New animation shops use Web to test mature series

Wacky, rowdy, sexy, manic, irreverent and fast-paced, Barcelona’s new generation of toonsters are reinventing formats and business models, building huge audiences with web and mobile content and then migrating to TV and film.

“Spain is a massive fan of mature animation, such as ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘South Park,’ but our TV channels have traditionally viewed Spanish animation as just for kids,” explains Raul Escolano, co-founder of pathbreaking Nikodemo, which capitalized on this market gap by launching “Calico electronico,” a Flash-based Web toon about a plump, mustachioed, street-wise antihero, in 2005. The series’ following has mushroomed from 5,000 to 5 million viewers per episode.

Nikodemo’s business model is based on free content financed by advertising, character licensing and merchandising. That has enabled the company to self-finance the E2 million ($2.9 million) “Calico electronico” TV series of 60 seven-minute episodes and prep the medieval fantasy “Almorria,” a Flash-animated series.

Yankeepay’s Vicente Arlandis believes that the 2003 victory of the left-wing political parties — which ended 23 years of rule by the center-right party — ushered in a broader commissioning mandate at pubcaster TV3 and funding body the Catalan Institute of Cultural Industries (ICIC) paving the way for supporting mature-themed animation.

Keen to cash in on cross-platform synergies generated by toons for teens, TV3 is unveiling a new breed of series such as Yankeepay’s irreverent four-minute “Clone Kid” webisodes released via TV3′s website this month It will begin airing on TV at Christmas. It was co-funded by ICIC. Consciously targeted at the international market, Arlandis attributes “Kid’s” pop counterculture style to his love of urban-hippie psychedelic vibe and the colorful baroque atmosphere of his hometown, Valencia.

Local talent is fueled by Barcelona’s prestigious film school ESCAC, whose innovative first features by former alums are produced by Escandalo Films, which has also just unveiled a slice-of-life toon series for TV3 called “Arros covat.”

New animation firms are much leaner than such established Barcelona shops as Cromosoma and Filmax, though they present interesting collaborative opportunities. Kotoc contributed 3-D sequences to Filmax features “The Hairy Tooth Fairy” and “Donkey Xote,” for example, “because (such work) unhooks our imagination,” explains Kotoc co-founder Freddy Cordoba. Kotoc is now prepping “The Extras,” a 13-episode, 26-minute animation series for adult auds.

“Barcelona is very inspiring because of its multicultural atmosphere and abundant talent,” explains Germany’s Peter Keydel, co-founder of Magoproduction, based in Barcelona and Dusseldorf. Shingle unveiled international animation co-productions “Dr. W” and “Flying Squirrels” at the Cartoon Forum, which ran Sept. 22-25 — the next testing grounds for Barcelona’s tyro toon talent.

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