You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toons in transition

Variety Junior 2011

Czech and Eastern European animation was once a hit across Europe, providing a more soulful — and vastly more affordable — alternative to U.S.-made fare.

The picture is far less clear these days, say acquisitions folk from Western European networks, mainly because EU nations have stepped up to the plate with smart, appealing and quirky characters and stories.

Cartoon Forum, in its 21st edition this year, is the place to witness the rise of independent European animation production. The co-production session brings more than 700 producers and buyers together each fall, meeting this year in Sopot, Poland.

Sponsored by the European Commission’s Media program, the nonprofit event, part of the larger Cartoon Support Network, is credited with getting over 400 projects produced, mainly TV series. It’s also pushed the growth of homegrown product in Europe, which has largely broken down the once-sacred assumption that Hollywood animation is all the content that continental viewers ever need.

Cartoon Forum general director Marc Vandeweyer, who says animation is still considered too often the “poor relation” of the European audio-visual sector, adds this area has also shown the most impressive growth of any genre since the Media org was founded. Continued EU support, especially for creating distrib networks, will be essential, he argues, because European animators now face tough competition from the likes of Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar and Warners.

Still, it’s encouraging, says Vandeweyer, that in the past year Polish auds reached some 600,000 for regionally produced toons such as “The True Story of Puss ‘n Boots” and “Sunshine Barry and the Disco Worms.”

Cartoon Forum participants such as Jean-Loeck van Kollenburg, a buyer for Dutch channels Z@pp/ Z@ppelin, are currently favoring the work of shingles such as the Dutch Telescreen and U.K./French Millimages, who have sold him on series such as “Conni” and “64 Zoo Lane.”

Czech toons have a “rich traditional style,” van Kollenburg fondly recollects, but most of the distribs supplying his viewers these days are Western European, Canadian or Australian — and sometimes still American.

Some international co-productions we acquire might have Czech production partners,” he says. “I don’t always know exactly, to be honest.”

Laurence Blaevoet, who scouts new animation for Canal Plus France, says five-to-20-minute adventures and comedy are the hot tickets these days — an area where traditional Eastern European producers have fallen behind.

“Most toon material from the former East bloc is “not adapted to the international audience,” she says. “It’s too edgy.”

Better bets for the French major are recent buys such as “Masha & Michka” from Est Ouest Production/Animaccord of France. Then again, “Log Jam” from Studio Baestart of Hungary, was a good investment too, says Blaevoet.

Czechs, meanwhile, continue to focus on animation, which now forms an increasingly significant part of feature film output — the Czech/Slovak/German graphic novel adaptation “Alois Nebel,” a dark story of a haunted train station agent shot in arty black-and-white rotoscope, turned heads at this year’s Venice fest.

And celebrated surrealist Jan Svankmajer continues to turn out his unique hand-wrought animation as well, preeming “Insects” this year, a pic that interweaves Karel Capek characters and winged crawlies.

Neither, for better or worse, is likely to hit French or British TV screens on any Saturday morning soon.

Blasts from past power int’l kids sales | Books and toys aren’t fail-safe TV fodder | Kids animation making bigger international play | Toons in transition | Pop go the platforms | Disney Junior acing frosh year | DQE seizes opportunity

in Indian animation biz | Shingle dabbles in ‘Baby’ babble | Argentina teen fare evolves in post-Cris Morena era

More Film

  • Australia' s Oscar contender BuoyancyC

    Rod Rathjen on Why Human Trafficking Tale 'Buoyancy' Had to be Made as Fiction

    Australian Rod Rathjen’s first film as director, “Buoyancy” is a powerful dramatization of human trafficking within Thailand’s offshore fishing fleet. Shot largely in Khmer and Thai, and selected as Australia’s foreign-language Oscar contender, it may also be a role model for cultural sensitivity and activism. The film plays this week in competition at the International [...]

  • Bong Joon Ho Talks 'Parasite' on

    'Parasite' Director Bong Joon Ho Makes Late Night Debut Following Three Globe Nominations

    “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho sat down for his first U.S. late-night appearance on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” Monday night. The director, who received best director and best original screenplay Globen Globe nominations with co-writer Han Jin Won, plus a best foreign language nod Monday morning, did not give much away about the film’s [...]

  • The Cold Blue

    Erik Nelson Wants to Preserve the Past With 'The Cold Blue' World War II Documentary

    Erik Nelson describes his documentary “The Cold Blue” as “the garage band of movies” — he didn’t have the large team or crew other documentary contenders have. “The Cold Blue” is a World War II documentary that looks at raids and B-17 bombing missions that took place during the war. Nelson’s team looked at 34 [...]

  • Ray Manzarek

    Film News Roundup: Concert-Documentary 'The Doors: Break on Thru' Set for February

    In today’s film news roundup, one-night showings of a Ray Manzarek tribute and the season premiere of “Doctor Who” have been set for 2020, and the MPAA hires a copyright expert. ONE-NIGHT SHOWINGS The Doors and Trafalgar Releasing are teaming on the worldwide Feb. 12 release of “The Doors: Break on Thru – A Celebration [...]

  • Richard Jewell

    Warner Bros. Hits Back at Atlanta Paper Over 'Richard Jewell' Legal Threat

    Warner Bros. is standing behind “Richard Jewell,” the Clint Eastwood drama that is the source of controversy over its portrayal of a female journalist trading sex for scoops. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent a legal threat to the filmmakers on Monday asking them to include a disclaimer noting that the film took dramatic license. In a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content