France’s Xilam Animation has hired former Disney Channels director Caterina Gonnelli as EVP of content to oversee and grow the company’s slate. She joins the company January 13, and will report to CEO Marc du Pontavice. Gonnelli will work alongside EVP of content Jean Brune to manage the Xilam’s editorial and development.
In her new role Gonnelli plans to use her production and broadcaster experience to spearhead the company’s move into new target demos, genres and formats, she says. Gonnelli also sees potential for the studio to do more book adaptations, like it did with the 2D/3D animated family series Lucy Lost (10 x 26 minutes).
The prodco is also looking at experimenting with show episode numbers and length. “With the rise in streaming platforms, and so many new clients, we’re able to experiment and tell stories with more or longer episodes, and to-be-continued stories that might not work on linear TV,” Gonnelli tells Kidscreen exclusively. “Xilam is known for its comedy shows for six-to nine-year-olds, and I’m going to work to continue expanding the studio beyond this with more dramatic projects, more CG and by telling more stories aimed at preschoolers and family audiences.”
Previously, Gonnelli worked as director of acquisitions and co-productions for Disney Channels EMEA. She joined Disney in 2012 with the remit of acquisitions and productions for the French market. She also managed multi-territory pre-buys and co-pros. Before joining Disney she held production roles at French prodcos Moonscoop and TV France International.
Xilam secured US$26-million in funding from investors last June and has since made moves to grow its staff, prep global expansion and build up its kids and family slate. The studio tapped Manya Zhou for the newly created role as head of business development for China, brought on Charles Courcier to the newly created position of head of digital production to bolster its YouTube presence, and brought on Capucine Humblot to develop licensing and merchandising for Oggy Oggy and the studio’s other properties.
On a production side the studio has been actively growing its slate by teaming up with Disney to produce a non-verbal reboot of Chip ‘n’ Dale (39 x seven minutes), set for global release as a Disney+ original. It’s also lined up its first CG-animated series, the preschool show Oggy Oggy based on its popular franchise Oggy and the Cockroaches. The budget for the new series is around US$20 million and the deal with Netflix covers two seasons (78 x seven minutes) with delivery expected 2021. It also produced the teen/adult film I Lost My Body, which premiered at Cannes last year before Netflix picked up its worldwide distribution rights.