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British animation needs more investment, say thought leaders

Leading execs from Magic Light, Blue-zoo, Coolabi, Acamar and Aardman discuss how to ensure the UK industry continues to pave the way in animation.

In a keynote discussion at Brand Licensing Europe yesterday (October 2) entitled Story board: The Best of British Animation, leading execs across UK animation called for more funding to ensure the industry remained a mark of excellence.

Highlighting ways to encourage new talent into the industry, Sean Clarke, md at Aardman Animations, explained: “We need a system where entrepreneurial producers can have support, whether that’s money or advice, to be able to build brands or intellectual property in the UK and bring the money back into the country.”

The panel agreed that while advancements were being made in terms of investment, more needed to be done. Michael Rose, joint md, Magic Light Pictures, added: “I think the Young Audiences Content Fund is a fantastic thing for bringing new content to the public service children’s broadcasters.

“I do think it would be great if there was some mechanism to come where there could be backing for entrepreneurship or for new IP creation, so that British producers could retain rights and keep that in this country. Because I think it’s the foundation of what we’re calling the success story of British animation.”

It was also suggested that the need for continuing support went back to education.

Mikael Shields, ceo at Acamar Films, said: “There’s a political discourse that values technical and vocational skills significantly more highly than arts and creativity and I think that’s problematic. They’re both valuable, we need them both. We need the most talented people streaming into these two disciplines to be encouraged and supported to deliver excellence.

“And beyond the education itself, there is just this contrarian, eccentric, curious, grumpy spirit in Britain. People are innovating, doing things in their sheds, making things up, not taking no for an answer and making stuff happen and these two circles when they come together, create a feisty British animation industry which does feel different to Hollywood. We should celebrate that.”

When discussing the British animation industry as a whole, the panel highlighted that it was more than a brand. Oli Hyatt, md, blue-zoo Productions, commented: “It’s a mark of quality I think, that’s what I hear. Many many people have fed into our industry […] and out of that we’ve now become associated with high quality brands that sell right around the world. We can really use that as a calling card. Everyone does want to work with us.”

That indicator of excellence can be also be leveraged in trade discussions, as Allison Watkins, director, global consumer products and TV distribution, Coolabi, continued: “I think that works from a business to business point of view. Once we get into people’s homes, a child in Milan watching Bing or The Clangers doesn’t realise where it’s come from, they just know that they enjoy it. So I don’t necessarily agree that British animation is a brand. But I do agree that when speaking commercially, it’s definitely seen as a mark of quality and a level of expectation.”

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