Build in U.S. Demand Is Boosting Diversity in Animation, Says France’s ‘Jade Armor’ Producer TeamTO

Lise Pedersen
·4-min read

Increased competition and higher demand is good for native animation production, says Corinne Kouper, the co-founder of France’s TeamTO, which recently announced the sale of all U.S. and Latin American rights to its original animated series, “Jade Armor,” to WarnerMedia.

“There’s a really positive energy in French animation, linked to the growing number of platforms, increased competition and demand,” adds Kouper, who believes the deal will allow her company to extend its reach within the U.S. and Latin America.

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The WarnerMedia deal also highlights a shift in demand from U.S. platforms, she adds.

“We feel that the centre of gravity, which used to be very U.S.-centric, is changing: Networks are increasingly interested in local production. It’s particularly notable in France because we’ve always been a big producer of animation. And thanks to recent social movements, there’s a demand not only for local voices but also for more diversity.”

“Jade Armor” tells the story of martial arts-loving Lan Jun, an unlikely teenage heroine whose life takes an unexpected turn when she puts on a mysterious jade bracelet and finds herself wrapped in a suit of armor equipped with magical powers. With the help of her two best friends and the mystical creatures that give the armor its powers, she has to contend with both an array of super villains and the challenging trials of teenage life.

Created by a female-led team, the comedy-action series, which has been in development since 2015, originally featured a boy in the lead role.

“I worked on the first version when he was a boy, and it appeared that the character who stole the show was his best friend, a girl raised by her grandma who was a Kung Fu master. She was more interesting than him, so we decided to make a change,” explains director and co-creator Chloé Miller, who directed episodes of long-running TeamTO-Cake Ent. series “Angelo Rules.”

“She’s diverse, far from the clichés of cute girls or tomboy action lovers you find in cartoons,” says Miller, who was moved by an advertisement which exposes a collective cliché where “doing it like a girl” is perceived as an insult.

“There’s a strong stereotype about how we (girls) move, how we do things. That was something I wanted to work on with this character. She’s just an ordinary girl, who likes pink and likes to fight, likes to watch football games and paint her nails.”

The 26-part half-hour series is heading to Cartoon Network as part of the network’s commitment to offer content that empowers kids to embrace their uniqueness. It will be available on Cartoon Network and HBO Max in early 2022.

Kouper chose Miller for the project because of her love of anime. Like many of her contemporaries, Miller was raised on U.S. and Japanese cartoons.

“My influence is Japanese animation,” says Miller, who is also a lover of Kung Fu movies and manga graphic novels like the original “Dragon Ball” series. “I like that universe, it is kind of crazy. At the same time, the fights are epic. I wanted that kind of mix: a strong girl, a quirky universe and a fantastic Kung Fu fight.”

Miller also wants to use a combination of Jackie Chan-style burlesque comedy and an aesthetic reminiscent of Asian cloak and dagger movies with choreographies inspired by films such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.

To help the storyboard artists, headed up by Denis Do, director of the 2018 Annecy Cristal winner “Funan,” the team has enlisted the help of a stunt coordinator to shoot the action scenes on camera. An initiative which nonetheless requires them to use their imagination extensively: “I want the characters to walk on walls, do spectacular jumps, and they also have magical powers, so we still have to enhance what the stuntmen do because, in the show, it’s bigger than life,” enthuses Miller.

Entirely produced in TeamTO’s Paris-based studios, “Jade Armor” was snapped up by France Télévisions and Germany’s Super RTL in late 2020 and is scheduled to roll out in Europe this fall before hitting American territories early 2022.

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