MADRID — In a milestone move, Imira Entertainment, one of Spain’s biggest animation companies, is linking to Catalan public broadcaster Televisió de Catalunya (TVC), Imira parent Toonz Media Group in India and Irish animation studio Telegael for the co-production and global distribution of “Mondo Yan,” the production partners announced Thursday.
The move comes as new Imira CEO Paul Robinson, a former senior executive at Disney and NBCUniversal, implements the first moves in Imira’s new growth strategy, much centered on a drive into production.
A 52-part, CGI 12-minute-episode action comedy series, “Mondo Yan” targets 5-8 gender neutral audiences. It features the adventures of three unlikely and awkward heroes – Xia, a brave Samurai leader; April, a sweet, sensitive animal lover; Pai, a clumsy, erratic rodent.
The trio is entrusted with the mission of saving humanity and maintaining the harmony of nature, despite the fiendish designs of a dastardly underworld villain and his band of fortunately less-than-intelligent misfit mutant monsters.
TVC’s main channel TV3 is handling “Mondo Yan” development, design and pre-production, Toonz Media Group physical production, Telegael post-production. Beyond co-producing, Imira Entertainment will represent its global distribution. L.A.-based kids writer David Lewman, a screenwriter on “3rd Rock from the Sun,” “3-South,” “George of the Jungle” and “Kick Buttowski” and story editor on the latter two series, is on board as a script editor across the 52 episodes.
“Pure entertainment and classic animation, ‘Mondo Yan’ turns on the daily problems kids face in a humorous tongue-in-cheek way. Its common thread is making kids laugh at ludicrous and slightly crazy situations where, however much squashing goes on, no one gets hurt,” Robinson said.
Beyond the isolated case of 2013’s “Bat Pat,” “Mondo Yan” is the first production launched by Imira since 2009’s flagship production “Lucky Fred,” and the first put into production under Robinson. He plans for “Mondo Yan” to be “part of a strategy of developing a strong slate of co-productions,” “working closer with our parent” and “being a destination for family content.”
Distributing a catalog of over 150 title and above 3,000 half-hours of animation and live action, Imira will certainly not abandon its traditional role of acquiring animation content for global distribution, where it is a dominant sales force in Spain and Latin America especially. For Robinson, however, reasons abound for the new drive into production.
“Working with other people produces better results. We can bring in expertise from other organizations, broadcasters, partners, which is always good,” he said
Also, Robinson added, “Imira wants to control more of content’s value, which gives us more potential upside.”
“‘Mondo Yan’ attracted us because of its episode format, and the quality of its animation and, above all, its contents: Comedic adventure series dovetails very well with the content line of our channel,” said Daniel López, TV3 head of children’s TV, who produces for TV3 with Elisabeth Méndez and Xavi Romero.
“Mondo Yan’s” announcement also reflects the state of both Spanish financing for TV animation and world market demand.
Spanish animation plunged from 62.3% of toon programming on main Spanish channels in 2009 to just 13.1% of program hours on dedicated kids channels by 2013, according to a European Audiovisual Observatory study.
At TV3, animation co-production finance has at least stabilized: Currently producing 10 projects targeting different demographies and focusing on different themes, “for some years now,” TV3 average annual investment has been around €1.2 million ($1.4 million) to €1.5 million ($1.75 million) “depending on the rhythms of productions,” Lopez said.
Meanwhile, global demand for animation has swelled. For OTT platforms, it’s an anti-churn factor: Parents think twice before canceling kids’ favorite shows, Robinson noted.
Animation is also “a good public face for a brand: Wholesome, education, with storytelling and creativity which has families watching together,” he added.
So currently, there is huge competition from the world’s production sector to meet higher demand: Producers at Annecy were worrying this year as last about a potential peak animation crunch.
One strategy, employed by deeper-pocketed companies, is to raise not only volume but production values, attempting to stand out in the pack. Netflix series sneak peeked at Annecy, such as Andy Coyle’s upcoming fantasy-laced “Hilda” – shot in palettes and lighting at one moment warm and composed, and at another dark and sinister – underscore the artistic ambition of the U.S. streaming giant.
“Standards continue to rise. We have to keep on improving,” Robinson argued.
“Mondo Yan” will boast multiple backgrounds, which pushes up production values and costs. The series has also gone through an extensive development period “to create two eye-catching worlds which act as the backdrop to the series,” the co-producers said in a statement Thursday.
They have also worked intensively to develop the characters’ personalities and relationships, in order to turn up the comedy and inject large doses of fun and freshness, to enhance kids’ audience engagement, they added.
Part of the Geneva-based Comcraft Group, Toonz Media Group’s business spans IP creation, production, distribution and rights exploitation, digital and gaming content, and licensing and merchandising, as well as training. It has co-produced with Walt Disney, Turner, Nickelodeon, Sony, Universal, BBC and Paramount.
A pioneer, claiming India’s first 2D animated TV series, first 2D feature film, and first 3D stereoscopic theatrical release, in more recent moves, it has opened Toonz New Zealand, Toonz Turkey, Toonz Gaming, and Russian kids TV channel Malish TV. It is a major supplier for Clan RTVE, the Spanish public broadcaster’s children’s channel.
Founded in 1988 by CEO Paul Cummins, the Galway-based Telegael has co-produced more than 750 hours of TV, taking in “Bubble Bath Bay,” “The Skinner Boys,” “Blinky Bill the Movie” and “Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch.” Its client list includes ZDF, Disney, Discovery Kids, France Televisions, Super-RTL, KiKA, BBC, Nickelodeon, PBS Sprout and Cartoon Network.
Pictured: Daniel López, Paul Robinson