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The challenges for RAI Fiction

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Max Gusberti is the deputy director of RAI Fiction and in charge of the production of animated cartoons. What is RAI Fiction’s editorial policy in the animation sector?
"Since it was created, RAI Fiction has tried to tackle projects that can stand up to the international competition. The idea was to replace imported products, mainly from America and Europe, with Italian products. Thanks to RAI Fiction, in 8 years the percentage of Italian productions broadcast by the three RAI channels has gone from 0% to 25%, with a total of 1,000 hours of animation screened a year. Eight years ago RAI showed 72% American products and 18% of European works".

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Do you get involved in a lot of European productions?
" "Yes, for two reasons. The first is an economic one. Through co-productions we can attract foreign capital. Since RAI Fiction was set up, it’s invested €67 million in animation. And thanks to co-productions the total value of our productions stands at €200 million. RAI Fiction also takes part in pre-sales, with shares between 10% and 15%. The second reason is commercial. Co-productions allow us to place our products in the European television schedules. One example is the collaboration with France 3: it is co-producing the series Stellina, a story based on the theme of adoption; RAI Fiction is co-producing Loulou di Montmartre a story set in Paris during the time of Dégas. You produce less, but you produce better: this is a way to avoid the problem of over production, which affected the animation market a few years ago".

What is the target audience for RAI Fiction products?
"We almost exclusively produce series, with a minimum of 13 episodes. The age of the target groups varies. From "pre schoolers" (0-4 years) with products of 5 or 6 minutes, to works aimed at an older audience, lasting around 13 minutes, which allow us to insert an ad-break. But up until now we have been concentrating our efforts on 26 minute long products, in 26 part series, if not even 52 episodes. But adults also like animated cartoons: Corto Maltese which RAI Tre broadcast at eleven-o-clock at night had an audience of 7.5 million. This success led RAI Tre to repeat "Corto" in the afternoon, on Sunday September 28. RAI can not only attract new audiences thanks to animation, but it can also rejuvenate its audience, which is relatively old. And it’s important for producers to try to influence the networks to programme animated works even in the later part of the evening".

What genres do you tackle?
"There’s also a lot of flexibility in the genres. We’ve produced series with very wide-ranging stories, like "Sandokan", which went down very well and was also sold abroad. Sandokan is also a good example as far as merchandising is concerned: Sandokan’s sword was the biggest selling toy in supermarkets. We produced "Sissi", which is based on a myth. Today we’re producing "Gino il Pollo", presented at the 2003 Cartoon Forum, an adaptation for the small screen of something that worked really well on the Web. And even if series like "Lupo Alberto", "Cocco Bill" have a different format, they fit into a very precise editorial plan: move away from the art house shorts that were fashionable in Italy at the start of the '90s and fund quality products to be shown on TV. RAI Fiction has adopted a very open policy with young authors, many of whom come from the field of drama".

What projects are you currently developing?
"Rat-Man presented at the 2003 Cartoon Forum, which is a test product that has had a positive reaction. Another is The Spaghetti Family by Bruno Bozzetto, which is a throwback to the Italian costume comedies. We’re also adapting the drama series "Un medico in famiglia" for animation, obviously with stories for children, which we are co-producing with Spain, for the morning schedules on RAI 2".

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