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Cartoon Forum Varese 2003
The European market for animation cine


- In September 2003, for the 14th edition of the European market of animation films, the Cartoon Forum, Varese was turned into the cartoon capital. The article presents a list of future projects for the short and medium term. There is also an interview with Max Gusberti, the deputy director of RAI Fiction, and Manuel Cristobal, the producer of the first European 3D animated feature length film.

Cartoon Forum Varese 2003 - The European market for animation cine

In September Varese hosted the 14th Cartoon Forum, the European market for animation cinema.

The capital of Animated films

"I created Gino the Chicken, but he has possessed me, now I behave like a chicken. I think its contagious…. To free me from this I'll make a TV series, I'll lose Gino in the web". The words of Andrea Zingoni, author of Gino the Chicken, the extremely successful cartoon character who came to fame on the website and who's also set to feature in a TV series produced by RAI Fiction. Apart from chickens lost in the web, we have also run into a pig given up for dead in Pig Nick, who is transferred through the sewers and transported as far as the ocean; Skunk, a polecat who's adopted by a Chinese panda; K-Bob, Poo & Hank three defective genes who try to get back into the immune system; Podziomek, a polish gnome who tells us European myths; and many other characters from the creative minds working in European animated cartoons. There were also Slovak and Polish projects presented at the festival for the first time. From September 17 to 20, Varese was turned into the cartoon capital, for the 14th edition of the European market of animation films, the Cartoon Forum.

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European producers presented 82 projects, worth a total value of €285 million, to representatives from 108 TV channels and 154 investors. The 5 biggest European countries covered 82% of the projects shown: 22 from Britain, 17 from Italy, 16 French works, 7 from Spain and 6 from Germany. There was a rise in the number of short format entries, lasting between 10 and 13 minutes, which are easier to fund. This year the average cost per minute produced was €9,146 as opposed to €10,555 in 2002. The films were mainly adventure stories and comedies, aimed at a audience aged between 5 and 12.

According to the organisers there are already 19 projects ready to get off the starting blocks and can be made in a short time:
- Holly's Helpline / Siriol Productions (UK) 26 x 11'
- Monster Allergy / Rainbow (It) / 26 x 24¹
- Mark Logan / Pictor Media (Fr) / 1 x 52'
- Germs / Futurikon (Fr) / 26 x 24'
- Tama & Melody / France Animation (Fr) / 26 x 24'
- Trot Trot / Storimages (Fr) / 53 x 13'
- Hairy Scary / Alphanim (Fr) / 52 x 13'
- Louie / Millimages (Fr) / 52 x 7'
- The Children of Okura / Les Films de La Perrine (Fr) / 26 x 26'
- Anna and the Moods / Caoz Ltd (Ice) / 1 x 30'
- Newt & the Fifos / Monster Animation and Design Ltd (Irl) / 39 x 7'
- Angelo / NDF-Neue Deutsche Film (Ger); Magma Films(Ire) ; A.Film (Den) / 26 x 22'
- King Catastrophe / Kayenta Production (Fr) / 78 x 7'
- Chop Socky Chooks / Aardman Animations Ltd (UK) / 26 x 13'
- Village People / The Illuminated Film Company (UK) / 26 x 24'
- Tom / Studio Film Bilder (De) / 26 x 5'
- Charlie and Lola / Tiger Aspect Productions (UK) / 26 x 10'
- Skunk / The Cartoon Saloon Ltd (Ire) / 26 x 13'
- Katie Morag / Fabbydoo Corporation (UK) / 26 x 11'

Added to this list are a further 22 projects that can be made in the medium term:
- Angels and Devils / A; Ellis Productions (Fr) / 52 x 13'
- Animal Pharm / Atomic Arts (UK) / 13 x 24'
- Bob Screen Defective Detective / Digital Salade (Fr) / 52 x 13'
- Camelia / Graphilm (It) / 26 x 6,30'
- Giak & Zak / Matitanimata (It) / 26 x 13'
- Gino the Chicken (lost in the Net) / My-TV (It) / 52 x 13'
- Grubby Girls / Mikrofilm (No) / 26 x 2,30'
- Johnny Smile / Clan Celentano (It) / 7 x 11'
- Little Leonardo / Alcuni (It) / 52 x 13'
- Nat & Pat / Crea Video (Fin) / 26 x 5'
- Oscar the Balloonist / Animation studio Ludewig (De) / 26 x 5'
- Pig Nick / Fanciful Arts Animation (Es) / 13 x 13'
- Rat-Man / StraneMani (It) / 52 x 13'
- Sam Hamwich Superhero Sandwich / TV-Loonland (UK) / 26 x 11'
- Santa Queen / Timoon Animation (Fr) / 52 x 13'
- Sara & the goal girls / Black Maria (Es) / 26 x 26'
- The Frightened Family / Red Kite Productions Ltd (UK) - 52 x 11'
- The incredible adventures of Kika and Bob / Submarine BV (Nl) / 26 x 13'
- The Knight with the Lion / Folimage (Fr) / 1 x 48'
- Trolls of Troy / Dargaud Marina (Fr) / 26 x 26'
- Willo the Wisp / Elephant Productions (UK) / 13 x 5'
- WWW / MBM Associati (It) / 26 x 26'

The culmination of the closing ceremony of the Cartoon Forum, which took place on September 20, was the award of the Golden Cartoon prize for the Best European animated short film, given to Sans Queue ni Tete by Sandra Desmazières.

To find out more about the world of European animation, Cineuropa has interviewed Max Gusberti, the deputy director and head of animation at RAI Fiction; Manuel Cristóbal, the producer of El Bosque Animado the first European 3D animated feature length film; Iain Harvey who presented the "Village People" project to the Cartoon Forum, which garnered a lot of interest at Varese.

The idea behind the Cartoon Forum, which is co-financed by the EU's Media Programme, is to help European producers to enter into agreements with TV channels and financial backers. This year, the Cartoon Forum was sponsored by the Varese Chamber of Commerce, the Varese Province, the municipality of Varese, the Lombardy Region and RAI Fiction.

Manuel Cristóbal, 3D producer

The 2004 edition of the Cartoon Forum will be taking place in Spain, at San Sebastian in Galicia. Manuel Cristóbal is the executive producer at Dygra Film, the production company based in La Coruña in Galicia. Dygra Films is the first European company to have produced a animated feature length film in 3D.
Why did you think of trying to get funding for an animated feature length film in Spain?
"After the film Kirikou e la strega we thought that there was a niche for animated films in the European market. The film cost €3.5m, and all the funding was raised in Spain. We managed to keep the costs low thanks to 3D. I think that 3D is a real alternative to help us avoid de-localising animation by having it done in Asia. Co-production in Europe is a necessary evil, it’s useful for getting more funding. It’s been essential for Dygra to concentrate the production on El Bosque Animado in a single studio: it meant lower costs, higher artistic control and quicker production time".

What was the marketing budget for Bosque Animado?
"€1 million. But it’s important not to confuse advertising and marketing. There was a unique and original promotional campaign for El Bosque Animado. We organised different animations for schools and a travelling exhibition which was seen by more than 200,000 people. We created a website with a lot of teaching content. Europeans are finally understanding the importance of websites. The film was seen in a lot of European countries, a rare event for “live” films".

Do you think that a pan-European distribution company can guarantee a better distribution for European films?
"Distribution companies are complementary partners, which need to be involved in the production to get a minimum guarantee. But the more partners you have, the more complicated the work gets for the producer. In addition European distribution companies aren’t used to distributing animation films. One thing that would be useful is some coordination with the future sales companies. Bearing this in mind I think it would be useful to invite sales agents to Cartoon Movie, funded by the Media Programme".

What will Dygra Films’ next production be?
"We’re working on a loose adaptation of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream". The film will be called "El sueño de una noche de San Juan" and will have a budget of €6m. We already have distribution deals in place in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and Holland. We’re developing new production techniques to allow us to create very expressive and elastic characters. It will all be put together with a high quality of animation".

The challenges for RAI Fiction

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".

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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