The rise of Spain’s animation power promises to provide one of the leading narratives at this year’s Cartoon Forum.
In one of its strongest representations ever at the Toulouse event, eight high-profile TV series projects from Spain will be pitched, trailing only France.
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To complete its standout presence, a spotlight on Spain will take place at the Forum, with several networking activities to promote local industry, backed by Spanish trade promotion broad ICEX in collaboration with Diboos, the country’s toon and VFX federation.
In recent years, the animation scene has experienced a historic growth, becoming a key sector in the rapidly growing local audiovisual market.
By ICEX estimates, the animation and VFX sector generates 20% of all audiovisual industry jobs. Its annual turnover – €900 million ($900 million) – reps 9% of total revenues.
This year, the animation TV industry has released six TV series and is preparing at least 26 more projects at different production stages, with nationwide public broadcaster RTVE and Catalonia’s TV3 as essential driving forces.
The lack of financing – especially from private TV operators – is forcing independent producers to increasingly eye on international partnerships.
Making a virtue of necessity, the sector has become a thriving modern industry with a clear focus on exports, 70% of its annual revenues coming from abroad.
“In the past, we produced smaller-budget series, mainly focused on the national market. Now, more flexible and companies with an international outlook are doing very cool projects,” says Iván Agenjo at Barcelona-based Peekaboo Animation, whose TV series “I, Elvis Riboldi” sold across 140 worldwide territories, and which produces José Balbuena’s Cartoon Forum player “Best Friends Forever… Stranded!.”
A growing trend: Spain is building, in parallel to a certain extent with France, a decentralized animation and VFX sector, generating differing industrial hubs in different regions across the country.
As Madrid becomes more specialized in high-budget animated feature films and VFX, Catalonia, with the strong commitment of TV3, is a benchmark for animated series. Meanwhile, the Canary Islands are developing a services industry for international toon series projects.
A bigger international visibility has come to date from feature films.
“Animation films showed that there is incredible talent in Spain,” explains Sygnatia CEO Xosé Zapata, who’s teaming with Portugal’s Bro Cinema on Cartoon Forum’s series project “Polka Dot Zebra.”
Sygnatia produced Salvador Simó’s Goya, Annecy and EFA Awards winning film “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles.”
Further recent milestones in Spanish animated film take in Alberto Mielgo’s Academy Award winning animated short film “The Windshield Wiper,” Sergio Pablos’ Annie and BAFTA Awards winning and Oscars candidate “Klaus,” Netflix’s first foray into original animated feature, and Enrique Gato’s Telecinco Cinema-Lightbox Ent.’s “Tad, The Lost Explorer and the Emerald Tablet,” the third instalment of the international hit saga.
“Animated TV series don’t have red carpet releases, but somehow they are the basis of the industry,” argues Peekaboo’s Iván Agenjo.
Spain’s TV series animation raising is driven mainly by new state regulation.
“We have managed to strengthen ourselves, more so with all the regulatory changes and regional support,” Agenjo says.
In 2020, a tax break hike boosted Spain’s audiovisual industry with a competitive 30%-25% tax rebate, capped at $10 million. The Canary Islands – among other particular financing advantages – offers a mouth-watering 50%-45% incentive with a $18 million ceiling.
Other territories such as the Basque Country’s Bizkaia are also stepping up their backing, which from January looks set to give an up-to-70% tax credit, with no cap at all.
“The advantages are an incontestable help, a brutal engine,” adds Raúl Carbó, founder of Tenerife-based In Efecto Atlantis.
Regions such as Catalonia, Valencia, Navarre, Galicia and Madrid are also betting on supporting animation projects development and production or generating specific funding initiatives, with modest but vital aid for the local projects.
Additionally, in March 2021, the Spanish Government launched the Spain AVS Hub plan, to plow $1.6 billion into the country’s film-TV sectors, including animation and VFX, “an unprecedented leap forward in terms of promoting and supporting our audiovisual industry and attracting investment and new productions to Spain,” according to ICEX CEO María Peña.
Spain has managed to position itself among the leading countries in the development of the animation and VFX sector, luring the interest of international players to invest in talent and resources. Prominently, Skydance Animation landed in Madrid, while France’s Fortiche and In Efecto launched operations in the Canary Islands.
The arrival of powerful foreign companies is contributing to a critical mass of talent that allows them to produce animation of increasingly higher quality and bring greater international focus to the country.
In Efecto arrived in Tenerife from France in 2019 to undertake the production of Disney’s TV series “Tara Duncan,” attracted by the incentives, “but also to take advantage of the wave of good energy in Spanish animation,” says Carbó.
“Spain has a creative spark in the animation field,” he remarks.
In Efecto is pitching at Cartoon Forum TV series project “Bertie’s Brainwaves,” a co-production with the U.K.’s Flickerpix.
And the animation and VFX sector is also growing in terms of organisation. “The innumerable successes and the creation of associations that coordinate companies such as Diboos or Madrid’s Pixel Cluster, are also making our incipient industry stronger,” Zapata points out.
“The world has understood that Spanish animation works very well. There is still the challenge of being able to develop an industry focus with our own IPs,” says Diboos chairman Nico Matji.
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