Morgann Favennec, the deputy managing director of international sales and acquisitions at Superights, tells TV Kids about the types of shows that are grabbing buyers’ attention in the children’s space and the company’s plans for the future.
Paris-based indie Superights has a diverse offering of series for preschoolers, kids and families, with protagonists ranging from imaginative little girls to young boys who have adventures in wheelchairs to animals of all kinds. “We want to have something for every single person that comes to us,” says Morgann Favennec, Superights’ deputy managing director of international sales and acquisitions.
One trend Favennec has noticed as of late is that buyers have been requesting more shows centered on female characters, particularly ones that appeal to the 6-to-9 age group. Pat the Dog, one of Superights’ newer offerings, fits the bill. Produced in-house by sister company Superprod, Pat the Dog is “exactly what broadcasters are looking for,” says Favennec. “The hero is Pat [a dog], of course, but the other [main] character is a little girl.”
Other elements that factor into Pat the Dog’s international appeal, according to Favennec, include the series’ running time. “It’s seven minutes, which gives [broadcasters] a certain flexibility in terms of scheduling,” she says. In addition, there isn’t a large amount of dialogue, which contributes to reduced dubbing costs. The show also features “comedy with a touch of tenderness” that speaks to viewers around the world, Favennec explains, pointing to the fact that Pat the Dog ranked number three at the 2016 MIPJunior Screenings as proof of its global appeal. The show has been sold to RTBF, VRT, TSR, Radio-Canada, Discovery Latin America and Turner’s Boomerang in EMEA and AsiaPac, among others, and Superights recently inked a deal that will see the series broadcast on Disney Channel in the U.S. this summer.
Helen’s Little School is another highlight from Superights’ catalog that puts a spotlight on a female character. The show follows 5-year-old Helen as she plays school with her toys. The preschool series, produced by Superprod and Canada-based Muse Entertainment, has garnered buyers’ interest not only due to the female protagonist but also because the premise of the show is universal. Favennec says, “There is not one single broadcaster I’m pitching it to that wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, that’s what my daughter does!’ The show is all about Helen playing the teacher to her toys, which are the pupils. Everybody has a daughter, cousin, [etc.] who does or did this type of thing, so it’s a very universal, basic concept. Very often, those are the ideas that work the best.”
Emmy & GooRoo, which Superights acquired in January for worldwide distribution (excluding China and Spain), also has a female character in the lead. Emmy is a creative and resourceful 5-year-old who has daily adventures in a magic forest with her best friend GooRoo, a big, furry creature.
Favennec notes that she is also asked for action-adventure for boys. “That genre was totally out of the picture for three to five years, and now it’s coming back,” she says. An example of this type of show is Boyster, one of the first titles Superights had in its catalog. The main character is half-boy, half-oyster and possesses supernatural abilities that keep him from being able to live the life of a normal 11-year-old. The series has been sold to South Korean broadcaster ANIMAX. “It was their very first Western acquisition since SpongeBob SquarePants, and their first-ever French/European acquisition,” Favennec explains.
The international television business is cyclical, and according to Favennec, “you have to be ready when the trend changes.” In her view, Superights’ varied lineup of animated series means the company is always prepared for the ebb and flow that is the kids’ content business. She adds, “We have fun shows with all kinds of characters, all kinds of animals,” which helps the company stay ahead of the game as it caters to buyers’ specific needs.
Thus, Favennec says she approaches acquisitions with an open mind, following the guiding principle of keeping Superights’ catalog varied yet coherent in terms of quality. One series in the company’s library that is a bit outside the box is Will. The show centers on a wheelchair-bound boy who doesn’t allow his disability to keep him from living life to the fullest. The less-than-mainstream premise and two-minute running time mean the show doesn’t necessarily tick all the boxes that most broadcasters tend to look for. Instead, it caters to the discerning buyer, adding to the diversity of Superights’ offering.
“I always keep my eyes and ears open,” Favennec explains. “As an independent distributor, we’re fully responsible for our actions and decisions. I like the idea of being able to say yes to any kind of project I’m submitted, whether it’s alternative or mainstream, whether it’s short or definitely not the trend, or whether it’s about a hero in a wheelchair, as is the case with Will. I like the idea of being able to consider everything.”
When it comes to deciding what to add to Superights’ offering, Favennec says that “most of the time, it’s a question of being entertained. Basically, it’s love at first sight, for any reason; it can be the content, as was the case with Will; it can be the design and the charm and the poetry, like it was with Puffin Rock [which has been picked up by Netflix]; it can be the evidence of a commercial hit. I have no rules, and that’s the best way.” Consistent with its open-minded outlook, the company is also willing to come on board a project at any stage.
“Our philosophy is to have a small catalog and to keep the business boutique-style,” Favennec says. “When you deal with worldwide distribution, what’s not working in Latin America [might] be a hit in Asia and vice versa. So, it’s ideal to cover the world.”
As Superights moves forward, Favennec aims for the company to be perceived as “one of the independents that has a quality stamp on it. That would be rewarding.”