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Cartoon Forum gets back to normal

Annick Maes

Annick Maes, general director of Cartoon, is giving this year’s edition of Cartoon Forum the subtitle “back to normal.” Because even though the Toulouse-based market did return as a physical event last year, after the coronavirus pandemic forced the 2020 version online, 2021 was still marred by Covid-related restrictions and the inability of many people to travel.

Cartoon Forum welcomed 1,015 participants last year, 885 of which attended in person with the remainder joining online. This year, 1,023 people are registered to attend in person at the time of writing in early September. That figure not only beats 2021’s turnout but also 2019’s record number of attendees, and Maes expects it to increase further between time of writing and the start of the event.

The number of buyers attending the market has also increased – 202 were there in person in 2021, with a further 65 tuning in online. This year, 280 buyers are already registered at the time of writing, also breaking 2019’s record, with more expected to sign up. Of the existing 280 buyers, around 13% are newcomers to Cartoon Forum.

“This year, we have already confirmed the highest amount of participants since the beginning of Cartoon Forum, and people are still registering,” Maes says, welcoming the return of delegates from places like the US, Canada and South Korea, who were unable to travel to France in 2021.

Despite the record-breaking number of participants expected this year, Maes acknowledges that some companies still have restrictions or limits in place that prevent them from travelling. For those who still can’t get to Toulouse in 2022, Cartoon Forum is again hosting a digital version, where online-only attendees like Apple TV+ can catch-up on the pitches.

At the time of writing, 11 people are registered for the digital version, confirming the eagerness of the vast majority of the industry to get back out there in real life.

Maes plans to continue including the digital element of Cartoon Forum for the foreseeable future, as it allows delegates to catch up on pitches they may have missed while attending other pitches that clashed timewise. It also makes for stronger pitches, the exec notes, as the pre-recorded digital pitches allow producers to prepare more thoroughly for the live pitches.

Interestingly, Maes points out that, as a result of Covid and now also the economic crisis, some companies had been sending fewer staff to Cartoon Forum. The increase in the number of delegates therefore represents the attendance of more companies.

Buyers at this year’s edition include a whole host of broadcasters and streamers, including the likes of Netflix, BBC Children’s, Disney Branded Television, Paramount Kids & Family and Sandbox Kids. Additionally, 25 book publishers and 20 gaming companies are signed up at the time of writing, which Maes says shows how the animation industry is growing and building bridges with other industries.

Maes is happy to see buyers from the UK attending Cartoon Forum this year, since there will be a massive lack, once again, of British producers after the UK government decided not to participate in Creative Europe’s Media programme after Brexit. Producers from the UK can, however, pitch projects that are in coproduction with other European prodcos, which Maes encourages.

“It is not easy for UK producers at the moment and Cartoon is pushing them to do more coproductions with the rest of Europe. I know people are working on it and I have even already received a request for a UK/Polish coproduction for next year,” the exec says.

“Whether this will change depends on the negotiations between the UK and the Media programme, and we are underlining the importance to Creative Europe’s Media programme that we hope there will be a solution.”

Conversely to the UK, Spain has a big presence at Cartoon Forum this year, as the event’s Spotlight country. Eight of the projects being pitched come from Spain, which is second only to France in terms of numbers. The country was chosen as the Spotlight country, according to Maes, due to its “enormous evolution” in animation.

Explaining that “animation is a clear reflection of the times of today,” Maes highlights subjects like war, ecology, diversity and gender issues as some of the key themes explored in 2022’s Cartoon Forum projects. There will be, for sure, a variety of interesting and thought-provoking programmes for delegates to enjoy as they prepare to get ‘back to normal.’

“We are a little bit euphoric still,” says Maes. “As it was during the summertime, when everybody was happy to be at festivals and to be outside, that is the feeling we have at Cartoon Forum. We’re happy to see each other again, without masks and with no social distancing.

“One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve heard is, ‘Will we have meals together again?’ So that’s another thing people are looking forward to.”


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