Toon biz needs TLC

Heyward sez U.S. animation need gov't help

DIC Entertainment chairman Andrew Heyward Wednesday urged the animation industry to lobby for legislation to even the global playing field during a keynote address at the 8th World Animation Celebration.

Heyward, speaking before an assembley of animation industry professionals in Hollywood, said, “While it was once true that it was relatively easy for U.S. producers to sell animation abroad, the governments of other Western nations — individually and collectively — have taken steps to counteract this.”

With a combination of quotas limiting the broadcast of imported series, tax incentives and cash subsidies, the governments of Europe, Canada and Australia support their homegrown animation industries and their producers, writers, artists and craftspeople, he told the audience.

“Our government,” the animation vet pointed out, “is the richest country in the world and yet we are the only Western country that does not support its animation artists. U.S. producers and artists are expected to compete in a worldwide market.”

Heyward’s remarks are part of a growing chorus of calls from Hollywood producers for Washington to intervene on behalf of the U.S. film and TV industry and stem the tide of runaway production to Canada, Australia and elsewhere.

Asked why Congress should be interested in supporting producers, Heyward insisted that it’s not producers who need such legislation, but rather production people whose jobs are leaving the country. He further stated that tax incentives in other industries are needed as well.

Jobs at stake

Unless something is done on behalf of the animation business, Heyward argued, Hollywood players will abandon or scale back their TV animation because the revenues cartoons generate cannot justify the economics of large overheads and production costs.

The festival launched Tuesday night with a world premiere of the Warner Bros. live-action/animated pic “Osmosis Jones.” (See story, page 52.)

Wednesday featured four panels on different aspects of the TV animation business, including a round table called Made in America/Made in India, Korea and Japan. Participants included Film Roman’s Mike Wolf, Sunbow’s Ken Olshansky and CartoonNetworks’ Linda Simensky.

The festival, co-sponsored by Animation Magazine and Variety and takes place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and the Egyptian Theater, continues through Sunday evening. More than 15,000 attendees are expected for the six-day event.