Supporting the U.K. animation industry is one of the key priorities for the recently launched £7 million ($9.77 million) U.K. Global Screen Fund (UKGSF), which is being administered by the British Film Institute.
Each of the three key funding strands of the UKGSF – international business development, co-production investment, and international distribution (see separate story for details) – are accessible to animation companies.
In many ways, the ambition of the UKGSF to boost global exports of U.K. screen content and to foster international collaborations perfectly fits with the experience of the animation sector.
Often overlooked compared with its live action cousins, animation is one of the most internationally focused of the U.K.’s screen industries.
That’s very much out of necessity. At a time when animation producers can likely secure a maximum of 25% of budget for a commission from a U.K. broadcaster, companies have had to reach out internationally to secure financing for projects. Kate O’Connor, executive chair of U.K. Animation, says: “It’s in the DNA of animation sector that there are international collaborations and partnerships, and a sharing of skills and talents.”
U.K. animation firms are also successful too. Magic Light Pictures’ “The Snail and the Whale” and Blue-Zoo Animation’s “Adventures of Paddington” both took home key prizes at April’s annual Annie Awards.
Animators have also managed to carry on working during most of the pandemic, quickly switching to remote working amid high demand for content. “Most of the studios have reported being busier,” says O’Connor. “It’s been quite buoyant.”
This is echoed by Camilla Deakin, joint managing director of London studio Lupus Films, whose animation credits include adaptations of classic kids’ books “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” and “The Tiger Who Came to Tea.” “We saw a big uptick of interest in our projects, particularly from the streamers in the U.S. Everybody is needing content, and they’ve seen animation as a really useful way to feed that.”
Lupus is currently making adventure story “Kensuke’s Kingdom,” a U.K., France and Luxemburg co-production. “It’s a classic, collaborative co-production, in the grand tradition of European filmmaking,” says Deakin.
She says two aspects of the UKGSF are of particular interest to a company like Lupus. The international business development funding strand is one of them. “We’ve got good support for production in the U.K., but not so much for development. For animation, development is so important.” Deakin points out that animation development isn’t just about polishing a script, it’s about designing the characters and locations, running an animation test and creating a pitch bible. “That becomes part of how you take the film out and finance it. Traditionally, we’ve found it hard to raise those development funds.”
The co-production investment strand is also a focus. “It’ll really help us forge those useful relationships with other co-producers. In the past, we have always been a majority co-producer going out and seeking minority co-producers in other territories. But it’ll be nice if it can then work the other way as well.”