As multiple production companies lay off crew, French animation studio TeamTO has announced two new hires, both central figures in the huge explosion of French animation over the last two decades, with Clélia Santi being appointed as head of production, and Judith Bruneau to the newly-created position of line producer and talent scout, TeamTO announced Tuesday, April 21.

The hires come as TeamTO production continues unabated on multiple series, even amid the COVID-19 crisis, as animation consolidates as one sector that may under exceptional circumstances meet some or all of the sanitary challenges posed by coronavirus.

Starting off as an OnEntertainment production manager on “The Little Prince” and head of production on “Peter Pan,” then working as production manager on Luc Besson’s TV series spinoff “Arthur and the Minimoys,” then at Xilam on its first first 3D project, “Oggy Oggy,” Santi will oversee day-to-day activities on TeamTO’s current development/production slate.

A VFX coordinator and producer for film, video and advertising at Duran Duboi, where she oversaw its first feature, “La Mechanique du Coeur,” produced with EuropaCorp, from 2012 Bruneau  headed up the Brussels office of “Despicable Me” and “Minions” animator Mac Guff. She returned to France to work with TeamTO as director of production on “Skylanders” Season 2 and “Ricky Zoom” Season 1, as well as Superprod’s “Les Blagues de Toto.”

Working with Santi, Bruneau will research, recruit and manage talent, overseeing the staffing needs of both TeamTO studios through pre-production, production and post-production.

Bruneau will “scout for new talent and also look to bring on animators from inside the company. One of our passions is discovering, nurturing and promoting new talent,” Guillaume Hellouin, TeamTO president, told Variety.

Santi and Bruneau take on an ever-building TeamTO slate which includes its own productions – “Presto! School of Magic,” with France’s M6 and Canal Plus, a spinoff of feature animation “House of Magic”; and “Mighty Mike” – and eOne’s “PJ Masks” and “Ricky Zoom,” and Silvergate’s Netflix series “Creature Cases,” among others.

TeamTO will soon announce a new original series production, and is in advanced negotiations to animate another new series, this time for a U.S. broadcaster, Hellouin said.

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Mighty Mike TeamTO

In preparation for the move to a new Paris studio in 2021, TeamTO researched and implemented HP RGS (Remote Graphics Software) over a Virtual Private Network, allowing it to remove open-space work stations from its current Paris studio to a remote location data center.

As Paris moved towards lockdown, it used that secured RGS technology and protocols to transition in three days from studio to work from home for its 300 Paris studio staff. Without the complication of out-housed animation to third-party facilities – all TeamTO animation is carried out in-house – TeamTO remains on deadline to deliver its current slate, Hellouin said.

“The technology is available to everyone but it’s not that easy to master it,” he added. “Some [animation] studios in France have decided to close because they don’t have the technical team able to handle it, others partially use it, but I think we are kind of an exception to have 98% of our staff working from home.”

One key is sufficient Internet bandwidth access. The HP RGS system requires bandwidths over 15 Mbps. Most TeamTO Paris animators live in the city or close suburbs so can tap into fiber optics networks. In Valence, animators are using 25 Mbps ADSL connections. Six who do not have that access continue to work at the Valence studio facility whose 500 square-meter size allows for social distancing.

“Thanks to the advent of digital platforms, the demand for animation has never been so high,” said Hellouin.

TeamTO aims to work with OTT platforms but also help to maintain robust broadcasters in Europe that commission shows with strong local appeal, fueling a diversity of content, added Patricia de Wilde, TeamTO’s head of marketing and new business .

“There’s a need to balance shows of more global interest and those of more local tastes, know-how and cultural interests. That’s a conversation that may intensify during confinement,” she added.

(Pictured, top, left to right: Judith Brunei, Guillaume Hellouin, Clélia Santi)

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Presto! School of Magic TeamTO