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Consumer Products

When will the kids industry take flight again?

Execs from every facet of the industry weigh in on when they will travel again (hint: not this year), and where they'll be headed first.
October 23, 2020

It has been an abysmal year for the travel industry—flight traffic was down 28.6% in August year-over-year according to Flight Radar. And when you work in a sector as internationally focused as the kids industry, travel restrictions and hurdles can feel like handcuffs.

Event after event has been cancelled or moved online—including Kidscreen Summit, which is going to be virtual in 2021. So when will everyone start traveling again?

In the meantime, we polled a wide array of industry folks to get a sense of what their future globe-trotting plans look like. So put your seat back, tray up and enjoy this mini trip into people’s (hopeful) travel itineraries.

Producers

Peter Gal, chief creative officer at DreamWorks Animation (United States)

When: I honestly don’t know. I can’t imagine work travel resuming until next summer at this point. And I think large scale gatherings will not make sense until there is a vaccine and it can be widely distributed. I am thinking 2022. 

Jennifer McCarron, CEO of Atomic Cartoons (Canada)

When: When the US and Canada borders are open and all restrictions around quarantine times have lifted.

How: We will still go to select markets, and we do miss the networking opportunities. We will still visit with our partners, but our travel will definitely be less [frequent] than it was before. Previously, we would hop on a plane for a day meeting that likely could have been as effective on Zoom. I think face-to-face time is hugely important, but I think the pendulum will settle somewhere in the middle, and the level of business travel prior to March will not be seen again for a very long time—if, ever. Hopefully, [this is] better for the environment and work/life/balance overall.

Sashim Parmanand, CEO at One Animation (Singapore)

When: We won’t travel until it is safe, and my job is to make sure that our team is as safe as possible. I wouldn’t want anyone to fly—especially if they felt uncomfortable or if they had to visit a territory like the US, which is in a very different state than Singapore. I also don’t even know if governments will let us travel. In Singapore, a two-week quarantine is mandatory if you [arrive in the country]. And in some territories, like the US, they aren’t even allowing people to fly [into Singapore]. Nothing is worth someone getting sick. But I don’t envision it will be a “never traveling [again]” situation.

How: With the caveat that things will be kind of safe, we would definitely travel to the markets first because they are a catchment for new potential customers as well as existing ones. You always travel for the high value client. If you are doing something for Disney+ or Netflix, you would travel to meet them whether it’s in the US or Europe.

Sean Gorman, president of Cloudco Entertainment (United States)

When: Until things get better, we are somewhat driven by US legal measures and restrictions. For us, employee safety and comfort are the biggest things. We don’t want to force anyone to travel, even if they [are allowed].

How: Until things get better and normalize in terms of the number of attendees and engagement for [physical] conferences, I don’t see [markets] happening soon. Our travel will probably be specific to a production where it just feels essential. Once we get shooting permits for our live-action productions to start up this would be the first toe dip. We will hopefully shoot a couple of things next year in Canada if restrictions have lifted.

Gabriel Garcia, CEO of Hype Animation (Brazil)

When: We won’t travel again until they find a vaccine. From an optimistic perspective, I hope it’s only the first quarter that’s affected.

How: When the first physical markets do open again, I’ll definitely go, especially to the big ones. For specialized trips, it will depend on the region. In previous years, we’ve done missions to LA and Paris. I try to do a special mission once a year to visit some studios, but now I don’t know if they will be open.

Broadcasters

Marney Malabar, director of kids TV at TVO (Canada)

When: Everybody is very optimistic that everything in 2021 will be so much different, but will it? Did we ever think we would be working from home for this long? As an agency of the Ontario government, TVO will likely not be approved to travel until fall 2021—at the earliest—and even then it will be questionable as to whether MIPCOM [next year] will be approved or if Kidscreen Summit in February 2022 will be possible. The government probably won’t approve travel until there is a vaccine.

Distributors

Kate Sanagan, head of sales and distribution at Sinking Ship (Canada)

When: Our distribution department has no plans as of right now for travel, and I can’t even say when it would resume. We are taking our advice from public health and from the Canadian government who still has a travel advisory against all non-essential travel.

How: That would depend on the timing, and when travel resumes overall. We certainly feel the loss of markets like MIPCOM or Kidscreen, and in-person meetings. However we have also learned to make do with virtual pitches, and in many cases that has been much easier than we thought.

Jess Brinder, VP of international distribution at Genius Brands (Canada)

When: I am hoping for Fall 2021, however Genius hasn’t decided on anything yet.

How: I assume the first phase won’t include US travel. I feel like a Europe trip would be first or MIPCOM—whichever opens up earlier. [I] definitely feel that we will be travelling less with one to two key markets a year plus territory specific trips.

Toycos

Dan Cooney, SVP of international sales for Jakks Pacific (United States) 

When: As soon as it’s possible to travel without a 14-day quarantine.

Davin Sufer, chief tech officer for WowWee (Canada)

When: It’s hard to imagine much work travel before spring 2021. I expect we will start to travel at that time if airlines and governments can work out ways to use testing, shorter quarantines and fewer restrictions to make it practical.

How: Nothing can replace face-to-face meetings, reviewing production lines and samples in person, and the intangibles of attending shows. When travel resumes, we are raring to go on all of those fronts.

Jeremy Lopez, senior marketing manager for Zuru (Hong Kong)

When: We cannot put a timetable on work-related travel since restrictions vary by country, and are often changing weekly. We certainly look forward to the day we can meet partners, colleagues and industry friends in person and face-to-face.

Kidtech

Brenda Bisner, chief content officer at Kidoodle.TV (United States)

When: It appears that we will have to wait and see what 2021 brings, given the continued rise of cases and border closures. Each event will be judged by the business reason, and will consider the health and safety of not just us at the company, but how our interactions could affect others.

How: Every trip will be vetted for safety and effectiveness. As we all miss markets and seeing many industry friends, we still have to be mindful of the health and safety of each other.

Tommy Tallarico, CEO and president of Intellivision (United States)

When: We recently opened another office in Salt Lake City, Utah, so two of our executives have been flying back and forth from Orange County, California to Salt Lake about once a month.

How: It will be specialized trips to visit partners and investors or to do public relation and influencer outreach.  Those kinds of things are much better suited for doing in person.

Photo courtesy of Yousef Alfuhigi on Unsplash.

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