TOONS TOP EXPORT BUT BACKING THIN

This year’s Mipcom will confirm the glory and pain of Spanish animation. Though animators are the leading exporters of audiovisual product in the country, there’s likely to be far more of them wandering the Cannes Palais in search of completion financing than live-action producers at the film fest.

The pack is led by D’Ocon Films Prods, and BRB Intl. BRB’s Ignacio Olive reckons that only 10% of its revenues come from home turf.

“Children have more or less the same tastes in Madrid as Kuala Lumpur,” explains Spanish sales agent Francisco Rodriguez. “And animation hardly ever has censorship problems.”

D’Ocon founder and president Antoni D’Ocon is one of the savviest businessmen in Spain’s a/v sector. Spanning Los Angeles, Paris and London, D’Ocon’s animators create quirky characters with an ecological bent.

The company uses the inhouse (and patented) D’Oc Animation System, which allows it to produce – from concept to final copy – up to eight half-hour shows a month.

D’Ocon now plans to expand on two fronts: reinforcing the company’s brand name as a marketing tool, and entering feature animation.

“People think if a company makes a theatrical cartoon or a 60-minute TV special then it’s really arrived,” D’Ocon says.

Madrid-based BRB Intl. has specialized in animation production, worldwide distribution and merchandising (which accounts for some 40% of revenue) for 20 years. It has 14 cartoon series and seven telefilms under its belt, allowing it to sell package deals.

“We’re now planning to up productivity, from one-to-two to two-to-three series a year,” says Orive. “There are more channels creating a bigger international demand.”

BRB has also expanded its distribution catalog to include live-action programs and has opened up ancillary revenues selling video episodes of its latest series, “Mort & Phil,” with Barcelona daily El Periodico de Catalunya at newspaper kiosks.

Both D’Ocon and BRB enjoy extensive capital reserves and large international sales.

Two giants don’t make for an industry, however. Beyond D’Ocon and BRB are a pack of Spanish toonmakers, including Magic Animation, Rojo, Abra Animation, Tijuana, MB Prods. and Neptuno.

“They have great determination and creativity, but usually lack (their) own resources to cover their budgets,” says Abra’s Jose Portela. “TVE may put up 30% or 40% but, as Spain lacks subsidies for animated TV production, the rest must come from pre-sales or co-production equity abroad.

“Everyone says it’s easy to sell completed animated series. The problem is getting them financed in the first place.”

Yet series are moving forward. Portela has completed the first episode of “Alex and Alexis”; MB Prods, has tapped private completion funds for “Mimi and Mr. Bobo”; and Neptuno will tout two brand new productions at MIPTV: “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Tool Family.”

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