In Spain, politics is so ubiquitous you find it even in your soup, as the saying goes, but Catalan savvy has quietly gone about building an animation industry, irrespective of who’s in power, that is by now the envy of many European territories.

Growing in strength each year on the back of local network TV3’s longstanding investment in local TV toon series — the pubcaster ponies up approximately €3 million ($4.09 million) each year on local animation fare — Catalonia accounts for more than half of all Spain’s animated production, and is home to a vibrant production sector.

Not surprisingly perhaps, TV3 is by some margin the Spanish network that skeds most local animation.

But Catalan animation execs are quick to point out that local TV coin is just one part of the equation, and that international holds the key to success. Not only is animation a natural international fit, crossing platforms and borders with greater ease than a tourist crossing Barcelona’s traffic-heavy La Diagonal, it also needs co-production coin to get made, with the average Catalan series coming in at around $6.8 million.

Such Companies as Imira, Studio 21-BRB, Cromosoma, and Neptuno have stepped up to the plate, firmly establishing themselves over recent years in the international market as serious partners for studios and networks alike.

And at September’s Cartoon Forum in Sopot, Poland, seven Catalan projects were presented out of 11 from Spain — a figure only bettered by France and the U.K., and an indication of how much Catalonia, with just 15% of Spain’s population, punches above its weight.

BRB brand Screen 21 and Imira Entertainment are two of the biggest toon players in town.

For such execs as BRB’s executive VP Carlos Biern, part of Catalonia’s success in animation stems from its tradition in design, graphics and the arts. For Biern, Barcelona is a town bursting with talent, something increasingly recognized internationally in productions like Screen 21’s short-format “Canimals,” which scooped the Mipcom Junior Kids Jury prize for children’s animation series in 2010.

Imira CEO Sergi Reitg also stresses the vital combination of TV3 coin and local talent, noting in particular the international reputation of Catalan graphics and design in animation production. Imira’s latest production, “Lucky Fred,” co-developed with Disney and co-produced with TV3 and RAI, has already sold out pay TV rights in most territories worldwide. The 52-seg show, targeting 6- to 12-year-olds, bows in Spain in late November.

Well-positioned to take advantage of a new generation of high-tech kids armed with smart-phones and tablets, the future looks bright for Catalonia’s young toon Turks, in a sector that offers hope at a time of anemic growth and endemic unemployment.

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