Running Sept. 18 – 21, this year’s fully in-person Cartoon Forum co-production pitch session will build on pre-pandemic attendance numbers, welcoming 290 buyers, among them nearly two dozen first-time participants, while introducing unseen players into the mix.
Alongside the commissioners, producers, and broadcasters that have made up Cartoon Forum’s traditional base, this year’s bustling edition will host a growing delegation of publishers hungry for fecund I.P. and niche streamers filling in the gaps left by Amazon and Netflix, who will not make the trip to Toulouse in France.
“We’re opening up to a new generation,” says Cartoon Media director Annick Maes. “We’ll have [more than] 20 companies that have never attended Cartoon before, which should make for a very interesting event. How will they pitch? What will they produce? What will they bring [to the mix]?”
Among those new to the mix is Ubisoft Film and Television, a subsidiary of the video game powerhouse bringing the original property “Starpets” to Toulouse. Described as an absurdist space comedy targeting a Y.A. audience, the 3D series comes courtesy of French funnyman Eric Judor (“Wrong Cops”) and “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” director Stéphane Berla. Indeed, the project’s older skewing demo and previous pedigree both reflect themes that will echo throughout Cartoon Forum this year.
Maes tells Variety that a number of the forum’s new participants are in fact new to the animation field itself, pointing towards doc projects like “Grandpa & Grandma Made the Revolution,” which comes from war journalist Sophie Nivelle-Cardinale, and the historical series “The Forgotten Women of the Père Lachaise,” which spins off a popular Instagram account.
“We have a certain number of producers who come from fiction and documentary,” says Maes. “And we see them track towards animation to tell their stories with greater ease. [For us] that brings in so much richness, so many new inputs and new collaborations, which will be very interesting to follow.”
Unsurprisingly, of the 76 animated offerings presented at this year’s forum, most target children and most stem from French producers – but all the while the project statistics reveal some subtle shifts. Pre-school content has dipped from previous years, while Young Adult fare has notched upward. And while French studios have a hand in 32 of the selected projects, the program reveals the growing impact of the Irish, Belgian and Nordic industries, which all bring several projects to the table.
This edition will even see a number of Ukrainian projects, which include a series spin-off the fantasy film “Mavka,” and the kid-skewing comedy “Monsterberry Jam.”
“[Expanding our scope] is an ongoing process, and a very important one,” says Maes. “But Cartoon Forum will always remain the [leading] forum for co-production, and thus a kind of window to the future, showing what’s coming next.”