CANNES — France’s TeamTO and China’s UYoung Culture & Media Co. have struck a longterm development, production and distribution alliance. The agreement, described in a press statement as a “five-series output deal, over an impressive ten years,” gives the Beijing-based UYoung, one of China’s foremost children’s entertainment production-distribution companies, the opportunity to co-develop and co-produce TeamTO shows.
UYoung has also acquired Chinese distribution rights to the series, having already picked up “Mighty Mike” and “My Knight & Me.”
“This is an excellent partnership for TeamTO,” said its president Guillaume Hellouin, who signed the deal with Clara Yang, vice president, international business, UYoung Culture & Media Co.
Hellouin added: “It gives us access to the Chinese market at the highest level. UYoung is the best children’s entertainment distributor in China, They have big shows. and are great at placing them on the best channels and platforms and also have a very strong licensing team delivering merchandising on every show they co-produce.”
“TeamTO is one of the most interesting and innovative studios in the industry today, as we know from acquiring ‘Mighty Mike’ and ‘My Knight & Me.’ We are really looking forward to working together for many years to create more shows of this extraordinary quality, humor and perfection – starting with ‘Jade Armor,’” said Yang.
A 26-part series produced by TeamTO, “Jade Armor” is a girl-superhero action-adventure comedy starring a normal teen who gains epic powers with her family’s ancient suit of Jade.
“It’s typically the kind of show which can be interesting for Chinese companies to co-produce,” said Patricia de Wilde, TeamTO’s head of marketing and new business.
She went on: “Our aim is to design shows together very upstream, creating real Chinese co-productions and real content exchange, integrating the right amount of Chinese artistic elements into the show so that they have the best chances of being successful in China, receiving real input from UYoung.”
All animation and CGI work on TeamTO productions co-produced by UYoung will still be carried out at TeamTO’s studios in France, Hellouin said. The agreement also contemplates TeamTO’s co-producing UYoung properties.
The partnership deal marks the latest growth move from TeamTO as the 13-year-old French CGI studio brings “Mighty Mike” onto the market at Mipcom and has just added Mary Bredin, former EVP of content and strategy at Canada’s Guru Studio, to its senior executive team.
With U.K.-based Cake launching sales, TeamTO will screen the first episode of “Mighty Mike” at Cannes. In the style of non-dialogue LOL pet videos, but mixing a new benchmark in photorealism with knock-about physical comedy, the comedy has Mighty Mike, an urbane pug, yearning for a sophisticated life, dabbling in Mexican cooking to impress his lady friend, a svelte poodle.
But his house’s furry intruders wreck havoc with poor Mike’s very human best-laid plans.
“Mighty Mike” will air in 2019 on Turner Kids channels such as Boomerang; Canada’s Family Channel, France Télévisions and Germany’s Super RTL will also broadcast the show.
The UYoung deal and Bredin’s appointment mark a drive to consolidate new markets – global platforms and China – while broadening potential sources of new talent for the creation of premium content at TeamTO’s renowned French studios.
Brought into TeamTO from August in the newly created position of creative development producer, Bredin’s brief is to discover and develop both talents and show concepts, as well as follow through overseeing on the scriptwriting.
Bredin brings to the task a formidable C.V. as a former director of acquisitions and programming at Disney Channel who, joining Guru studio a decade ago, helped it transition from a service and commercial studio to a high-profile producer whose shows have nagged deals with global distributors, both established and new.
Guru has acted as a production partner on U.S. pre-school hit “Paw Patrol,” in collaboration with Spinmaster and Nick Jr., “True and the Rainbow Kingdom,” for Netflix, and Mattel’s Netflix original series “Ever After High. Bredin also took an executive producer credit on Nora Twomey’s Oscar-nominated “The Breadwinner.”
“Having someone in Toronto of Mary’s caliber gives us a new take on development, it brings a vision that’s more global and more in synch with the English-speaking countries and markets,” Hellouin said.
“Mary has worked half her career in Europe and half in Canada, and worked in large international companies as well as smaller French studios. It is so perfect for us to have someone with such an incredible range of experiences and that is a great asset to us going forward,” De Wilde added.
Founded in 2005 as a boutique Paris studio by Hellouin, Corinne Kouper and Caroline Souris, TeamTO has invested heavily in R & D to deliver animation faster at more economic levels and rolled off advantageous tax breaks in France to grow its production levels, which grew tenfold at La Cartoucherie, Bourg-lès-Valance from 2008 to 2015. Beyond Paris, it has established offices in Los Angeles (2011) and Beijing (2016) as it seeks access not just to markets but a proximity to the global platforms now driving the animation business and to up-and-coming talent.
UYoung has already drawn attention co-producing Josh Selig’s Airplane Productions on pre-school comedy “P. King Duckling” – the first Chinese show aired on Disney Junior.
UYoung Media launched L.A offices in 2016, a co-production alliance last year with Belfast’s Sixteen South and earlier this year an expanded distribution, L&M and co-production deal with Sydney-based Cheeky Little Media. It has already distributed French animation shows in China, such as Xilam hits “Oggy and the Cockroaches,” “Paprika” and “If I Were an Animal.”