Manimation ’15 Report – Opening Keynote: iPlay, You Make, We Share

Posted on: Tuesday 17 November 2015 10:00pm by Kath Shackleton

Manimation 2015 opened with great excitement in the spectacular new facilities of  Home Manchester, produced in collaboration with Manchester’s new Animation Festival, hosted by Andy Wyatt head of the new animation course from Manchester Metropolitan University and Chair of the new Manimation Advisory Committee. Andy thanked the funders – MIDAS and the other partner organisations.

The aim of Manimation is a knowledge exchange event celebrating the diverse work in the region, bringing together children’s television content, VisFx, new media, games and technology with a combination of panel discussions, presentations and showcases.

Alice Web Manimation 15The Opening Keynote by Alice Webb, Director of BBC Children’s was really upbeat about the future of animation in the UK and had an exciting announcement to make!

Alice is in charge of two children’s channels (CBBC and CBeebies) and also champions the interests of children across the BBC.

Alice has been her post for less than a year, but builds on a 10 year career in media, and previous lives as a civil engineer and a management consultant.  She also lives with three discerning audience members – her three children give her plenty of feedback on content!

So – how do we keep up with the kids?  The BBC invest constantly in research into the rapidly changing ways that children are consuming content.  There are 12 million kids in the UK.  They are cheeky, bright imaginative and haven’t made up their minds yet about life.

In spite of having more access to digital than ever before, 89% of children still want to watch TV. There’s a huge take up in On Demand content, 25% comes via I-Player with over ½ a billion downloads of children’s content. Lots of children are using social media, in spite of being under the official age of using – which brings challenges to a public service broadcaster.

So what’s the BBC going to do about it? Its going to stay core to it’s public service values and roots and sustain an unwavering commitment to UK public service content which informs, educates and inspires children across genres which is reflectiveness of the diversity of the lives of UK children.  But this needs constant re-invention, they are always looking to do this in new ways.

Alice talked about the BBC’s proposed new children’s service  with the working title iPlay.  This will be a single online front door for children to all  BBC content.  This is in early stages of development and a lot will depend on the BBC Charter review, but is ambitious and exciting.

iPlay will be the on-demand platform for CBBC and CBeebies content, but also a window for children to access other age appropriate BBC content including news, sports content and live events and potentially other content from organisations such as the RSPB, the Natural History Museum or Sport England – a “public service portal”.

Children will be able to create a personalised menu, offering a safe environment for children to interact with others and also to engage in dynamic and exciting  learning and making.

Animation has a very special place in the hearts and minds of the BBC.    Alice described current times as “not quite a golden age”, but certainly a “highly buffed brass age”.

Animation brings amazing positives and just a few challenges ahead.

Alice has some big hoorays for animation in the UK!

  • Here in the UK we are fabulous at animation!
  • UK animation talent is really strong
  • The industry is sustaining itself and re-inventing old classics such as ‘The Clangers’ and ‘Danger Mouse’
  • We are great at creating new IP. Shows such as ‘Scream Street’, ‘Ra-Ra the Noisy Lion’, ‘Mouse and Mole at Christmas’, ‘Octonauts’, ‘Sarah and Duck’, ‘Boj’ and ‘Rastamouse’ are all doing really well.
  • Here in the NorthWest we build on a fabulous heritage, with the legacy of Cosgrove Hall spawning a fabulous array of new studios.
  • We don’t only make new content, but we are great at exporting it as well.  You only have to look at shows like ‘Peppa Pig’ to see this.
  • There’s lots of new young talent, with over 800 animation and media courses in the UK.  Which brings huge opportunities, but lots of work to do in skills development and sustaining new jobs.  Creative Skillset are doing brilliant work in this area.
  • The UK tax break has provided a much needed shot in the arm for the animation industry and getting new shows on CBeebies in particular.
  • There are other enterprise investment schemes which are really helping get new shows made.
  • There are more channels than ever before to share content – which can only be a good thing.

The BBC loves animation – it provides vibrant, stimulating characters and provides audiences with a blend of humour, safe jeopardy and subtle education which generates new understanding and immediacy for an audience.

The BBC remain open and interested in whole range of new ideas.  They pre-buy acquisitions at development stage and support producers throughout the production process.

In spite of all the “hoorays” there are still some challenges:

  • In spite of UK tax breaks UK producers are still struggling to finance productions.  Other territories have improved their tax break provision, so it still can be more cost effective to produce animation outside of the UK
  • Global consolidation has made it more difficult to find distributors to back more quirky content.
  • It’s great that there are new platforms for sharing content – however, people are only succeeding in monetising existing content. There is currently no established model for monetising new content.
  • There is a lack of UK broadcasters investing in UK animation content, making the BBC pretty much still the only show in town.  Competition from other channels would be a good thing.

So if you are pitching a new show idea, there’s fierce competition.  From over 1000 show ideas pitched, CBeebies have committed to just 4 of them.

However it only takes one idea – the BBC are interested in ideas which are bold, distinctive and different.  They are always looking for brilliant, big ideas with heart at the centre.  Check out what is already on the channel, but don’t pitch us a show that we already have – do your homework and really tell us why we need your show on our channel.

Alice then made an announcement of a new fund for animation!

In collaboration with BBC Worldwide, CBBC is launching a brand new animation initiative, an amazing opportunity to develop the next generation of UK animation companies.

anim8 is an open call for UK creative professionals, offering innovators the chance to pitch for funded development which the BBC hopes, in time, will lead to the creation of a range of UK animated properties that have genuine global appeal.

They are looking for new content which is original, character driven, fast-paced, funny and has great kid appeal. They are looking for compelling content that is energetic, unpredictable and up-beat with a unique take on contemporary life.

The scheme launches today (19 November), with a deadline of 22 January 2016 for initial submissions. Entrants will be taken through a “multi-stage development process” with the winning project being taken to pilot stage in April next year.

Entrants need to have a minimum of 2 broadcast, published or digital credits for commissioned work.

Here are the details taken hot off the press from the BBC website…

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Kath Shackleton

About the author

Kath Shackleton

Fettle Animation, Producer

Kath Shackleton is producer of Fettle Animation, a 2D Studio based in Marsden, near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. She set up her company with her partner Zane Whittingham, an animator with over 25 years’ experience. They produce award winning character animation for broadcast, web and digital devices. Their animated documentary… Read more