With a record attendance of 1,064 participants from 40 countries, Cartoon Forum’s last edition confirmed the current momentum of European animation. The 80 animated series from 19 countries included in the line-up offer a deep reflection on the times we live in, addressing central issues and the changes our society is going through. After two special editions due to the health crisis, Cartoon Forum has solidified its place as a leading pitching event for animation series, presented by both well-known production companies and newcomers in the industry.

The city of Toulouse warmly welcomed the participants on September 19 with a regional tasting experience at the quaint Marché Victor Hugo. The event was inaugurated the following day with welcoming speeches by Francis Grass - Deputy Mayor in charge of Culture of the City of Toulouse -, Serge Regourd - President of Culture Commission of the Occitanie Region -, and Maria Peña Mateos - CEO of ICEX Spain Trade and Investments - in representation of this edition’s guest country.

The pitching sessions followed over a three-days period, in which the projects were presented to an audience made up of broadcasters, dis­trib­u­tors, investors, producers, streamers, publishers, and video-game companies, among other professionals. Of the 282 registered buyers, 13% were attending the event for the first time, confirming the interest Cartoon Forum arouses among decision makers in the sector.

Shortlisted from 137 submissions, the series have a total budget of 367.2 M€ with an average cost of 4.5 M€ per series. In total, the projects represent 473 hours of new content. France led the selection with 37 projects, followed by Spain with 8, while Ireland and Germany were represented with 6 each. Italy participated with 5 projects, Poland with 3, and Belgium and Denmark with 2 each. Austria, Croatia, Finland, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Serbia, and Sweden were represented with one work each.

Series targeting children - from pre-schoolers to 11-year-old - and families stay the main focus of European animation. While 85% of this year's selected projects target these audiences, the remaining 15% is broken down into young adults/adults (11%) and teenagers (4%).

The number of participants was almost evenly distributed between women (541) and men (523), while 54% of the projects was pitched by men, 26% by women, and the remaining 20% by mixed teams.

Animation in motion

This year's selection highlights some of the trends in current animation production in Europe. Theme-wise, raising awareness about climate change and environmental challenges continue to gain visibility in the plots of animated series. "Aquaworld" (Les Films de l'Arlequin - FR) , "The Last Whale Singer" (Telescope Animation - DE), "The Tinies" (MIAM ! animation - FR), "Welcome to Permacity" (Milimages - FR), and "The Song of the Storms" (Sacrebleu Productions - FR), are some of the projects addressing these issues.

Other projects such as "My Superhero Husband" (Funny Tales / The Alphabet Initiative Agency - GR / DE) and "Maddie + Triggs" (Turnip + Duck - IE) focus on diversity and inclusion issues.

Also noteworthy in this year's selection is the large number of projects conceived from a female perspective and starring strong female characters such as "Billie and the Rockets" (Caribara Production - FR), "Bootyboo and the Mutants" (Paraiso Production - FR), "Firsts" (TV ON Producciones - ES), "Shepherdess Warriors" (Vivement Lundi ! / L'Incroyable Studio - FR), "Spaghetti Sisters" (Sixteen South - IE), and "Vanja's World" (Fabian&Fred - DE) - to name a few.

Financially supported by pubcasters, the production of series for pre-school audiences remains strong in Europe. This is a key target audience regarding the conveyance of positive values and the building of the audience of tomorrow. Twenty projects for pre-school & upper pre-school audiences were presented at the Cartoon Forum, including "BeddyByes" (JAM Media - IR), "Doopydoo" (Wiggleywoo - IR), "Gouti's Great Journey" (Parmi les Lucioles Films - FR), "Mogu & Perol" (Zephyr Animation - FR), and "Max" (Submarine - NL), "Sleepy's Dream Team" (bigchild Entertainment - DE); and "Trotro & Zaza" (Ellipsanime Productions - FR).

The production of series aimed at young adults, meanwhile, continues to grow despite the limited number of screens available for this kind of content. "Dr Bob" (Mr Loyal - FR), "Fucking Cat" (Autour de Minuit Productions - FR), "Gustave" (Dead­liners Production - FR), "Hamsters" (Haptic - BE), "Karma" (Aparte Film - RO), and "The Hall of Fail" (Ikki Films - FR) are among the selected project in this target.

Thirty of this year's projects are adaptations from comic books and books, a trend that continues to strengthen. Indeed, the 25 representatives of publishing houses attending the event underline the potential synergies between both industries. "Anuki" (Folimage - FR), "Cocobanana" (Den Siste Skilling / Knudsen Pictures - NO / DE), "Dreamland" (Dupuis Edition & Audiovisuel / Chouette Compagnie - FR), "Jack the Red" (beQ entertainment - IT), "Ki & Hi" (Drawsome Studio - FR), and "Will Moogley Ghost Agency" (Studio Pandora & Show Lab - IT), are among the adapted works presented at the event.

Top 10

The top 10 co-productions - involving at least two European countries - that attracted the greatest interest among the participants in the event were:

1. “Lisa & Kolos” - Melting Productions (FR), Andarta Pictures (FR), Squarefish (BE)

2. “Leo's Workshop” - Foliascope (FR), Curiosity Studio (IE), Aerial Contrivance Workshop (USA)

3. “Mekka Nikki” - Squarefish (BE), Dada ! Animation (FR)

4. “Louca” - Media Valley (FR), Belvision (BE)

5. “Chill out, Zeus!” - arx anima animation studio (AT), die film (DE)

6. “My Superhero Husband” - Funny Tales (GR), The Alphabet Initiative Agency (DE)

7. “Star Stable: Mistfall” - Ferly (FI), Atmosphere Media (DE)

8. “The Last Whale Singer” - Telescope Animation (DE), Big Bad Boo (Canada), Big Bad Boo Entertainment (NL)

9. “Delù from the Jungle” - Animoka Studios (IT), Nalu Animation (FR)

10. “Polka Dot Zebra” - Sygnatia (ES), Bro Cinema (PT)

Spain in the spotlight

With eight projects, Spanish animation was a leading player in this year's Cartoon Forum. In addition, this year's Spotlight was focused on Spain. This initiative seeks to internationally promote the projects, productions and services offered by the companies from the spotlighted country, as well as to encourage co-production with other countries. The Spanish delegation in Cartoon Forum was made up of some 88 delegates, including producers, broadcasters, distributors and students, among others.

Produced by companies from Catalunya, Madrid, Tenerife and Valencia, the Spanish projects pitched at this year's edition were: "Bertie's Brainwaves" (In Efecto Atlantis), "Best Friends Forever... Stranded!" (Peekaboo Animation), "Firsts" (TV ON Producciones), "Mervyn's Album" (Kick the Door Productions) y "Zoey Oceans" (Studio Kimchi), "My Brother is a T-Rez" (Mr. Klaus Animation Studios), "Polka Dot Zebra" (Sygnatia), and "The Little Orchestra" (Mago Production).

Peer recognition

Companies from Germany and Spain have been recognised with the Cartoon Tributes, given by European animation professionals in acknowledgement of the outstanding work by investors, broadcasters and producers over the previous year. Winners were voted by the professionals attending Cartoon Forum. The Investor and Producer of the Year awards went to Spanish companies GoldBee and Peekaboo Animation, respectively, while Germany's KiKA was recognised as Broadcaster of the Year. Companies from Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia were also among the finalists of Cartoon Tributes' 16th edition.

From left to right: Christophe Goldberger (GoldBee), Tina Debertin (KiKA), Sebastian Debertin (KiKA), Ivan Agenjo (Peekaboo Animation), Javier Galan (Peekaboo Animation), Annick Maes (Cartoon)

Looking into the future

Since its inception in 1990, Cartoon Forum has paved the way into the industry for new generations of producers and students from all over Europe. This year, 34 producers pitched their projects for the first time at the event.

Two of the selected projects have previously participated at Cartoon Springboard, the pitching event for young talents of European animation schools: “My Superhero Husband” (Funny Tales / The Alphabet Initiative Agency - GR / DE), and “Best Friends Forever... Stranded!” (Peekaboo Animation - ES), thus reflecting Cartoon Forum’s commitment towards nurturing young talent.

The event also featured the Coaching Programme, a training initiative aimed at animation students from local schools and from Spain, the guest country. These workshops covered topics such as the role of the producer and the keys to a successful pitching, as well as Cartoon Forum and animation industry's general dynamics, and other Cartoon initiatives to promote new talent.

Animation with local flair

Animation production remains strong in the Occitanie Region, and, as in previous editions, it took advantage of Cartoon Forum to showcase its unique approach to animation. This year, the Toulouse-based production company Xbo film presented "Marcel, Father Christmas (and the Little Pizza Delivery Boy)", a TV special project combining comedy and musical.

Cartoon Forum also participates in Les Toons Débarquent !, an initiative organised by the City and Metropole of Toulouse and the Occitanie Region to celebrate the richness of animation, particularly among younger people. Together with Cinephilae (Association of art-house cinema theatres in Occitanie Region), Les Toons Débarquent! features avant-premières, screenings, workshops and meetings with professionals and creators, including director Michel Ocelot ("The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess"), co-producer Mathieu Courtois ("Flee"), and director Amandine Fredon ("Little Nicholas").

Cartoon Forum's next edition will take place on September 18-21, 2023.