Drawing a toon line

U.K. producers call on gov't for coin assist

LONDON — The British animation industry risks collapse unless the government bankrolls an investment fund to the tune of £50 million ($90 million) over eight years, according to U.K. producers group Pact.

An initial $10 million is needed to set up a rights fund that would eventually become self-supporting.

Despite producing global hits such as “Bob the Builder,” “Noddy” and “Wallace & Gromit,” Blighty’s animation sector faces an uncertain future as foreign toons are increasingly replacing locally produced fare on indigenous channels.

Last year, U.K. animation accounted for just 20% of network time given over to toons on pubcasters, according to research by media consultancy David Graham Associates.

The situation is even worse for British animation producers on the commercial children’s webs. Of the six tracked in 2003, U.K. fare accounted for just 14% of animation programming.

Statistics from Screen Digest suggest that Blighty produces only about 50 hours a year of new and re-commissioned animation, compared with 270 hours in France, 120 in Spain and 75 in Germany.

Pact claims that U.K. animation is suffering from low license fees paid by broadcasters; strong competition from U.S. and Japanese suppliers; and challenges from companies in Canada, Germany and France that have access to public subsidies and tax breaks.

Result is that many projects created in the U.K. take so long to finance that they never get greenlit. Particularly inadequate is the programming catering to the 6- to 9-year-old age group.

Producers org reckons that unless the government steps in to help, there will be negative economic consequences in the U.K., leading to a decline in fostering key animation talent and skills. This, in turn, could affect other production sectors such as interactive TV, feature film and online/computer games.

Blighty’s creative industries’ trade balance could also be damaged.

Animation, reckons Pact, should be the most global of all the U.K.’s TV production sectors as language and cultural barriers are generally not a problem.