June 23, 2024

What kind of animation has Europe’s next gen talent got in the hopper? Cartoon Springboard, an E.U. platform organized by Cartoon for burgeoning toon talents which kicks off today in Madrid, can supply some answers. 

Of the 24 projects to be pitched Wednesday and Thursday at Madrid’s Atheneum, a large part will be made, if financed, in 2D. At least half are from women. 

Quite a few potential standouts come from France: ”Bitches,” which won an Annecy Ciclic Prize at its MIFA Pitches; “Maestitia,” co-helmed by Merel Hamers, at Gobelins, and “Inspector, Your Pants!” from the same prestige school; “When Monsters Within,” whose key creative Pablo Alcázar studies at Valence’s La Poudrière, another venerable French animation school.   

Some directors are known values, as streaming platforms and France’s Annecy Festival turn creators into niche stars. “All Good,” for instance, is co-directed by Diego Porral, who served as animation lead on the “Kill Team Kill” episode of “Love Death + Robots.”

Most crucially, around half the titles target YA viewers. Born in the U.S. with “The Simpsons,” YA animation is now exploding in Europe. One of its major challenges is to find an international audience, as a recent Cartoon Brew article suggested. Having been at it for 35 years, the level of U.S. YA shows is formidable. 

One way to square that circle, however, may be to pitch public broadcasters over Europe looking to power up their younger-skewing digital services as they move ever more front and center to networks’ identity. 

There it may help that so many series at Cartoon Springboard this year carry a PBS-friendly social issue undertow: Whether an eco-conscience (“Azul’s Journey,” “Freshstyle,” “No Pets”) or gender focus (“Labinocle,” “My Grandmother is a Skydiver”). Social commitment, which Europe’s young creators have in buckets, may be one way forward. 

Running Oct. 24-26, Cartoon Springboard is supported by Creative Europe-Media and the Community of Madrid, the City Council of Madrid, Madrid Film Office, and ICEX, the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade. A quick breakdown of this year’s titles:

“All Good,” (Diego Porral, Joaquín Garralda, Spain)

A young adults-oriented TV comedy series, the story of a workplace burnout, directed by Porral, one of Spain’s best 2D animators, whose credits include “Love Death & Robots” and “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles.” Another Porral-Garralda project, “Leopoldo From the Bar,” played at May’s Cannes Spanish animation showcase “Revelations!”

All Good
Courtesy of Cartoon Springboard

“Azul’s Journey,” (Alin Romero, Spain)

Combining adventure, a female character and sustainability issues, the film follows the youngest among the guardian clan in an island in danger by its climatic decline. Mexican-born Romero was selected to form part of Residencias, a cinema creators’ support program by Spain’s Academia de Cine and Madrid’s City Hall.

Azul’s Journey
Courtesy of Cartoon Springboard

“BeinBuddies,”  (Quarratul Ain Saeed, Belgium)

A 13 episode, 5 minute adventure, well-being and friendship series, whose main characters are four buddies in different states of malaise. Through each other they learn to take it easier. 

Courtesy of Cartoon Springboard

“Bitches,” (Manon Tacconi, Maïté Sonnet, Camille Condemi, France)

Winner of the Ciclic Prize at Annecy’s MIFA Pitches, the adult comedy series follows two best friends from Marseille, talking about their lives as fancy girls. It adapts Tacconi’s short film “Cupid’s Bow,” broadcast by Arte. Condemi at France’s Caïmans produces.

Courtesy of Cartoon Springboard

“Chestnut Kid,” (Marta Pellicer, Spain)

Tween-oriented adventure, fantasy and friendship project set amidst a war-torn land between the Forest and the Wildfire, following a little boy born of the Guardian Tree from a chestnut. 

“Digiman,” (Leo Neumann, Franz Rügamer, Germany)

Sci-fi comedy web series kicking-off with the of human genomes warped by smartphone radiation to the point that their bearers were born with the properties of smartphone brands. Rügamer studies at Ludwigsburg’s Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg.

Courtesy of Cartoon Springboard

“The Fast Way,” (Javier Moratil­la Heras, Spain)

Olivia works for an invention company, where she’s feted daily. Green with envy, her coworker Drew sets out to dampen her accomplishments and will stop at nothing until she’s knocked down a peg at work and in her everyday dealings. Key creative Isabel­la Car­oli­na Hernán­dez Vignola lends her skill to the family comedy series featuring 30 episodes. A project from Madrid’s U-Tad. 

“The Foreign Brother,” (Szon­ja Eckert, Hungary)

An extraterrestrial family adopts a child from decaying planet earth who’s afraid to give up his spacesuit helmet in fear of dying without it. This causes tension with his future brother, already reluctant of the arrangement, until an accident evokes sympathy and the two form a lasting bond. The tween-focused series is a concept from the Budapest Metropolitan University, with eight 25 minute episodes.

“Freshstyle,” (Lucie Pradeau, Camille Hummel, France)

Three frog friends who rap on the edge of a drying pond, where social inequalities rise as fast as temperatures. A 2D animation by Angouleme’s Emca alumni.

Courtesy of Cartoon Springboard

“The Giant Bombardone,” (Mar­co Raffaelli, Italy)

From an original work by Elena Sorrentino, the series follows a young emperor who rules over a mystical forest where logic is abandoned. Its serenity is shaken when the Mother of the Emperor arrives, setting off events that reveal the identity of the Giant Bombardone, a creature who terrorized the ruler. The droll episodic has been created at Turin’s Centro Sperimentale Di Cinematografia, aimed at ages 6-9. 

“Illogical Adult World,” (Iryna Harkavets, Ukraine)

An adventure, friendship and inclusion series for teenagers, inviting viewers on a comedic journey with a blue lion, a devil-boy and a shy girl in a fish suit. Together they dive into a bizarre universe where adult life is full of absurdity and unconventional rules. 

“Inspector, Your Pants!,” (Nawel Bahamou, France)

From prestigious Paris-based school Gobelins, Bahamou creates this action comedy for young adults about a 40-year old asthmatic inspector, convinced that his wife’s disappearance wasn’t an accident and refusing to wear trousers until he gets her back. He finally discovers, however, that she was a complete stranger to him.

“Labinocle,” (Link Dapoigny, Belgium)

From Brussels’ school La Cambre, the series narrates the story of a 22 year old trasgender man attending a unique art school located in a mysterious mansion lost in nature, where students can develop their own artistic identity. 

“Maestitia,” (Merel Hamers, Valentin Maupin, France)

Produced by Maupin at Avec ou Sans Vous, it is created by Gobelins’ Haters, co-director of “Thaba Ye,” which won the 2023 Yugo BAFTA Student film animation prize. A Dutch folklore-inspired historical drama-musical about overcoming life’s injustices and resisting the temptation to exact revenge. Stien, a 15 year old woman, aims to be a renowned sculptor like her adoptive mother, Truus. But Truus is accused of witchcraft for creating the Basilisk, which turns people into stone with its deadly stare. Stien faces the challenge of defeating the monster.

“Mong / My Grandmother is a Skydiver,” (Polina Piddubna, Ukraine)

An animated documentary anthology web series on marginalized communities worldwide. “My Grandmother” focuses on a time-jumping story where a granddaughter, experiencing the invasion of Ukraine, has a phone call from her young grandmother, who is living her best and most peaceful years in 1960s’ Tajikistan. Piddubna studies at Germany’s Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf in Potsdam. 

“Moon Wars,” (Paula Ruiz, Spain)

Sisters Seh Lin and Mei Lin, descendants of a dead Goddess, team up with other rulers of Luna to fend off evil-doing enemies, the Umbra. All’s at risk as the supernatural peers fight to preserve their continent. Paula Ruiz from Madrid’s Light Box Academy directs this 30-episode, 20-minute YA drama, with visual creative Alejandra Luque contributing to a TV series that centers friendship and fantasy.

“New Wave,” (Fay Ori­on Antar, Ireland)

Spirited teen Indigo dreams of becoming a famous director and escaping her rural town. She spends her days alongside creative best friends, Margot and Jack, as they revel in their passions and grow into their unique identities. The tween TV series is produced by Shauna Cullen at Ireland’s Jam Media and directed by Fay Ori­on Antar of Dublin’s IADT, with 52, 11-minute episodes.

“No Pets!,” (Davide Veca, Italy)

Luc avoids defying his family’s no pet rule by caring for insects and fauna. Enamored, he keeps his pals safe until they return to natural habitats. Created by Ivana Muri­an­ni and Alice Gam­bara, the educational series focuses on sustainability. For kids 5+, the 26 episodes are directed by Davide Veca, set up at Milan’s Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and produced by Boris Bertolini at Italy’s Nuvole & Strisce.

“Shaman Therapy,” (Pauline Pinçon, Samuel de Ceccatty, Manon Ardis­son, France)

A project from Lyon’s ATRE-Ecole des Artes du Spectacle, the 10-episode YA fantasy TV series “dives into uncharted landscapes of the human mind.” The comedy follows former psychology student Adele who hones her latent shamanic abilities and joins quirky best friend Rodrigo and an enigmatic bat spirit named Ella on a subconscious adventure to seek and destroy trauma crystals.

“Silence Sometimes,” (Álvaro Rob­les, Spain)

Targeting YA and adult audiences, the feature film from the Instituto de Cine de Madrid focuses on Silvia who’s unable to use her voice. Anything she comes in contact with suffers the same fate. She retreats to live a solitary life until meeting musician Marco, who’ll challenge her stability. The female-led fantasy is produced by Mireia Vilanove at Cartuna.

Silence Sometimes
Courtesy of Cartoon Springboard

“Skatebugs,” (Daniele Zen, Italy)

Gaia city skateboards that possess lifesaving superpowers mingle with the challenges of puberty in this insect-led comedy series for kids 6-9. The bugs battle it out with metal-loving termites and the robot-slug Smog on their action-packed adventures. Created by Ver­nante Pallotti, the 20-episode series is produced by Andrea Zin­go­ni at T-Rex Digimation, a project from Milan’s Civica Scuola di Cinema Luchino Visconti.

“Soul for a Hot Dog,” (Myra Hild, Denmark)

In this YA web series, a small town hot dog stand lures customers to bet their souls for a free meal. A hungover young Tobbe will get closer to the action than anyone else and unravel the vendor’s manipulative ploy, at high-risk. A project from The Animation Workshop and Viborg’s VIA University, the eight episodes deal with lore and well-being.

“When Monsters Whither,” ( Adrián Mon­fer­rer, France)

Selected as one of five finalists at 2023’s Sony Talent League, the 90-minute comedy places sentiments on display as teenage Hugo is forced to confront his simmering angst while caring for his little brother Nico, who comes equipped with his own set of budding frustrations. Key creative Pablo Alcázar contributesd to the project from Valence’s La Poudrière.

“Zinnia, the Moonlight & Starfish,” (Heleen Portheine)

Billed as an “animated magical coming-of-age adventure,” the series follows Zinnia who comes from a long line of moon fishers. Seeking a career outside of her familial obligation, she’ll travel alongside her two best friends to magical lands in search of her dreams. The character-driven episodic aims for the 6-9 demographic.

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