Speak to most American TV series creators and they will probably tell you that the process of pitching a TV series in the United States isn’t particularly efficient or practical.
It involves taking an idea to network after network, trying to find an executive who believes in the project, and more importantly, can find a place for it on their slate. But what if there was a different system, one in which you could pitch your project to dozens of networks and investors simultaneously and receive instantaneous and comprehensive feedback on what works about your idea and what doesn’t?
That’s Cartoon Forum in a nutshell. The European event’s tagline is “You create, we connect,” and the event will start next Monday in the southern France city of Toulouse. Twenty European countries will participate in the pitching and co-production market this year, which has become a mainstay of Europe’s TV animation industry.
Over the course of three days, producers ranging from small shops to major studios will pitch 80 different animated series, representing 482 hours of programming with production budgets totalling over 300 million euros.
Even within the world of TV markets, Cartoon Forum manages to distinguish itself. “Cartoon Forum started 27 years as an alternative to bigger TV markets in Europe, like MIPTV, where producers typically had to be recognized names before having an opportunity to pitch to broadcasters, investors, and distributors,” Cartoon Forum director Annick Maes told Cartoon Brew. The event provides a platform for younger creators and smaller studios to put their work directly in front of buyers and decision makers based purely on the merit of the project, and the strictly regimented pitching format gives everyone, experienced and inexperienced, equal footing.
Many success stories have come out of Cartoon Forum througout the years, and small indie shops, like the U.K.’s Karrot Animation, producer of the CBeebies series Sarah and Duck, have become series producers overnight following stand-out presentations at the event.
Cartoon Forum is also the ideal place to see a capsule view of the evolving TV industry in Europe. For starters, a lot of TV animation is moving to the internet as a result of SVOD models, and a growing number of SVOD companies attend Cartoon Forum nowadays. This year, the SVOD behemoth Netflix will attend the event for the first time.
Another broad shift currently underway is the boom in series production throughout Europe. For example, all three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—will be pitching projects this year, as will Greece, which hasn’t presented a project at Cartoon Forum since 2007. Further, Hungary and Poland will be pitching three series apiece, and Bulgaria will have two series. The event is also broadening its reach beyond Europe; three projects from South Korea and one from Canada will also be pitched.
It’s not just where the projects are being created, but also the type of projects that producers are bringing to Cartoon Forum. “It is certainly a new tendency that we are seeing young adult projects, which we didn’t have much five or six years ago,” said Maes. The majority of the projects being pitched next week are still aimed at preschool (26%) and children (58%), but alongside those are a growing number of animated series aimed at teenagers and young adults (10%) and families (6%).
Maes said that while the U.K. and Ireland still request primarily preschool and children’s content, the Franco-German channel Arte and Eastern European broadcasters are expressing a desire for a broader range of content.
On the technique side, 2D animation remains the preferred production method for European producers, much like American producers. Fifty-six per cent of the 80 projects being pitched employ 2D animation, while 20% use CGI, 19% combine 2D and 3D, and 5% use other techniques like stop motion or cut-out.
Cartoon Forum will also debut the concept of a ‘spotlight country’ during this edition, with the honor going to Ireland. The idea of spotlighting a country used to not be necessary because the market would take place in a different country each year, but the economic crisis in Europe forced Cartoon Forum to settle down in a single location—Toulouse—in 2012.
Ireland was chosen as the inaugural spotlight country due to its vibrant, expanding animation scene. The country, which is roughly the same size of (and has a similar population to) South Carolina, generated $124 million worth of animation production in 2011, accounting for around one-third of the country’s audiovisual sector. In terms of production expenditure, between just 2009 and 2011, Ireland’s animation industry has nearly doubled in value.
Cartoon Brew will report from the event next week.
(Image at top: A pitching session at last year’s edition of Cartoon Forum. ©CARTOON.)