Cartoon Forum is returning to Toulouse for its 34th edition from September 18 to 21, giving producers the opportunity to pitch their animation projects to broadcasters, investors and other potential partners from around the world looking for European co-production opportunities.
“European animation is a wide patchwork with a great variety of patterns, textures and colors, making a wonderful canvas with its contrasts, harmonies and dissonances,” says Annick Maes, general director of Cartoon. “It’s with great joy that we offer a frame for that magnificent canvas.”
This year, 77 projects representing 16 countries are included in the lineup, encompassing 479 hours of content. The selected projects have a total budget of €398 million, with an average cost per project of €5.1 million, an increase from last year’s average of €4.5 million. The average cost per minute of animation production has continued to increase and has reached €13,848, up from last year’s €12,815, which surpassed its pre-pandemic level.
France leads the pack with 33 projects to be presented at the event, followed by Ireland with seven, Belgium and Germany with six each, Spain with five and Italy with four. The Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Poland and Ukraine are represented with two projects each, and Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece and the Netherlands are participating with one each.
In addition to the official program of pitching sessions, a special initiative titled “Animated UK Meets Europe” will encourage co-productions between European territories and the U.K. A total of five new projects will be pitched in partnership with U.K. broadcast partners BBC, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Sky in a 90-minute session in search of European co-production partners.
In terms of trends, for the last “couple of years, the projects selected tend to introduce more and more heroines and stories from a female perspective,” Maes notes. “This is particularly explained by a growing number of projects selected led by female professionals (authors, directors or producers).” Among the titles fitting the category this year are Heroic Football (Superprod, France), Cassy on the Stars (Graphilm, Italy), Toko Loko (Submarine Animation, the Netherlands), Super Random Stories (Scared Ghost/Imagic TV/Agogo Animation, Spain/China), Space Aged (Studio Meala, Ireland) and The Princess and the Nightingale (La Boîte/Les Films du Nord, Belgium/France), to name a few.
There are also a number of projects around environmental topics, including 9 Million Colors (Bionaut, the Czech Republic), Nip & Lena. Fin Friends (Lynx Multimedia Factory/Telegael, Italy/Ireland) and Ursa—The Polar Bear(Fabelaktiv/Ulvenfilm, Norway), among others.
“There are also many projects dealing with the subject of diversity and/or inclusiveness,” Maes says, offering examples such as Fishie (Zographic Films/Sparre Production/Godo Films, Bulgaria/Denmark/France), Iren the Siren(Silex Films, France) and Mole & Fieldmouse (Parmi les Lucioles Films, France).
Though the projects being pitched target a wide swath of age groups from preschool to young adult/adult, the main focus remains on children and families, with 58 percent of the selected titles targeting children (bridge, 6 to 9 and 9 to 11), 22 percent aimed at preschoolers and 6 percent targeted to a family audience, Maes reports.
As of the end of August, over 985 participants have registered to attend the event, according to Maes. This includes 254 buyers and some new attendees, including LooLoo Kids (Mora TV), Goonshae Music, Light Lab, ADN, Keywords Studios, Steinkis Groupe/Jungle!, Ribka Publishing, Crunchyroll, Kidstream and more.
For the past few editions, Cartoon Forum has featured digital integrations to ease attendees’ experience. “The years of crisis and previous editions have enabled us to set objectives in line with the current needs of the sector,” Maes says. She continues, “Since 2020, our efforts have been deployed in the development of our digital tools (website and mobile application), allowing us to centralize information and facilitate the experience of Cartoon Forum participants.”
The digital tools allow participants to access all information regarding the selected projects and give buyers the chance to fill out feedback forms in order to facilitate contact with producers. “Feedback is of high importance and very valuable for the producers,” Maes says. “It helps them fine-tune their projects regarding the markets’ needs and expectations or adapt their own financing and distribution strategies. We count on the goodwill and participation of buyers to help the producers even if not involved later on in the project.”
New this year is a messaging integration for the mobile app, giving attendees the opportunity to contact each other directly and streamline communication. Participants will also have direct access to important documents related to accommodation and transport.
This year, Maes says the event is also taking steps to become more sustainable. “As event organizers, we are committed to finding better solutions to organize our events in a more responsible way, in order to reduce our impact on the planet,” she says. “All our efforts are deployed in this direction.” With the help of various partners and service providers, Cartoon Forum ensures it is responsibly consuming energies and resources, sorting and managing waste and more. “With this in mind, we have also started a process of obtaining eco-responsible certification, allowing us to be accompanied on these issues and to carry out actions that make sense.”
This dedication is in line with Cartoon Forum’s ultimate goal. “Our mission is, more than ever, to gather in order to go forward,” Maes says. “The most difficult challenges to come—preserving our natural habitat, living respectfully with all human beings—won’t be solved without everyone involved. Cartoon Forum is a place that we wish to be representative of this involvement and shared responsibility. That’s the reason why we have started the process to obtain a sustainability certification. We want Cartoon Forum to have an impact in a better and more responsible industry.”