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Cartoon Digital 2021

Industry Report: Animation

Cartoon Digital asks: “What are the new distribution and co-production opportunities for animation producers?”

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Gaumont's Karen Vermeulen and Sola Media's Solveig Langeland shared their takes on the topic during a panel hosted by the online event

Cartoon Digital asks: “What are the new distribution and co-production opportunities for animation producers?”
A screen grab from the panel

Just as multi-channel and satellite players changed the TV landscape, the new digital platforms and other newcomers are once again altering the animation world: how do producers make the most out of the new sales and co-production opportunities for animated series and features? This was the central question tackled by one of the panels that took place on the second day of Cartoon Digital 2021 (26-28 May), entitled “Digital Distribution & Co-production”. The discussion, moderated by Kickback Media founder John Lomas-Bullivant, saw the participation of Gaumont's SVP Creative Executive, Animation & Family Europe, Karen Vermeulen, and Sola Media’s managing director and founder, Solveig Langeland.

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Langeland explained that her sales outfit specialises in selling animation and family-friendly features, and announced its new venture in the field of TV sales. She highlighted that the firm’s approach is to follow productions from their “very early stages”. Meanwhile, Vermeulen touched upon Gaumont's current editorial strategy, saying that it is developing both “animation and live-action content across all age groups, […] prioritising book IPs and public-domain IPs” with “known heritage in the audience” along with some “original series in development”. Moreover, it is focusing on “local stories that can travel globally” and is “interested in working with territorial broadcasters”.

Langeland reported that one of the challenges in the field of producing is related to the fact that most of the governmental funding is based on the idea that the backed film must be released theatrically. This forces producers to create a dedicated theatrical window in the financing country, and “that's not ideal”. In terms of monetary resources, she said, “Obviously, the European market cannot compete with big studios’ very high-end productions,” but even with an average budget of €8 million, producers in Germany can manage to create good products “for theatrical circulation around the world, excluding the USA”. Moreover, maintaining public funding at something similar to pre-COVID levels in the post-pandemic phase will be crucial in order to sustain a “normal cultural life”.

Vermeulen added that another important challenge is the lack of scope to develop a co-production model with platforms such as Netflix, as they often demand producers’ global rights. However, the growing trend of promoting “co-viewing experiences” – also pursued by global players of the likes of HBO or Disney+, and probably accelerated by the lockdowns – may broaden said scope, especially in terms of producing “kids’ and family-orientated” animated series.

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