When Gaumont — the world’s oldest film studio — decided to expand its international operations, one of its first decisions was to purchase Gallic toon powerhouse Alphanim in 2008 and rebrand it as Gaumont Animation in 2013.
“When we decided to diversify into the production of English-language TV series, animation was our natural first step because it’s immediately international,” says Gaumont’s CEO Christophe Riandee.
“A maximum of 30% of the budget for animation series comes from France,” he says. “Animation only makes sense if it works internationally, and France has achieved incredible success in this field — it’s now one of the world’s three biggest animation production centers.”
Prior to acquisition, Gaumont Animation had already amassed a major TV animation library, including hit series such as “Robotboy,” “Galactik Football” and “Santa’s Apprentice.”
Since 2008 it has capitalized on existing assets while building international brands, complemented by new projects developed inhouse.
“We aim to become a major international producer,” explains Gaumont Animation’s managing director, Pierre Belaisch. “Our strategy is simple: Develop strong brands. We believe we have the right strengths in terms of production values, and can also combine subsidies, tax credits and regional subsidies in France that gives us a competitive edge.”
Given Gaumont’s cinema background, development of animated feature films was an inevitable development, including the adaptation of TV series “SantApprentice” into two features — “Santa’s Apprentice” (2010) and “The Christmas Snowflake” (2013) — both acquired for U.S. distribution by the Weinstein Co.
The company now aims to release one to two animated feature films per year, in a budget range of $6 million-$12 million.
In 2013, the company bought TV rights to British author Enid Blyton’s 1949 “Noddy” franchise from DreamWorks Classics and is prepping a 52 x 11-minute series for pubcaster France Television.
“We’re constantly carrying out market research on our brands” explains Belaisch. “We test what’s working, what we should improve and how the hero is perceived by viewers. In the case of ‘Noddy,’ with approval from DreamWorks and France TV, we’ve eliminated some characters and introduced others.”
Diversifying from its core kids audience, the company is also developing “Going Cuckoo,” a show for young adults for France 4, that features animals working in an office environment.
Riandee is also strengthening ties between the Los Angeles-based Gaumont Intl. Television and Gaumont Animation, thus offering new production and distribution opportunities and building stronger U.S. relationships.