European Animated TV Series Reflect Zeitgeist, Says Annick Maes, Head of Cartoon

Beginning today, Cartoon Forum, the annual European pitching and co-production event for animated TV projects, is a mirror of the times we live in, according to its general director, Annick Maes.

“This year’s Cartoon Forum will incorporate the transformations we are going through in one form or another,” she told Variety. “There are a lot of projects about the ecology, about living together – quite a few targeting adults and teenagers.

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“They really reflect the times in which we are living. For example, the impact of women is growing, there are more and more female producers and directors. It’s an industry where we’ve pretty much reached gender parity among our participants. You can’t say the same for fiction or documentary.”

Among growing trends in recent years among animation film producers, Maes noted what she calls “the 360 approach.”

“This year, we have almost 25 book publishers coming to Cartoon Forum from all over the world to find new IPs and develop the book before the series or the film comes out: the book becomes a promotional tool for the series or the feature,” she said, citing as an example the graphic novel “Sisters of the Mist,” recently published by the U.K.’s Nobrow, which is based on an original IP by Dutch Studio Pupil. First pitched at the Cartoon Springboard event for young talent in 2017, it went on to the 2019 edition of Cartoon Movie, where it was picked by Nobrow.

Trends like these, combined with the necessity to develop their online presence during the COVID pandemic, have prompted Forum organizers to ramp up their e-communication and introduce a dedicated app from September 2020, which allows buyers to catch up with any pitches they may have missed, gives producers direct feedback on their projects, organizes one-to-one meetings, and will enable participants to communicate directly with one another from 2023.

Live events like Cartoon Forum remain essential, however, said Maes. “The handshakes and networking are still very important, it’s a big event but a small world: When the event took place digitally, we saw that buyers – and certainly the channels – were relying on their circle of well-known producers, which made it difficult for new producers and new talents who hadn’t developed their network yet. That’s the spirit of Cartoon,” she concluded.

Cartoon Forum runs in the southwestern city of Toulouse, France, over Sept. 19-22.

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