In order to sidestep the animation talent squeeze in Los Angeles, while at the same time establishing a production presence in Europe, Burbank-based kidvid outfit DIC Entertainment has opened a cartoon studio in Paris.

“For quite some time now, we’ve felt it was important to have a more aggressive presence in the European marketplace,” says DIC president Andy Heyward. “Since all of the broadcasters in Europe today have increasing obligations to carry European programming, it is more and more important to participate with programming that has a legitimate pedigree in the European marketplace, not just American product exported there.”

European broadcasters are required to air programming that features a large percentage of the budget spent in Europe and a large percentage of the work done in Europe.

France has the strictest European-content regulations of any nation, requiring about a third of a show’s budget to be spent in France. Heyward says product made in the new DIC shop will meet those requirements, and adds that the studio will be run and staffed by Europeans.

The goal, he says, is to produce between 50 and 150 half-hours of animation a year for the worldwide market at the Paris studio. “I think we’re going to transition a lot of our work into (the French) organization, as well,” he adds.

First up for the new toon shop is “Tex Avery Theater” (which will be distributed domestically this fall as “The Wacky World of Tex Avery”), a 52-episode series comprised of six-minute comedy shorts done in the classic squash-and-stretch style of Golden Age cartoon master Tex Avery, who is lionized in France. “You walk down the shopping streets in France and in the windows of the department stores, and you see Tex Avery blue jeans,” says Robby London, DIC’s senior VP of creative affairs.

Indeed, Avery is so hot in France that DIC has even named its Paris operation “Les Studios Tex.” “The name Tex is such a magnet over there that it was really an important vehicle for securing talent,” Heyward says.

Also in development at LST is “Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century,” an animated sci-fi/mystery series co-produced with Scottish Television.

In a sense, setting up shop in France brings DIC full circle. The company — now owned by ABC and, therefore, by its parent, Disney — began life as Paris-based DIC Audiovisuel in 1971 before relocating to Los Angeles in the early ’80s.

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