Et le Boom Con­tinue…?

De­spite the gov­ern­ment’s plans for France 4’s shut­down, TV and fea­ture stu­dios con­tinue to thrive in France as an­i­ma­tion be­comes the coun­try’s top con­tent ex­port.

Animation Magazine - - Front Page - By Cameron Koller

De­spite the gov­ern­ment’s plans for France 4’s shut­down, TV and fea­ture stu­dios con­tinue to thrive in France as an­i­ma­tion be­comes the coun­try’s top con­tent ex­port.

When it comes to an­i­ma­tion on the world stage, in terms of eclec­ti­cism and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion as well as prof­itabil­ity, France -- which is of­ten cited as the third largest ex­porter of an­i­mated film -- is a prime case study.

While French fea­ture films may have smaller bud­gets than Amer­i­can movies, the coun­try has done its leg­work to tie an­i­ma­tion to its na­tional cul­tural iden­tity. In re­cent mem­ory, films such as The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales, Ernest & Ce­les­tine, The Red Tur­tle, My Life as a Zuc­chini, Zom­bil­le­nium and Fu­nan con­tinue to put the county on the map for an­i­mated movie lovers all around the world. Up­com­ing big-bud­get fea­tures such as The Grinch and Play­mo­bil: The Movie would not be pos­si­ble with­out the work of CG French stu­dios such as Mac Guff and ON An­i­ma­tion.

On the small screen, stu­dios such as Cy­ber Group, Teamto, Zag Toons, Mil­lim­ages, Gau­mont and Xilam con­tinue to pro­duce sta­teof-the-art 2D and Cg-an­i­mated se­ries that have pro­pelled an­i­ma­tion to be the coun­try’s num­ber one ex­port. An­i­mated pro­grams ac­counted for 37% of French sales with a to­tal rev­enue of nearly €76 mil­lion or U.S. $88.4 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by TV France and the Na­tional Cen­ter for TV and Cin­ema and the Mov­ing Im­age. Com­pare that to €64 mil­lion for fic­tion and €36 mil­lion in doc­u­men­taries, to­tal, and you’ll get a clear idea of the boom in TV an­i­ma­tion in the re­gion.

Ed­u­ca­tion is a key el­e­ment in how this was achieved. France has the most re­spected col­lec­tion of an­i­ma­tion schools in the world, such as Go­belins and MOPA (Supin­fo­com Ar­les), and views the pro­duc­tion of the stu­dent shorts as a means to train an­i­ma­tors to work col­lab­o­ra­tively, pre­par­ing them to trans­fer their skills right into the in­dus­try. French stu­dents also shirk the idea of mas­ter­ing one par­tic­u­lar style or tra­di­tion, mix­ing up ev­ery­thing from Dis­ney prin­ci­ples to sakuga an­ime ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, con­stantly re­fresh­ing the com­mu­nity’s stylis­tic sense of iden­tity.

Con­stant Flow of Young Tal­ent

As Ivan Rou­veure of Les Ar­ma­teurs, the stu­dio be­hind Kirikou and the Sorcer­ess and Ernest & Ce­les­tine points out, “One of the main dif­fi­cul­ties now is to find enough artists due to a full em­ploy­ment pe­riod, and for­tu­nately, we have a great net­work of schools that feed the stu­dios with new tal­ents.” Cir­cu­la­tion of fresh work­ers and per­spec­tives is key in a healthy in­dus­try.

But the en­vi­ron­ment which en­abled this is rooted in some­thing deeper than an avail­able work­force. Ac­cord­ing to the BFI, “state in­ter­ven­tion is all but es­sen­tial — es­pe­cially in the case of fea­ture films, which take the lion’s share of state un­der­writ­ing ... Dur­ing the tor­tured world trade ne­go­ti­a­tions of 1993, the Mit­ter­rand ad­min­is­tra­tion vexed its An­glo-saxon part­ners … by in­sist­ing on what it termed the ‘cul­tural ex­cep­tion.’”

France is a coun­try that val­ues the con­cept of the “au­teur,” and the gov­ern­ment gen­er­ously

do­nates money to artists and stu­dios to cre­ate work with less in­flu­ence from large cor­po­ra­tions for the sim­ple sake of art. French stu­dios may never see the mas­sive bud­gets of Hol­ly­wood fea­tures, but this ap­proach has given birth to a cav­al­cade of lauded an­i­ma­tion.

If it seems like the re­liance on pub­lic rather than pri­vate money should sti­fle the sec­tor’s com­pet­i­tive­ness, you’ll want to think twice. Ac­cord­ing to Toon Boom, “In­vest­ment in lo­cal TV an­i­ma­tion in Gaul in­creased by 68.8%in 2016…” on the heels of a tax re­bate in­crease from 20% to 30%. France is do­ing so well that they’ve ac­tu­ally shifted from out­sourc­ing back to pro­duc­ing an­i­ma­tion at home, un­heard of in most of the world.

Sup­port from the Gov­ern­ment

As Corinne Kouper, se­nior VP of de­vel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion of French stu­dio TeamTO tells us, “All of Teamto’s shows are 100% pro­duced in house. We have not ac­tu­ally out­sourced any of our work since 2008.” A healthy arts in­dus­try re­quires cir­cu­la­tion com­posed of trained an­i­ma­tors, stim­u­la­tion from the na­tional gov­ern­ment, and com­pelling re­sult- ing prod­ucts that in­vite more in­ter­est from around the world. If ever you needed an ex­am­ple to prove these prin­ci­ples, France is the prime show­case.

As of 2018, the French in­dus­try is still chug­ging along and de­liv­er­ing great work. Kouper notes, “Mighty Mike is our big pro­duc­tion this year, a 78 x 7’ dia­logue-free slap­stick com­edy. This is the first se­ries pro­duced with our pi­o­neer­ing soft­ware Rumba, de­vel­oped in house with Merce­nar­ies Engi­neer­ing and the In­ria clus­ter, which has al­lowed us to cre­ate the most ex­pres­sive and pho­to­re­al­is­tic an­i­mal char­ac­ters ever seen on TV.”

For Pierre Siss­mann, CEO of Cy­ber Group Stu­dios and a for­mer Dis­ney vet­eran who has nu­mer­ous new an­i­mated projects in the works (in­clud­ing shows as var­ied as Taffy, Gi­gan­tosaurus and Sadie Sparks at MIPCOM this year), it’s both a chal­leng­ing time and a pe­riod marked by a va­ri­ety of op­por­tu­ni­ties. In re­cent months, the stu­dio has ex­panded its de­vel­op­ment team both in Paris and the U.S., and has in­creased its fo­cus on gam­ing and new me­dia.

“For the past four years, grow­ing Cy­ber Group Stu­dios from a small French com­pany to a global player has been my pas­sion,” Siss­mann told An­i­ma­tion Magazine re­cently. “I feel that to­day’s world mar­ket gives you more op­por­tu­ni­ties than ever be­fore. All of this is thanks to the evo­lu­tion of tech­nol­ogy, the tal­ent of an­i­ma­tors and sto­ry­tellers around the world and the schools which have popped up ev­ery­where and to whom we con­trib­ute in Europe and the U.S. An­other huge fac­tor is, of course, the ex­plo­sion of new play­ers such as the SVOD plat­forms or the VR com­pa­nies which are of­fer­ing us many ways of telling more am­bi­tious, com­pre­hen­sive and im­mer­sive sto­ries.”

Trends and Touch­stones

Xilam An­i­ma­tion is an­other one of the France’s pop­u­lar TV an­i­ma­tion houses, which was founded by Marc Du Pon­tavice in 1999. “We have a lot of projects in the pipe­line,” says Mor­gann Faven­nec, exec VP of global sales de­vel­op­ment a the stu­dio. “We have re­ceived great feed­back for a new preschool show called Tiny Bad Wolf, which was pitched at Car-

want to work and what we want to pro­duce.”

The Need for Kid-friendly Plat­forms

Kouper con­sid­ers the tran­si­tion nec­es­sary, but has con­cerns as far as the plat­form’s vi­a­bil­ity as a for­mat for chil­dren. She notes, “It would be detri­men­tal to leave chil­dren at the mercy of the in­ter­net, with­out hav­ing a clear plan to cre­ate a safe, well-cu­rated, pub­lic-ser­vice plat­form just for kids.”

She adds, how­ever, that the ef­fect of France 4’s ab­sence won’t be too fraught. “We also work with many other chan­nels in France and abroad, with whom we have strong, long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ships.”

Con­sid­er­ing it was the gen­er­ous dona­tions from the French gov­ern­ment that made the an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try so lu­cra­tive in the first place, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how this af­fects those re­turns and whether more aus­ter­ity leg­is­la­tion will fol­low.

Dig­i­tal dis­tri­bu­tion in many ways will help France reach new au­di­ences, but the chaos of the in­ter­net it­self might make it more dif­fi­cult to con­tinue reach­ing child au­di­ences -- not to men­tion, those with no com­puter or smart­phone on which to watch this con­tent are out of luck. It’ll take time to see how this shakes up France’s an­i­ma­tion world.

To be sure, France’s an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try isn’t fool­proof. Like ev­ery in­dus­try, it was hit hard by the 2008 re­ces­sion. Ac­cord­ing to the BFI: “’Find­ing sources to fund a film is much harder nowa­days,’ says Marc Jous­set of Paris-based pro­duc­tion com­pany Je Suis Bien Con­tent. ‘This is es­pe­cially true of tele­vi­sion net­works, who used to con­trib­ute a lot to the bud­gets for [an­i­mated] fea­tures.’”

France has to deal with the ec­cen­tric­i­ties of gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cracy, un­pre­dictable in­vestors, and the fluc­tu­a­tions of the world mar­ket like all of us. But for now, it re­mains a coun­try whose an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try has an ar­tis­ti­cally sub­stan­tial past and present, and that ev­ery in­dus­try in the world would do well to study in seek­ing to achieve their own artis­tic and com­mer­cial suc­cess in this busi­ness of car­toons. ◆

Xilam’s Tiny Bad Wolf

‘ I feel that to­day’s world mar­ket gives you more op­por­tu­ni­ties than ever be­fore. All of this is thanks to the evo­lu­tion of tech­nol­ogy, the tal­ent of an­i­ma­tors and sto­ry­tellers around the world and the schools which have popped up ev­ery­where and to whom we con­trib­ute to in Europe and the U.S.’— Pierre Siss­mann, founder and CEO of Cy­ber Group Stu­dios

‘ While we em­brace dig­i­tal plat­forms as a rev­enue di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, we are con­cerned, as par­ents, by the dis­ap­pear­ance of a free and ad-free chan­nel, and, as pro­duc­ers, by the loss of a re­li­able fi­nanc­ing part­ner.’— Jean-bap­tiste Babin, manag­ing di­rec­tor, Mil­lim­ages

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.