Event Preview: Cartoon Forum

Cartoon Forum is slated to return for its 33rd edition from September 19 to 22 in Toulouse, bringing together producers, investors, broadcasters and other potential partners for co-production opportunities on European animated series.

After two years of disrupted editions, Cartoon Forum is back in person with networking opportunities, including dinners, buffets, cocktails and a farewell evening. The success of the digital integrations from the past two years, such as the online catch-up sessions, however, will be continued at the request of the buyers, according to ***Image***Annick Maes, general director of Cartoon.

With the catch-up sessions, participants will be able to watch or rewatch a pitch at their own pace after the event until October 9. “Our goal is to offer each project as much visibility as possible in order to increase its chances to find investments and secure international distribution,” says Maes. However, “it is the producers’ choice to offer a catch-up session; it is not mandatory.”

Last year, buyers could provide feedback on projects via the Cartoon Forum app. Maes reports that, this year, the organizers have developed a notification system that will remind buyers to complete the feedback forms. Additionally, the forms will be sent immediately to participants after being filled out.

The organizers are also working on implementing voting for the Tributes awards into the app. “All participants on site will have the possibility to vote for their peers during three dedicated moments for each category: investor, broadcaster and producer of the year,” Maes says. Winners will be announced on the last day of Cartoon Forum.

Also new this year, participants will be able to use the same login and password across the app, the website and the catch-up platform, making the entire digital process easier.

As for the event itself, 80 new TV series, miniseries and TV specials representing 488 hours of animation were shortlisted from 137 submissions. The selected projects have a total budget of €363.7.1 million, with an average cost per project of €4.5 million. Maes notes that the cost per minute of animation production has slightly increased compared to 2021 (€12,815 vs. €11,887) and has surpassed its pre-pandemic level (€12,250).

France leads the selection with 37 projects, followed by Spain with 8 and Ireland and Germany with 6 each. Italy is represented with 5 projects, Poland with 3 and Belgium and Denmark with 2. Austria, Croatia, Finland, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Serbia and Sweden are participating with 1 each.

Since 2016, Cartoon Forum has hosted a spotlight highlighting a European country or region. This year, the spotlight will be on Spain. “The rise of Spanish animation in recent years will not have escaped anyone,” Maes says. “The animation sector has developed in Spain thanks to its talents but also thanks to the growing support and unfailing interest shown by the regional authorities.” As mentioned, eight Spanish projects will be pitched at the event.

Of all the projects being presented this year, Maes notes a trend toward titles that promote change. “If there were ever a time for change, this is it,” Maes says. “The various crises we have been through and which still affect us—whether they are sanitary, conflictual or climate-related—are changing us. They modify our ways of thinking, of representing, of creating, and our sector, that of animation, is the mirror of it. Projects presented at Cartoon Forum incorporate these transformations in one form or another, with seriousness, with humor, to move us or make us think. There’s nature to be protected, there are conflicts to be resolved, there’s the question of living together.”

There are a number of projects this year that feature environmental issues, including Aquaworld (Les Films de l’Arlequin/JPL Films), Zoey Oceans (Studio Kimchi), The Tinies (MIAM! animation), Welcome to Permacity (Millimages) and The Song of the Storms (Sacrebleu Productions), among others.

A host of stories told from female perspectives and featuring heroines are also represented, with Bootyboo and the Mutants (Paraiso Production/Ikki Films), Firsts (TV ON Producciones/Tippo Creative Lab), Biguden (Apaches/Cosmic Productions/Mr. Loyal), Billie and the Rockets (Caribara Production), Shepherdess Warriors (Vivement Lundi !), Spaghetti Sisters (Sixteen South Television Originals) and Vanja’s World (Fabian&Fred), to name a few.

Though projects targeting a variety of age groups—from preschool up to young adults/adults—are represented, the main focus remains on kids and families, with 25 percent of the selected titles targeting preschool, 54 percent targeting children and 6 percent aimed at families, Maes reports. Among those, there are comedies and adventures that try to teach fundamental values such as inclusion, diversity, empathy, solidarity and the importance of friendship and family bonds. There is a growing interest in animation for older audiences, however, with 15 percent of the projects targeting teens and young adults/adults. These projects address social and political issues such as examining lifestyles through therapy, the representation of the LGBTQI+ community, scientific answers to female puberty problems, the inability to conform to society’s rigid codes, adulthood, loss, environmental issues and more.

Thus far, 283 buyers have signed up to attend, with 35 representing new companies. According to Maes, this means 12.8 percent of the buyers are newcomers, as opposed to the 7.8 percent last year. These new buyers include companies such as Cap in Prod and Disney Branded Television. It is “certainly interesting to note the amount of book publishers participating,” Maes adds, with a large portion of the newcomers in this category. There are also a number of new gaming companies participating. Also of note, for the first time, a buyer from Moldova (Studio Metrafilms) will be represented.