Last year, Spain was the guest country at France’s Annecy Festival, the world’s biggest animation meet. Spain ranks as the fifth-largest animated feature producer in the world, making 28 movies over 2010-14, when its animated pics sold more tickets outside Spain (11.3 million) than France (8.6 million) did.
Wracked by economic recession, Spain’s TV animation sector is something of a different story. Its main broadcasters aired close to 2,400 hours in 2009 and under 500 hours in 2013, per Focus on Animation, a European Audiovisual Observatory report. The study suggests the economic crisis, which halved TV advertising, and shows migrating to niche channels for children could be reasons.
Ambitious emerging market companies have bought up top players: Since 2014, Anima Kitchent has formed part of Latin America’s best-known animation house, Mexico’s Anima Estudios. And Imira is a top company at India’s Toonz Media Group.
“It’s a difficult situation,” says Victor Lopez, CEO of Anima Kitchent. “Broadcasters do not see much advertising business in kids’ content. Our financing model is very different from France’s or Canada’s — based on subsidies — or the U.K.’s or Germany’s — driven by tax breaks. We have to drive into international markets.”
At MipTV, Anima Kitchent offers “Piny, Pinypon, Institute of New York,” co-produced with toys company Famosa, and comedy “Cleo Telerin,” on which Kitchent has just closed a co-production deal with Mexican TV giant Televisa.
Imira Ent. CEO Sergi Reitg agrees: 90% of Imira sales come from outside Spain. That said, “In Spain, usually companies’ participation in international projects is well below what it should be since they can’t contribute with enough finance, even if they’ve created and developed the property,” he adds.
At MipTV, production-sales house Imira is pushing live-action/toon hybrid “Jamillah & Aladdin” — with a second season in production — plus 26 new segs of creepy sitcom “Bat Pat,” and short-format slapstick comedy “Dummysaurs.”
But Spanish companies are looking to markets beyond Europe: the U.S. and China. Spain’s Ilion Animation Studios is producing a 3D tentpole animated feature for Paramount Animation. A China-Spain project was announced on March 5 — “Bikes the Movie,” directed by Manuel Javier Garcia (“Tombatossals, la leyenda”) and co-produced by Valencia’s Animation Bikes AIE and Chinese conglom CVC Group. Sources claim four unannounced co-productions with China, approved by that government.
Carlos Biern, CEO of BRB Intl., hopes new 15% tax credits (rising to 35% in the Canary Islands) for international productions that use Spanish animation/vfx will energize companies. The other new front is technology, he adds.
BRB is one of Europe’s main aggregators for cartoons on YouTube since last summer, when it launched a YouTube channel to promote and share content from BRB’s own animakids.com.
“In most European countries, children spend many more hours on YouTube than watching TV channels. BRB digital channels register 40 (million)-60 million views a month,” Biern says.
“The market is reactivating because of platforms such as Netflix and others that will soon appear,” Reitg says.
“We don’t think of content without transmedia storytelling possibilities. However, this reduces the investment in content just for TV,” Lopez points out.
BRB, a tech leader in Spain, is developing virtual reality projects. At MipTV, it is pushing not only “Filly Funtasia,” an equine coming-of-age fantasy-adventure co-produced with Hong Kong’s Dracco, which is generating two TV spin-off features, but also “Invizimals” — according to BRB, the first transmedia show featuring “augmented reality” onscreen.
Per producer David Matamoros, a regular moderator at Europe’s Cartoon Forum, “the hottest territory now is vidgames, VR developers, new technologies.”
A report by the Spanish Videogame Development lobby projects Spain’s video game the sector’s revenues will rise from €313.7 million ($349 million) in 2013 to €723 million ($802 million) in 2017.
“It’s a startup sector, people are dispersed,” Matamoros says. “But in Barcelona, for instance, there are many first-rate vidgame creators and developers.”