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Tooning in to change

Animation competish/confab spots trends

ROME — The Amalfi-coast town of Positano is tooning up to host the ninth Cartoons on the Bay event, the international competitive festival for animated TV series.

Fest, set up by Italian pubcaster RAI and helmed since its inception by Alfio Bastiancich, opens with the world preem of Dec Entertainment’s feature “Inspector Gadget.”

Forty titles from 10 countries will vie for the Pulcinella awards in eight categories while 150 programs from 20 countries will showcase out of competition.

Bastiancich sees a fest that has closely reflected the revolutionary changes in animation over the past nine years.

“Since DreamWorks, Fox, Warner and independent animation production have risen, animation is no longer a Disney monopoly,” he says. “We have constantly seen new forms and that public response has grown. People have dropped their prejudices and see that animation is no longer only for kids.”

This year’s edition, which runs April 27-May 1, reflects the newest and developing trends in animation including the growth in sitcoms for all ages, including adults.

Also notable are changes to programming for 4- to 8-year- olds that, he says, stem from a “new language for making cartoons” mixing the CGI technology usually reserved for the bigscreen and the return of stop motion.

Another trend is the skewing of cartoons for each sex, highlighted in the action and adventure category for pre-teen auds ages 8-to-12.

“There is a clear distinction in product for boys and girls. Girls’ cartoons show girls that are strong, capable and able to resolve problems alone, even foiling boys, like in the popular series ‘Winx Club,’ whereas those for their male counterparts are more action oriented.”

Among action and adventure titles are Disney Channel’s “American Dragon: Jake Long,” Nickelodeon’s “The Last Airbender” and Warner Bros. Animation’s “Xiaolin Showdown,” which compete against Italo and France titles.

Titles and companies in the pre-school category include Spain’s Neptuno Films with “Dougie in Disguise” and the U.K.’s Astley Baker Davies with “Peppa Pig” as well as Ocon from South Korea with “Dibo the Gift Dinosaur.”

The children’s category has two U.S. entries — “My life as a Teenage Robot” (Nickelodeon) and “Brandy & Mr. Whiskers” (Walt Disney Television Animation).

In the all audiences category Cartoon Network’s “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy” and “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” will compete.

The remaining categories are: educational and social programs, pilots of TV series, TV specials and short films, in which Pixar’s “Boundin’ ” is up for a prize.

Fest is spotlighting India and South Korea. “We are curious to see if Indian animation will follow Bollywood and maintain a stance geared toward local product and tastes, or if it will branch out to an international audience,” Bastiancich says.

South Korea has more than 100 studios that tend to produce for European and U.S. studios and have not ventured out independently.

Studio of the year honor goes to the U.K.’s Aardman Animations and to Italian studio Rainbow, creators of “Winx Club.”