitching content via the site is in the works. So far, My Toons’ programming is set for the near future, although the schedule tends to shift with the rush to get material in-house.