Cartoon Forum trains the spotlight on UK animation
- In Toulouse, five new British projects have been pitched to the industry reps in attendance
On the second day of proceedings, Toulouse’s Cartoon Forum (18-21 September) hosted “Animated UK Meets Europe”, an initiative spearheaded by Animation UK in partnership with the BBC, Disney+, Warner Bros Discovery and Sky, and supported by Northern Ireland Screen, Screen Scotland, Creative Wales and Film London. The 90-minute session, moderated by Vanessa Chapman, saw the participation of five British creative teams pitching their projects in development and looking for European partners. Below we give you further details on each project.
Duck & Frog – Sam Shaw
Targeting audiences aged 7-12 and backed by BBC Children’s and Education, the 2D 50x7-minute series is being produced by Bristol-based Sun & Moon Studios. First, Shaw defined himself as “a very big fan of ducks and a medium-sized one of frogs”, adding how he was raised with a bunch of ducks, and his first animation project revolved around a baby duckling. The series is a “dialogue-free, slapstick comedy” that sees Duck (Humza Arshad) taking on many jobs and trying to do his best, whilst eccentric Frog’s (Matt Berry) love for drama and fear of missing out pushes him to infiltrate Duck’s workspace. Frog is “never deliberately nasty”, but his attitude makes things escalate quickly. The pilot episode sees Duck getting a job as a window cleaner and later finding himself stuck inside a photocopier. The story universe consists of a modern world populated by animals, and it aims to “organically represent backgrounds and people from all walks of life”. The project, set to enter production in January 2024, is budgeted at €5 million, with the BBC financing 48.58% of the overall budget and the UK tax credit covering an additional 23.4%. The team is looking for funders to cover 25-30% of the budget, and is open to discussing pre-sales and distribution deals.
Huggy the Hugasaurus – director TBC
The stop-motion, 78x7-minute coming-of-age sitcom is aimed at upper pre-school (five to six years old) audiences, and is being produced by Yamination Studios and Threewise Entertainment. The West Midlands-based creative team (made up of Michael Ford, Drew Roper, Rachel Bright and Finn Arnesen) is backed by Warner Bros Discovery. The show is based on Bright’s 2021 book of the same name. “I love to write big ideas in small packages. I created Hugasaurus because I wanted my children and all other children to know that every feeling can be a good feeling,” Bright said to the audience, adding how the primary goal of the project is to help children understand and identify their emotions through the adventures of the protagonist, a “huggy, chatterbox, optimistic, inquisitive” dinosaur whose catchphrase is “Hug it out!” The team is seeking financing and partnerships, including with European free-to-air broadcasters, co-producers, licensing and merchandising partners, and distributors, as well as potential rest-of-the-world sales.
The Wolfbjorns – director TBC
Penned by Liam Swann, this 2D 52x11-minute series is also backed by BBC Children’s and Education, and is being produced by BBC Studios Kids & Family Productions. Targeting children aged from seven to ten, the show is “about trying to fit in when your family stand out” and revolves around the misadventures of the titular Viking clan living as “an unconventional family in a conventional world”. The Wolfbjorns settle in an imaginary seaside town called Orderly on Sea, and “they don’t just bend the rules, but break them”. Moreover, the characters often break the fourth wall, “adding an element of intimacy to the storytelling”. The protagonist is 12-year-old Ulf, described as “half-ordinary lad, half-British Viking”. He is the son of Inga and former “fearless warrior” Birger, and the brother of Clove, a five-year-old girl who’s “impossible to handle”. The family ghost, Eric, and Sue the pig round off the main characters of the show, budgeted at €9 million. The team is looking for co-production partners. The project is set to enter production in October 2024, with the two batches of episodes slated to be delivered in April 2026 and April 2027, respectively.
Pleasure Beach – Laurie Rowan
The 3D computer-animated 12x22-minute series project aims to intercept an audience of adults and young adults. Produced by Nexus Studios and backed by Disney+, the story unfolds in a forgotten seaside town, Branbourne. Here, loveable but not-so-clever pier manager Peter Gregg works with 25-year-old Jean, whose “summer job as an assistant manager has lasted for eight years”. The girl has “absolutely nothing to achieve”, “wants to travel the world but has no passport”, and “the only person who believes in her is her idiot boss”. One day, a whale maroons itself on the pier. After building another attraction site on top of the whale, Peter finds that the whale has fallen in love with him, and he realises that “exploiting a sexually confused whale for profit is not a great idea”. The creative team also includes writer Byrdie Lee Kennedy and stand-up comedian Sean McLoughlin, with Monica Heisey serving as a story consultant. The project is budgeted at €14 million, with Disney+ in charge of UK and US streaming rights.
Magic Animal Friends – director TBC
The 2D 46x11-minute adventure-comedy (including 3x22-minute seasonal specials) is aimed at 4+ audiences. Produced by Michael Dee and Teresa Reed for Coolabi Productions, and co-produced by Gavin Halpin and Grainne McGuiness for Paper Owl Films, the project is backed by Sky Kids and is based on the series of books of the same name, which have sold over four million copies in more than 20 territories. The show revolves around eight-year-old best friends Lily and Jess, accompanied by their adorable “fashionista” cat Goldie. An evil forest creature, Grizelda, is the story’s main troublemaker. She will cast a spell that risks endangering the trio’s solid friendship. The project, worth €8.5 million and currently in advanced pre-production, has secured 65% of its budget. The team is seeking European partners and co-producers. All distribution rights are available except for the UK and Ireland.
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