TAC At­tack

TV in­dus­try event of­fers pitch, net­work­ing and ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Animation Magazine - - Spotlight -

For three days pre­ced­ing and over­lap­ping the Ot­tawa In­ter­na­tional An­i­ma­tion Fes­ti­val, in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als from across Canada and the world will gather for a lit­tle pitch­ing, a lit­tle net­work­ing and a whole lot of pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment at the Tele­vi­sion An­i­ma­tion Con­fer­ence.

Held at the Fair­mont Chateau Lau­rier ho­tel, this year’s TAC fea­tures key­note ad­dresses from Tom War­bur­ton, cre­ator and di­rec­tor of Cu­ri­ous Pic­tures; Marc Lands­berg, CEO of So­cial De­viant; Eric Cole­man and Mike Moon, rep­re­sent­ing Walt Dis­ney Tele­vi­sion An­i­ma­tion; and Melissa Wolfe, de­vel­op­ment ex­ec­u­tive, kid’s pro­gram­ming at Ama­zon Stu­dios.

Pan­els ex­plore cur­rent an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try is­sues such as pre­serv­ing your company’s vi­sion in a co-pro­duc­tion deal; de­vel­op­ing games into an­i­ma­tion; ex­plor­ing the evolu- tion of hit fran­chises like Dora the Ex­plorer; how to gen­er­ate leads and pitches; le­gal is­sues; and, of course, the brave new world of crowd-sourc­ing.

Two spe­cial­ized pro­grams are ded­i­cated to the art of pitch­ing: Fast Track, pre­sent­ing an op­por­tu­nity for pri­vate meet­ings with broad- cast­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies; and Pitch THIS!, in which two ideas are cho­sen to get 10 min­utes to be pitched to a panel of about 300 broad­cast­ers and in­dus­try in­sid­ers, who will of­fer feed­back.

Per­haps the most fun, though, hap­pens at the net­work­ing and so­cial events. This year’s events in­clude: a Toon Boom Boat Cruise; TAC Nel­vana Happy Hour; Big Jump Del­e­gate Lounge; Del­e­gate Net­work­ing Lun­cheons; Port­fo­lio En­ter­tain­ment Cof­fee Sta­tions; and the ever-popular An­i­ma­tor’s Pic­nic.

Also, Nick­elodeon will present an Art+Biz day, fea­tur­ing pitch and port­fo­lio reviews, a net­work­ing brunch and a key­note. Ad­di­tion­ally, screen­ings of films from the fes­ti­val will be pre­sented for TAC at­ten­dees to get an early taste of the fun to come.

Few coun­tries are as well po­si­tioned to take ad­van­tage of the grow­ing de­mand for high qual­ity an­i­ma­tion and visual ef­fects as Canada, and stu­dios up north are def­i­nitely see­ing the ben­e­fits.

“One of the rea­sons to work any­where is the ex­e­cu­tion and re­sults you get,” says Michael Hef­feron, pres­i­dent of the Van­cou­ver-based an­i­ma­tion stu­dio Rainmaker. “Canada has a long his­tory of an­i­ma­tion that’s been fos­tered a great deal by the support of the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment with the tax-credit sys­tem, the support from the broad­cast­ers, and the (Canada Me­dia Fund) and other fund­ing sources that al­low Canada to com­pete on a global stage.”

And, es­pe­cially for Amer­i­can com­pa­nies, that’s just the start of the ad­van­tages to work­ing with Cana­di­ans: they (mostly) speak English, there are no ma­jor time­zone dif­fer­ences and they have a re­li­able eco­nomic, ed­u­ca­tional and tech­no­log­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture.

While in­stances of growth can be found all across the na­tion, an­i­ma­tion and visual-ef­fects work has pooled around sev­eral pop­u­la­tion cen­ters. Van­cou­ver has seen the big­gest re­cent boom, es­pe­cially in visual ef­fects; while the long-stand­ing an­i­ma­tion tra­di­tions found in Toronto and Ot­tawa have ex­panded to Hamil­ton in On­tario and Mon­treal and Que­bec City in Que­bec. And on the east coast, Hal­i­fax has emerged as a grow­ing cen­ter for an­i­ma­tion work.

Made in the Mar­itimes

In Nova Sco­tia, the growth has de­vel­oped around Hal­i­fax be­ing home to the head of­fices of DHX Me­dia, a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional pro­ducer of fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment and owner of a large li­brary of con­tent. The company, which has a pre­pro­duc­tion stu­dio in Toronto, in 2007 ac­quired es­tab­lished 2D an­i­ma­tion house Stu­dio B Pro­duc­tions in Van­cou­ver.

Steven DeNure, pres­i­dent and COO of DHX Me­dia Toronto, says Canada’s long tra­di­tion of pro­duc­ing an­i­ma­tion as well as train­ing an­i­ma­tors and de­vel­op­ing soft­ware has it per­fectly po­si­tioned to meet the grow­ing global de­mand for an­i­mated con­tent.

“When you look around and you think about play­ers like Net­flix and Ama­zon and Hulu and toy com­pa­nies like Mat­tel and Has­bro and Spin Master, there are a num­ber of re­ally im­por­tant play­ers who re­al­ize the power of an­i­mated con­tent who are help­ing drive that de­mand for more con­tent,” he says. “It’s an im­por­tant change and dif­fer­ence from the en­vi­ron­ment of five or 10 years ago.”

DHX’s Hal­i­fax stu­dio is work­ing on a num­ber of 3D an­i­mated se­ries, in­clud­ing Dooz­ers with Hen­son for Hulu, Poofen­wish for Ama­zon Stu­dios, Su­per Why! for PBS Kids and an up­com­ing re­boot of In­spec­tor Gad­get.

Nova Sco­tia also is home to Hal­i­fax-based Coper­ni­cus Stu­dios, which does ser­vice-based work for clients such as Dis­ney, YTV, Nick­elodeon, Car­toon Net­work and Warner Bros.; and Dart­mouth-based Humi­nah Humi­nah An­i­ma­tion, which has worked with Nel­vana, Has­bro, Dis­ney and Nick­elodeon in a ser­vice ca­pac­ity and also cre­ates orig­i­nal pro­duc­tions.

Cen­ter of Tra­di­tion

South­ern On­tario, in­clud­ing the Toronto area and Ot­tawa, has the old­est

Al­pha­bet Sto­ries fol­lows YOUniverse, a sim­i­lar se­ries of an­i­mated in­ter­sti­tials for preschool­ers that showcases space ex­plo­ration and aired on TVO in March.

Vic­tory Arts has signed up with Dis­tri­bu­tion 360, a Mar­ble Me­dia company, to dis­trib­ute Al­pha­bet Sto­ries and YOUniverse. Hollo says Vic­tory Arts also is in­ter­ested in ex­pand­ing both shows into longer for­mats about spell­ing, phon­ics read­ing and sci­ence.

The company also is on the tail end of de­vel­op­ment talks with TVO Kids about a long-for­mat preschool se­ries called Air Crafters that would be 52 11-minute episodes. Am­ber­wood En­ter­tain­ment ( Rob the Ro­bot, Roll­bots, Shut­ter­bugs) is serv­ing as ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer for Air Crafters.

In the last few years, net­works have got­ten se­ri­ous about fos­ter­ing their in­ter­nal cre­ative cul­tures with the hopes of grow­ing their next an­i­mated hit right in their own back­yard. This is the lad­der Pa­trick McHale climbed to get his 2D-an­i­mated minis­eries Over the Gar­den Wall into pro­duc­tion.

“I pitched an early in­car­na­tion of the show in 2006 be­fore I’d even re­ally worked in the in­dus­try,” says McHale. “It may have been a pos­si­ble Hal­loween spe­cial at one point, but I had trou­ble adapt­ing the se­ries idea into one big stand-alone story.” McHale started out do­ing sto­ry­boards on The Mar­velous Mis­ad­ven­tures of Flapjack, and when co-worker Penn Ward’s Ad­ven­ture Time di­rec­tor, and later a writer.

“Car­toon Net­work asked me if I was in­ter­ested in pitch­ing any pi­lot ideas. I dusted off the old pitch bi­ble, did some re-writ­ing, and pitched it again. And they let me make it!”

The show fol­lows two brothers, Wirt and Gre­gory, who find them­selves lost in the woods and have to find their way back home through a mys­te­ri­ous world, get­ting into trou­ble and meet­ing strange char­ac­ters along the way. McHale orig­i­nally came up with the con­cept back in 2004 as a scarier, quest-style story.

De­spite the worst-case-sce­nario pi­lot cre­ation process — which saw McHale on the other side of the coun­try from the stu­dio, with a new­born and a busted sep­tic sys­tem among other com­pli­ca­tions — he’s ended up with a dream ex­pe­ri­ence, bring­ing his story to life and work­ing with in­cred­i­ble tal­ents. His No. 1 piece of ad­vice for as­pir­ing an­i­ma­tors? “Be a nice per­son. Do a good job. Try re­ally, re­ally hard.”

Dis­ney’s ac­tion-cen­tric chan­nel is prep­ping the ul­ti­mate in wish ful­fill­ment toons with Jared Bush and Sam Levine’s Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero, which fol­lows a kid with the best job ever: zap­ping be­tween di­men­sions to fill in for the he­roes of those worlds and save the day in ever-chang­ing ways.

and com­plex painted tex­tures on 2D char­ac­ters and a hand-drawn line. This has never been achieved in an an­i­mated fea­ture, let alone a TV show. And we are do­ing it each week,” says Levine.

This is com­pli­cated by the ever-chang­ing worlds and char­ac­ters of the show, which has two 10½-minute sto­ries per episode. “And, for each episode, there are an im­pos­si­ble amount of de­ci­sions that must be made all the time and they never stop,” adds Bush.

“What’s daunt­ing is that all of those de­ci­sions feel like they are cru­cial to the se­ries work­ing. We’ll de­bate a word in a script, or the shade of green in a tiny logo on a back­ground character’s shirt, or the type of pi­ano used in a two-sec­ond mu­sic sting for hours, be­cause we want it to ‘be right.’”

Luck­ily the pair has been in the in­dus­try long enough to know that the grow­ing pains will wear off as the show goes on. They have more tips as well: “Don’t take the easy route. It’s tempt­ing to set­tle on an idea or a story or a de­sign just be­cause you like it. But you can prob­a­bly dig deeper; there is al­ways a dif­fer­ent so­lu­tion, and usu­ally a bet­ter one,” says Levine.

“But most im­por­tantly, don’t eat like a pig,” jokes Bush. “Most of the work you’ll be do­ing will be done in a chair. By the end of sea­son one, you’ll be dis­gust­ing.”

Pi­rata & Cap­i­tano Mil­lim­ages (France), Vodka Cap­i­tal (Spain) Kids 6-8 | 52 x 11 Plan­ets: The Great­est Show in the Uni­verse Blue-Zoo Pro­duc­tions (U.K.) Kids 6-8 | 52 x 11 Scribe Wig­gly­woo (Ire­land) Young Adults & Adults | 6 x 22 Squids El­lip­sanime (France) Fam­ily | 52 x 13

ILM’s now-per­ma­nent fa­cil­ity in Van­cou­ver is ramp­ing up to han­dle a steady stream of visual-ef­fects films.

Jared Bush

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