Nicolas Atlan, the president of animation and family at Gaumont, talks to TV Kids about delivering the type of children’s content that rings true to the company’s heritage.
When Nicolas Atlan joined Gaumont just over two and a half years ago, expansion for the animation division was top of mind—and he’s delivered. The company’s roster of kids and family content now features some 800 half-hours of programming, mixed between original in-house creations, projects being developed in partnership with topflight creatives and properties inspired by books or comics. This includes the musical preschool show Do, Re & Mi, which has been greenlit as a global Amazon original and counts among its creative team Kristen Bell (who played Princess Anna in Disney’s Frozen).
TV KIDS: What’s been the strategy for growing Gaumont’s kids’ business over the last year?
ATLAN: Our goal is to create a whole range of compelling and engaging children’s projects that will become part of the Gaumont heritage. We look for great partners and creative talent, from writers to designers to directors. Over the last year, we have added ten new projects, for a total of 25 currently in development between our Los Angeles and Paris offices, each at different stages of production. These are a mix of original content that we create in-house, original ideas that are presented to us and properties that are based on books or comic books, for example.
TV KIDS: You’ve also been staffing up, including hiring the first creative director for the animation and family division.
ATLAN: With a number of series moving closer to production, we really needed to support the efforts of Terry Kalagian, who was recently elevated to senior VP of creative development. We identified the need for a talented executive who is responsible for the creative vision of all Gaumont series, as well as someone who can build the creative teams for each project in development (including features). We are so pleased that Alex Soto joined us in this new role as creative director. And we brought on board Kimberly Dennison as VP of creative development, also to support Terry. Additionally, we have our preproduction studio in Paris managed by Jean-Baptiste Lère, who is always bringing us new opportunities to work with many talented and creative artists.
TV KIDS: What are some of the issues impacting the animation marketplace at present?
ATLAN: With the continued growth of the SVOD platforms, we are seeing a trend toward more globalized properties; animation has always been global, but now it’s even more so. These new players push producers and creators to be more creative and find projects that will be appealing to audiences worldwide. And I’d also say that finding the right talent to come on board a project is getting harder because there are so many more projects being made now. However, this means that it’s a great time to be an animator, writer or storyboard artist. There are so many opportunities for them, and we’ll see new stars breaking out in these areas as the demand for talent grows.
TV KIDS: What new projects are you working on?
ATLAN: We are so excited to share the news about our new series. Amazon Studios has greenlit for production—as its newest Amazon original—the animated lyrical series for preschoolers Do, Re & Mi from Gaumont and our partners Jackie Tohn, Michael Scharf, Ivan Askwith and Kristen Bell. The series was created by Jackie (Glow, A Futile and Stupid Gesture, American Idol) and Michael (The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation). Every episode starts with an adventure and ends in a song, featuring original tracks performed by Kristen, Jackie and some other surprise guests. The creative vision of our partners combined with the hard work of Terry and Amazon’s Michelle Sullivan molded this project into an amazing series that takes kids’ music to another level and that both kids and their parents will be excited about.
France’s Gulli has greenlit our animated comedy Bionic Max. It’s a 2D-animated series for kids 6 to 11, created by Gaumont’s Thomas Digard and Manu Klotz. It’s a buddy comedy about two very different but lovable friends: Max, the first and only prototype for a bionic guinea pig born in a laboratory, and his best friend, Jean-Claude, a goldfish, and their adventures as express delivery boys in the middle of Central Park. Max and Jean-Claude consistently end up in absurd and hysterical situations, and kids everywhere will escape into the chaotic madness, laugh out loud and do what kids should do—have fun! We are finalizing new partners now and hope to start production at the end of 2018 or early 2019.
TV KIDS: What goes into crafting the ideal development slate?
ATLAN: We are always searching for great ideas, of course, seeking out new and creative writers and animators, and at the same time, connecting with program buyers all over the world to keep abreast of what they are looking for, what has been working for them and what hasn’t. If an IP already has recognition, that can really help us in the development process, and it also helps when we start to look for partners.
The slate covers every age group, from preschool and 6-to-11s to tweens and teens. Among the preschool shows are an adventure series based on the books Touch the Earth and Heal the Earth from Julian Lennon and Bart Davis, and The Pet Pack, about a dog and his best pet pals who tangle daily with the troublemaking robotic pets next door—a concept created by Alexander Bar (Mike the Knight, Ranger Rob, Kody Kapow) that is slated to be co-produced with Bar’s production company, Milkcow Media.
For the 6- to 11-year-old audience is Molly and the Cryptos, based on the award-winning project created by Mexican animator Miriam López, in development with France Télévisions. It’s an adventurous tale of 10-year-old Molly and her best friend, who is actually a mythological character. [We also have] Usagi Yojimbo from celebrated creator, writer and illustrator Stan Sakai.
For 9- to 14-year-old kids is The Mice Templar, based on a series of graphic novels created by Bryan J. L. Glass and Michael Avon Oeming. And for teens and tweens: The Star Shards Chronicles, an animated drama based on the New York Times best-selling author Neal Shusterman’s young adult novels.
Projects in development for theatrical release include the animated feature High in the Clouds, based on the book authored by Sir Paul McCartney and Philip Ardagh and illustrated by Geoff Dunbar, and Plunder, a family treasure-hunting adventure from award-winning writers Leo Chu and Eric Garcia.
TV KIDS: How much do you draw from parent company Gaumont’s IP?
ATLAN: We are always looking to try and find common ideas between the different Gaumont teams. Belle and Sebastian is a great example of this kind of collaboration, with three live-action features and an animated series.
TV KIDS: What are your core priorities for the year ahead?
ATLAN: We will be quickly ramping up for our productions Do, Re & Mi with Amazon and Bionic Max with Gulli. We are also in advanced development on Molly and the Cryptos with France Télévisions. We are eager to attend MIPJunior and MIPCOM to present the rest of our development slate to potential partners—after just over two years, we have a solid lineup that we are proud of!