Cartoon Forum, Europe’s most important pitching platform for animated series, is returning on September 20–23. All being well, it will take place onsite in its usual host city Toulouse, in France.
This year’s lineup of 84 projects comprises the usual mix of adult and kids’ series, ranging from whimsical fantasy shows to hot-button social documentaries. Some are made by established studios, some by newcomers. Every technique from hand-drawn animation to live-action hybrid is represented.
Below, we’ve spotlighted five projects that stand out to us, whether because of the subject matter, design, or talent involved. Explore the full lineup here.
Director: Pavel Jindra
Production company: Barebear Production (Czech Republic)
Format: 26 x 11 min
Surely few series at this year’s event can boast humbler origins than this one. Some years back, Czech graphic designer Petr Václavek started assembling figures from acorns and other natural materials for his children. When he posted photos of the characters online, they swiftly found a fandom; stylish merchandising followed, and now this. It isn’t clear exactly what techniques will be used to animate the characters — the show’s program entry specifies “3d computer, painting, live action.”
Synopsis: The Acorn Elves are magical oak creatures living in the forest — in an oak tree. They take care of their surroundings conscientiously, although sometimes they do not feel like they want to. Responsibility is a demanding area, but if it is approached creatively, anything in the world can be a fun game! And the Acorn Elves are playful, non-violent, and creative. They do not talk, and yet they understand each other.
There is a human family living near the forest. The viewers never get to know the family very well, only occasionally they look at it through the “the eyes of the Acorn Elves.” The Acorn Elves are very inquisitive and the human world offers a lot of fascinating moments.
Director: Luis Da Matta Almeida
Production company: Sparkle Animation (Portugal); co-producer: Abano Producións (Spain)
Format: 26 x 7 min
Biriki, a bird drawn with symbolic purity and colored like the Italian flag, has appeared in a variety of educational contexts, including an Amnesty-sponsored animated short. Her creator Bruna Ferrazzini has teamed up with writer Ilaria Turba to develop more animated outings for the character, which will encourage children to pay attention to nature. In a kids’ market saturated with loud colors and brash designs, the simplicity of this project stands out.
Synopsis: Every day from nature or from a friend comes the invitation for a new discovery for the little Biriki. An adventure to be traversed: the birth of a rainbow, the freezing of a lake, the discovery of coal, or a particular object such as feathers, a shell, etc.
Nature, with its rhythmic cycles and its surprises, is the metaphor of what happens in the lives of children who grow up every day through their experiences. In the world of Biriki, as in life, it happens that what appears normal instead hides surprises and unknown sides or extraordinary phenomena burst into the paths of everyday life. Every experience and every encounter is an opportunity for Biriki and her friends to experiment and grow.
Directors: Victorien Tardif, Oscar Aubry, Mickael Dupré
Production company: Lardux Films (France); co-producer: Neos Films (France)
Format: 10 x 5 min
While the U.S. inches toward full decriminalization, France retains some of the harshest cannabis laws in Europe. But it is also among the continent’s biggest consumers of the drug. Against this backdrop, Lardux and Neos are developing a documentary series that profiles a sample of dealers in the country, ranging from a teenager to an ex-convict. Cartoon Forum selects a few social-issue series for older audiences each year, but we don’t remember this subject being tackled at the event before.
Synopsis: This documentary series is made up of ten animated films of five minutes each. Each episode of Cannabiz is an encounter: with a young woman, a teenager, a forty-year old, a rastaman, a suburban guy, a petit bourgeois, a peasant, or a former convict. They represent a panel of French society and they all have the same activity: they deal cannabis.
Settling scores, playing hide and seek with the police, dealing with a painful past or an unusual social life … these dealers tell their stories. Through them, not only do we discover the behind the scenes of an illegal trade, but some complex social situations that raise questions.
Production company: The Magical Society (France)
Format: 52 x 11 min 2 sec
It may not yet have a director, but its creative pedigree means Mister Crocodile has a good chance of making it to production. The series is based on a kids’ comic by Joann Sfar (Little Vampire), a popular filmmaker and cartoonist with a track record in animation. He has paired with Simon Nicholson, head writer of European hit PJ Masks, to write the script, which follows the odd-couple adventures of a girl and her crocodile friend.
Synopsis: In a city that’s collapsing back into nature, a girl bumps into a crocodile. She’s practical and sensible; he’s confused and desperately wants someone to explain this city and its civilized ways to him. He asks to be her pet. Luckily, she’s the sort of girl who likes a challenge.
Our show will be about two characters stuck in a friendship — a friendship which is plainly impossible because they come from such utterly different worlds. Every day they spend together results in confusion and calamity — and yet they feel this connection, this affinity — and so they will never leave each other. Life would be so easier if they did, but it would also be way less fun, and less meaningful.
Wild Life City
Director: Nicolas Deveaux
Production company: Cube Creative Productions (France)
Format: 52 x 11 min
French filmmaker Deveaux has carved out a curious niche in cg animation, directing films in which realistically rendered animals do decidedly unrealistic things, to comic effect: think elephants trampolining, snails dancing balletically, etc. Having already applied this concept to one series, Athleticus, he’s back with Wild Life City, which appears to have a stronger narrative through line.
Synopsis: Welcome to Wildlife City, an urban jungle set in brightly colored hills, where four friends have recently opened the Lighthouse Market together. Thanks to Kate’s delivery services, Betty’s upcycling workshop, Tom’s open-air garden. and Jason … just being Jason, the place quickly became the heart of the neighborhood. The place is always lively and animal-packed. Add three envious and mischievous gibbons, who are always ready to stir up trouble, our four friends sure are in for a ride!