Toon biz gets animated in Spain

Pocoyo recently re-upped for a second season

MADRID — Pocoyo, a chubby-cheeked toddler, blows bubbles with his friends Pato, a yellow duck, and Loula, a pink elephant who rides a scooter.

Produced by Spain’s Zinkia Ent. and Granada Intl., the pre-school CGI series has sold in 100 territories. It recently re-upped for a second season on the U.K.’s CiTV and won the top TV production award at Annecy 2006.

Of all Spain’s film and TV industry, animation is the genre forced to move with the market, since it is not protected by subsidies. And Spain’s animation armada at this week’s Mipcom mart in Cannes underscores how successfully it has done that.

In BRB’s anime “Iron Kid,” Marty confronts the normal problems of adolescence and, having donned the Fist of Eon, also confronts the Forces of Evil and sundry robot armies.

Icon’s “Lola & Virginia,” which aired Stateside on digital cable Animania this March, is a witty dissection of sometimes bitchy tween rivalry.

Bowing at Mipcom, the arresting 90-second “Imp,” again from BRB, has a maniacal Imp planning the Apocalypse. But he’s cowed by his brother Bob.

“Children grow up far quicker; language is far more sophisticated,” says Neptuno Films manager Cristina Brandner.

“TV’s a diminishing part of the viewing experience,” says BRB director of development and sales Carlos Biern.

In Spain, productions chase relatively few TV slots. Toon series cost too much to be fully financed domestically. Icon Animation CEO Sergi Reitg pre-sells 30%-40% of his series abroad. Also, he says, “straight TV revenue is falling.”

“There’s a new generation of companies that recognize that they need to keep up with the rest of European animation,” says Zinkia business development honcho Maria Doolan. “If you’re not competitive and working on multiplatform shows, it’s very hard to get your shows produced these days,” she adds.

For “Surichen School,” now airing in the U.S. on Nickelodeon, Zinkia’s launched a web community. It will shortly bow a multiplayer game connected to the site that children can play worldwide.

“‘Imp’ is designed to play on i-Pods etc.,” Biern says.

Neptuno is going one step further. On Sept. 28, it teamed with Portal Latino to launch Happy Cat, a broadband Internet kids channel targeting subscribers to Orange cell phones, Internet and IPTV services.

“There’s an awful lot of highly interesting production out there that isn’t finding many broadcast outlets,” Brandner says.

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