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Cartoon Digital 2021

Industry Report: Animation

At Cartoon Digital, animation decision-makers discuss how to nurture fresh, diverse talents

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The talk, entitled “Roadmaps for New Digital Talents”, saw the participation of Marco Berardi from Italy's Boing and Miles Bullough from the UK's Wildseed Studios

At Cartoon Digital, animation decision-makers discuss how to nurture fresh, diverse talents
A screen grab from the talk

“It’s never been a better time to be a creator – you can produce a movie on your phone, edit it on your laptop and upload it to a global audience from your home broadband connection. But how do you become great at what you do?” This was the premise of one of Cartoon Digital 2021's first panels (unspooling from 26-28 May this year), entitled “Roadmaps for New Digital Talents”.

The discussion was introduced by John-Lomas Bullivant, founder of Kickback Media, and saw the participation of two prestigious speakers – namely, Marco Berardi, CEO of Italian free-to-air TV channel Boing, and Miles Bullough, co-founder and managing director of the UK's Wildseed Studios. The two panellists tried to answer one main question: how can animation producers bring fresh voices and diverse creatives into their development processes?

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Bullough began by talking about the first steps taken by Wildseed Studios back in 2013 and its primary mission “to work with a new generation of talents”. They decided to open a submission portal on their website to offer investments and mentorship as well as to attract fresh voices and make them work together, publishing their works on YouTube and testing the audience's response. After three years, however, the company realised that YouTube wasn't the right place for their type of high-quality animation, so they preferred to invest further energy and funds in producing excellent pilots for two or three years. Over time, many of these talents grew and made it to the likes of Disney, Netflix, Viacom, Sky Kids and the BBC.

The first lesson shared by Bullough is the importance of investments and moderate risk-taking. The company was set up with an investment of £1,000,000, which helped keep the business going until it became profitable. Then they established a fund aimed at producing 50 new pieces of content, and each project had a budget capped at £10,000. Some of these were shorts or web series, and while they didn't make their creators rich, they still allowed them to test their skills and avoid seeking unrelated employment. The second lesson is about waiting patiently, as the development process is rather lengthy and usually takes longer than expected. Next, Bullough explained that even though they were pleased with the diversity of ideas and projects that they worked on, it will still take more effort to achieve and remains one of their top priorities. Other findings included the impossibility to coach “vision”, how the quest for perfection can be damaging to the pursuit of excellence, and the tendency for new creators to present “enormously ambitious ideas”, while it is important to think that “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.

Next, Berardi introduced the company's vision to produce “safe to watch” productions for children and parents, and content that is “fun, crazy, and whatever can elicit emotions”. Then, he spoke about how 300 new talents responded to the “What a Cartoonist” initiative, carried out in co-operation with Warner Media and Cartoon Network, and inspired by the successful experiment conducted in the USA in the 1990s, which served as a springboard for hits such as The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory and Johnny Bravo. The idea came about during lockdown, and the concept was to exploit the potential of affordable, widespread new technology by allowing young talents aged under 35 to write and visualise their ideas for a new production – either an animated series, a game or unscripted content. Minimally specific briefs or guidelines were set out, and applicants sent in a number of ideas, including but not limited to clips, shorts and games.

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