TV biz conference animates issues

One of the most important events to take place during the World Animation Celebration is the first Intl. Business Conference of Television Animation, slated to take place Tuesday and Wednesday at the DoubleTree Hotel in Pasadena. The conference will examine the production of TV animation on a global basis, providing an opportunity for independent television producers to meet with broadcasters and industry decision-makers. In addition, 20 producers will get a chance to make 10-minute presentations to executives shopping for product or co-production and/or distribution deals, while another 10 producers will screen short video presentations.

There also will be panel discussions, exploring the challenges facing independent producers. Topics will range from “Maximizing Success in the European Television Market” to “What Elements Contribute to the Success of a Popular American TV Series?”

Indie producer Laurien Towers-Gatlin, who is directing the conference, says such an event is long overdue.

“This is the first time in the U.S. that a business conference such as this has taken place,” she says. “It’s similar in spirit to the Cartoon Forum, which takes place in Europe every year, but this time, we will bring international broadcasters, distributors and producers here for a change. Our goal is to expand animation as a viable art form and programming source in the U.S. and abroad.”

Margaret Loesch, chairman and CEO of Fox Kids Networks Worldwide and a participant in the event, hopes the conference also will make a difference in examining “the product itself,” meaning “creative ideas, concepts, existing programs, and future ones. It may also help in setting up future relationships and co-productions.”

The conference also will examine co-productions, a trend industry executives expect to continue as a major force in the animation world well into the new century. “You can turn to almost every network in the animation business, or look at the syndication market, and find co-productions all over the schedule,” Schwartz says. “If you look around the world, where revenues are more limited, they have an even greater need for co-productions.”

Like most conference panelists, when asked to peer into the future, Phil Roman, president and founder of indie house Film Roman, sees the most potential for growth in animation in the international arena. “Everywhere: Asia, Latin America, Europe are all very strong right now,” Roman says. “There are a lot of other markets that are just opening up and looking for children’s products and animation.”

Loesch agrees, noting that children’s programming is one of the big three TV growth products internationally, along with news and sports. But she also feels there is still potential for animation aimed at adults. “I think that’s where the potential is, both domestically and internationally, because much of the international market has been led by the resale of American product overseas,” she says. “Having said that, adult animation is far more acceptable a medium outside this country, but there still isn’t a huge proliferation of it. So that’s where I see growth potential.”

Gabor Csupo, chairman of Klasky-Csupo Inc. and another panelist, maintains that innovative design will be another key ingredient to continued success in the worldwide industry.

“I think all aspects are important, but especially the alternative, ground-breaking style of animation,” Csupo says. “Because sooner or later, a new generation of kids will hunger for an alternative to your cutesy, round-faced, already proven formulas. And I think they are ready for a change sooner than most adults who control the industry.”

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