At Cartoon Next, experts survey the state of the animation industry in Italy, France, the UK and Lithuania
- There is a bright future ahead for European animation, but a few battles to gain more funding, more manpower and better working conditions still need to be fought
On day 3 of this year’s Cartoon Next (18-20 April), John Lomas-Bullivant moderated the discussion “What Is the State of the Animation Industry in Italy, France and the UK, with Insights into the Baltic Region? Importantly, What Does the Future Hold?” The conversation saw the participation of Justė Michailinaitė, of the Lithuanian Animation Association; Cristian Jezdic, of Cartoon Italia; Samuel Kaminka, of AnimFrance; and Kate O’Connor, of Animation UK.
The floor was first given to Kaminka, who talked through the efforts and objectives of AnimFrance, the country’s union for the French animation production sector, created in 1989. To date, the organisation includes 60 independent outfits based throughout the country, which represent 96% of the jobs in the French animation business. The union’s strength lies in “a common political awareness” and “the acceptance on the part of public authorities to understand and promote the importance of independent production in its economic, social and political aspects”.
The inputs of the union, Kaminka explained, are received positively by the authorities, as the animation sector represents “10% of the country’s whole audiovisual industry but is worth over 40% of the [overall] exports”. The business volume of French animation is now approaching €600 million – of which €280 million are generated through TV productions, €50 million through film and €250 million through service productions, including work carried out for foreign clients (€210 million). The sector offers almost 8,600 jobs, which is 2.5 times more than in 2004, with a 60% growth recorded over the last decade. The total payroll accounts for €205.1 million, and this figure has doubled over the last ten years. Moreover, 45% of new entrants to the industry were women in 2020. Good pre-sales figures (€47 million in 2021) and generous, diversified funding opportunities both regionally and nationally are the icing on the cake.
Speaking about the challenges that France is facing, Kaminka revealed that funding for animated features and young adult animation remains “weak”, and he touched upon the “strong tension” between talents fighting for better working conditions.
While severely understaffed, AnimFrance still manages to handle a variety of tasks thanks to the tireless work of five staff and a few dedicated taskforces addressing specific issues. Every two years, 25% of the board is renewed, and a new president of the body is elected.
Kaminka then handed the mic to Jezdic, who talked through the activities of Cartoon Italia. Born in 1997, the organisation has grown over the years, and especially since 2019. “In 2018, our government totally changed the production landscape,” said Jezdic, in reference to the approval of the 2018 Cinema Law, which included the implementation of a generous 40% tax credit and a €400 million audiovisual fund (raised to €746 million in 2023).
Cartoon Italia currently hosts 40 members. The Italian animation sector is made up of about 80 companies working as producers and service producers – most of them being rather small studios – and accounts for about 3,000 jobs, a figure that increases by roughly 30% year on year. In total, 18 channels air content for children and teenagers (three fewer than in pre-pandemic times).
Jezdic admitted that Italy is also facing the European-wide problem of the shortage of manpower: “There’s a lack of artists, animators, story-boarders, compositors, writers and VFX [specialists]. In 2018, we began contacting specialised animation schools, and luckily, today, even more schools are being opened.”
He also underlined the importance of international co-productions: “France is our natural co-producer, and most of these [co-productions] are still [made] with them, but we have also co-produced successfully with Germany, Belgium, Spain and other countries.” Some Italian series such as Geronimo Stilton, Calimero, Topo Tip and 44 gatti have been sold to over 150 territories.
Most of the produced shows aim to reach pre-schoolers. However, “We share the same issue for feature films raised by Samuel [Kaminka]. In Italy, feature films are not a thing yet. [...] We only have one commissioner, Rai, and 98% of what they produce is aimed at pre-schoolers,” he pointed out.
When asked by Lomas-Bullivant how Italy’s animation sector can ensure its continuity while the country keeps on dealing with “the fluidity of its governments”, Jezdic answered that most of their campaigning efforts are presented with the idea that animation should be a “made in Italy” kind of specialisation, and this seems to be a very convincing argument when it comes to dealing with “ministers and other cultural players”, regardless of their political agenda. Meanwhile, Cartoon Italia is also asking the government to put 5% of the net revenues collected through investment obligations towards the making of animated projects.
Later, O’Connor stressed how “the UK is still part of European animation”, despite the country’s government and the Brexit policies in place. She also spoke about the efforts of Animation UK in “raising awareness of the industry’s economic and cultural value”, “supporting innovation”, “creativity and talent development, and encouraging international collaborations and partnerships”.
The UK animation sector is made up of around 15,000 professionals, generating roughly £1.5 billion for the country’s economy and hosting over 300 studios for film and TV animation. Set up as a lobbying group, in 2012, Animation UK succeeded in extending the animation sector’s tax breaks and was officially recognised as the voice of the British animation sector in 2018.
Speaking about the Lithuanian animation industry, Michailinaitė said that most of the country’s productions are shorts covering social issues and adult-orientated content, even though things are changing as the local sector keeps growing.
“Last year, I said here in Marseille that we had no feature film [produced by Lithuania]. Now we’ve got two. [...] One of them, Meinardas Valkevičius’s Kake Make, will be released tomorrow. [...] In terms of co-productions, I’ve co-produced [myself] a Lithuanian-Armenian-German project [Inna Sahakyan’s Aurora's Sunrise [+see also:
interview: Inna Sahakyan
film profile]], and we did the animation itself in Lithuania. The movie was premiered at Annecy.
“What’s not changing so fast is the amount allocated to funding animation. The Lithuanian Film Centre earmarks approximately €500,000 per year [to fund animation], a very small amount in comparison to the other Baltic countries.” Currently, each year, Estonia hands out €1.1 million and Latvia €925,000. Things may start to look better in the near future, however. Lithuania’s Ministry of Culture has decided to create a brand-new scheme to support the production and development of animated and interactive projects, set to hand out €3 million in a one-off initiative intended to boost the industry. “That’s the best job we’ve done, and the programme will open in 2024,” Michailinaitė revealed.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.