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U.K. Animation Industry Discusses Challenges, Prospects During Annecy Session

Some of the U.K.’s most prominent voices in animation discussed the state of the industry – especially amid the pandemic – during a session at Annecy today.

Camilla Deakin, the managing director of Lupus Films, Colin Williams, founder and creative director of Sixteen South and animation consultant Julian Scott were joined by the CEO of Jellyfish Pictures, Philip Dobree, the director of exploration and discovery at Wild Child Animation, Ken Anderson, and the BFI’s director of industry and international affairs, Neil Peplow. The panel was produced by the British Film Commission.

While the pandemic understandably has created a lot of challenges for the industry – from being able to attend markets around the world to working collaboratively in a room with colleagues – it has, for the animation industry, brought some unexpected benefits.

Deakin noted that connecting digitally meant that the streamers, for example, had more time to speak with animators. “You can have really in-depth conversations,” she said. “And I think it has made them feel more comfortable about commissioning from outside the U.S., which has worked to our benefit.”

“I also think that because everybody’s been at home watching television or streaming content, they really need the content that stands out,” Deakin added.

Williams found that although it was easier to get in front of buyers, however, decisions weren’t necessarily being made at a faster pace. “In those first few months of the pandemic, I felt like everything was happening and it was so much easier and faster to get real quality time with buyers and broadcasters,” he said. “And that was wonderful. But what I think it has shown for us is that while you can get to talk to people, decisions aren’t necessarily made faster.”

The discussion also touched on the practicalities of animation, with Anderson pointing out that service work can be more profitable than developing IP. “I think the reality for any producer and a studio, I should say, is service work,” he said. “It’s a real risk to relying solely on your own content because of the vagaries of the domestic and international marketplace.”

And despite the fact that Anderson pointed out that many producers had pivoted to animation because live-action content had been stymied during the initial stages of the pandemic, there was also a discussion of how animation is often considered an afterthought when compared with live action.

“It’s a struggle to persuade financiers to put money into adult animation,” Deakin admitted. “There’s still this misconception that animation is a genre. It’s not, it’s a technique. We can tell stories like anyone else can, it’s just as valid as live action drama. And we’re always slightly the poor relation. You know, if you go to award ceremonies or try to raise money for your films, if it’s aimed at an adult audience, you know, somehow they’re always trying to push you into the kids  or the family category.”

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