Animation is a dynamic sector which is flourishing and rapidly changing in terms of technology and audiences. It is a concrete example of collaboration, innovation and creativity. It is an industry which opens up great opportunities to the animators but at the same time financial limitations often lead to technological weaknesses and consequently, less competitiveness in the market. These aspects are presented below in an interview by our colleague from the European Coordination of Independent Producers (CEPI) with Philippe Alessandri; Philippe is Chairman of Animation Europe, the pan European Association which includes animation producer association within the EU, also active member in CEPI.
Liana Digka: How has digital innovation improved the quality of animated series and permitted to relocate production in Europe by increasing the productivity of the animation studios?
Philippe Alessandri: In the 90s, when I had my first contact with Animation, Asia was the place where the animation work was sub-contracted because of the low-cost services. The production was based on traditional means such as hand drawing and camera shooting. At that time, two French companies invented a digital system in order to produce animation electronically. It took 10 years for this technique to be completely accurate and to get enough well-trained artists to use it. With this technique the productivity increased and European production companies became more competitive vis-à-vis the Asian ones. This production optimisation combined with the tax incentives adopted by some European governments made it affordable to relocate production in Europe.
LD: Which is the necessity of public support in order to boost the new digital developments in Animation?
PA: The public support at national and European level is very important for such a dynamic sector exposed to the competition of the US studios. This support can take different forms such as funding or networking. As far as digital innovation is concerned, there are two techniques that are going to change the future of Animation in the next 5-10 years. The first one is the Virtual Reality, where the viewers can interact with animated characters in a CGI environment, individually or collectively. There is already a demand for content for this new form of animation. The second one is any digital tool which is going to improve the production quality and efficiency (like automatic dubbing, hyper-realistic CGI characters or real time animation tools). In that field, Artificial Intelligence could substantially reduce the work that is done manually now and save man power. All these innovations are developed by some Animation companies in Europe. The rest of the companies are not aware and can’t benefit from the new technologies. The creation of platforms and networks may facilitate the cooperation among the European companies and the financial support will incentivize the studios to accelerate their research and development efforts.
LD: What digital skills are necessary in the animation sector? Do the universities provide the right background for new-comers?
PA: The training is good in many European countries. There is a gap of course between university and the real professional life. There is a possibility to reduce it by coordinating with the Universities and adapt their courses to the market needs. Training of professionals is also important as the technology is changing so fast. Ideally, each professional shall have access every 10 years or so to a trainee session to learn how to use the new software.
LD: The animation Sector benefits form the Creative Europe Programme but many new producers/start-ups do not get a chance to get funding from the Creative Europe programme. How could Digital Innovation in the Animation sector be better developed in the future via other funding programme such as HORIZON 2020?
PA: Horizon 2020 programme could certainly be beneficial for the Animation producers. Studios limit themselves in research and development. They have limited resources and if they knew that there is the possibility to get financially supported they might increase their research and development efforts.
Philippe ALESSANDRI is the CEO and owner of Watch Next Media which he founded in 2015 to produce animation and fiction TV series after leaving his position as CEO of Zodiak’s subsidiaries Marathon and Tele Images. He is Chairman of the French animation producers’ Association (SPFA) and the Chairman of Animation Europe, the federation of animation producers Associations within the EU. Having graduated from Sciences Po and Sorbonne in Paris, Philippe ALESSANDRI, 47, has been working in production for over 20 years. He started as a Production Manager at SABAN and MARATHON (1994-1998). At the end of 1998, he joined the group TELE IMAGES as Head of children programs. In 2002, he created a daughter company, TELE IMAGES KIDS, of which he became CEO in 2005 and a shareholder in 2009.