Annick Maes, director of Cartoon Forum and Cartoon Movie, tells TV Kids about the highlights of this year’s event, set to be held September 14 to 17 in Toulouse, France, and shares the precautions that are being put in place as the kids’ industry finally returns to live events.
Cartoon Forum, marking its 31st edition this year, continues to reaffirm its vital position in facilitating the growth of the European animation business, with 80-plus projects from 30 countries included in the lineup, totaling a budget of €357 million and encompassing 486 hours of content.
The co-pro event usually attracts some 950 delegates from 40 countries, according to Annick Maes, director of Cartoon Forum and Cartoon Movie, including 260 buyers. The platform serves as a critical event for networking, Maes notes: “You create, we connect,” she says. It has proven to be an effective formula. “Since the first Cartoon Forum edition in 1990, over 817 projects (with a total budget of more than €2.8 billion) presented at Cartoon Forum have secured their financing and are now in production or being aired worldwide.”
Over three days, European producers can pitch their projects to decision-makers, buyers and financiers. “The highly professional yet very friendly atmosphere makes it easier to consolidate commercial links, meet new contacts, and deal with all aspects of partnerships—whether commercial or artistic—at leisure,” Maes explains. “On average, one project presented at Cartoon Forum out of three secures financing and enters into production.”
The pitching sessions are indeed the core of the event, with creatives given 30 minutes to present their projects. “The screening of trailers during the traditional breakfast ‘Croissant Shows’ gives a taste of the project and encourages people to attend the presentations. The relaxed setting of the Cartoon Forum has become an intrinsic element for the whole European animation industry.”
The forum is organized by CARTOON, an international non-profit association based in Brussels. “Through Cartoon Forum, CARTOON is trying to build a network of European animation distributors,” including sales agents, broadcasters and OTT platforms. “In this perspective, CARTOON keeps on inviting representatives from new distribution platforms to involve them ahead of animation projects, whether in distribution or even in production. Cartoon Forum is one of the main showcases for buyers of animated content.”
Attendees will hear about 86 projects from 30 countries, mostly from Europe, but also from Argentina, Canada, Turkey, Uruguay and the U.S. From the selection, Maes says it’s clear there’s been a growth in the animation sector from across Europe, notably from outside the powerhouse that is France. She says there are eight selections from Ireland, six from Denmark and 11 from the Nordic territories. “The projects selected tend to present more and more female protagonists. An important number of projects promote inclusiveness and the acceptance of differences and disabilities.”
Maes adds, “Series targeting kids and families stay the main focus of European animation production. Among those, there are comedies and adventures that try to teach them fundamental values such as inclusion, diversity, empathy, solidarity and the importance of friendship, but there are also stories that, with humor and endearing characters, tackle more complex and sensitive issues like cancer, grief, bullying, etc.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated some changes for this year’s edition. “We will, of course, follow all health safety rules imposed by both the French government and by WHO to avoid any spread of the virus and any rebound of the epidemic.” This will include social distancing among participants, mask-wearing and encouraging frequent handwashing.
The setup of the Pitch Rooms is being adjusted so that there can be a distance of one meter between participants, Maes explains. Plus, she continues, “Two queues will be created: The first queue, called the Buyers’ Line, will allow ‘buyers’ to enter the room first, to make sure that producers pitching their projects will have all investors interested attending their pitch on time. This is, we think, the most important for producers. The second queue, called the Producers’ Line, will allow all the other participants to attend the pitch until the room is full. To avoid refusing entrance to professionals for some pitches, we are modifying the rooms. The objective here is to allow as many people as possible access to the different rooms, with the sole priority of promoting ‘business’ between professionals.”
Indeed, the overarching theme at Cartoon Forum this year is “Business First,” enabling “the animation sector to finally meet again to restart a positive dynamic. This 2020 edition is new in many ways, and we do hope that it will embody the return to a life that once again allows the meetings and exchanges so necessary, so precious for animation projects to take shape and develop.”
Maes continues, “At the Cartoon Forum, projects come first, since it’s around these preparations, prepared with care and determination by the producers, that our entire event revolves and must focus. A successful Cartoon Forum equals TV series that are being created, that have found financing or that are driven by strong European co-production. This success is the result of professionals meeting, working together, and producing the extraordinary creativity of the animation industry.
“The main objective will be to allow us to meet each other and to do business again, after these long months with no face-to-face contacts. The social activities and friendly times will, therefore, be put on hold, exceptionally this year, to prioritize presenting the projects and doing business.”