News reports: Charlie Chalk – M.E.D.I.A. 92

Charlie Chalk

Charlie Chalk.

Charlie Chalk is a new series by Ivor Wood, creator of Postman Pat. There are thirteen episodes of stop-frame animation which are gentle and humorous, set to appeal to young audiences worldwide. It was broadcast on BBC 1 earlier this year.

The happy-go-lucky clown, Charlie Chalk, sets off on a fishing trip in his little boat. He falls asleep and when he wakes, he finds himself drifting towards an uncharted island. Called Merrytwit, it is inhabited by a group of eccentric characters and that is where Charlie’s adventures begin. The stories were written by Jocelyn Stevenson, with music and lyrics by Mike Redway. The director of animation was Derek Mogford; and the series created, designed and produced by Ivor Wood

M.E.D.I.A. 92 – Europe gets animated

In preparation for the European Open Market of 1992 the Commission of the European Communities M.E.D.I.A. Programme has been renamed “M.E.D.I.A. 92”.

One of its many roles is to promote European animation.

M.E.D.I.A. 92 will promote the national audiovisual industries throughout Europe and its first step has been to set up a number of committees to look into various aspects of distribution, production, training and finance. In October 1988 they published the first issue of a bi-monthly newsletter called MEDIA 92 with the aim of providing up to date information on all the developments. The following article was published in MEDIA 92 under the heading “Europe gets animated!

The European cartoon industry is dying. Faced with an onslaught of American and Japanese productions, the Association European du Film d’Animation is determined to save an
industry which is firmly based on Europe’s artistic tradition.

60% of cartoons shown on European television are not home-grown. Cartoons like Goldorak mass-produced by computer, are cutting out quality European productions; and the rentals offered by distributors are hopelessly low. An American film produces an 80% return in the U.S., but a European film sold throughout the twelve member States only covers 30% of its production costs. These figures alone illustrate the problem facing a sector which is of major cultural value. Only by co-operating at a European level, can a balance be found between the demands of the market place and the needs to preserve the cultural and artistic traditions of the European animated film. A rescue operation was launched by the Belgian Animated Film Committee in October 1987 at the initiative of the French Community of Belgium.

This operation was brought to the attention of some fifty professionals meeting at the Brussels Cartoon Festival. Every E.C. country apart from Luxemburg was represented. Writers, directors, distributors, the small production houses, and the big studios, were all there. On 17th February, 50 people signed the statutes: the Association European du Film d’Animation (A.E.F.A.) was born.

An international association under Belgian law, the A.E.F.A.‘s objectives are to promote animated films, bring together people in the industry, develop publishing, set up training and retraining, and seek public finance. There is no limit to the number of members, and each country can appoint up to three people (one with a vote) to the Board of Directors. Also on the board will be a delegate from the M.E.D.I.A. 92 Programme and from any other public body which financially supports the association’s activities (at present the French Community of Belgium). A provisional Board of Directors was elected at the second A.G.M. at Annecy.

A new board will be elected in 1989 when committees have been set up in all the E.C. countries (and possibly in other European countries; membership is also open to them). Those committees will represent their national membership at the A.G.M. The future project directors will join the permanent office.

At the meeting in Brussels in February 1988, five working groups were asked to come up with projects for developing and promoting animated films. Of the ten proposed schemes, six were chosen by the A.G.M. at Annecy in June. Those projects will cover: setting up an information centre, a studios network, a studio, developing a dialogue with television companies, a public awareness campaign, pre-production help, and training.

Work has already begun on the information and documentation centre at A.E.F.A.‘s office on Brussels. A data bank is being set up in collaboration with the Canary Isles Provincial Administration who will input the data. It will have information on productions, personnel, technical data (colouring prices, availability of celluloid, etc.) legal and tax advice, logistical help, particularly concerning contact with distributors.

How can quality films be quickly and cheaply produced? By means of a standard structure for studios. The objective here is to co-operate over big contracts, making them more efficient and spreading their workload over the year. A common structure implies the need for technical standardisation in cartoon making and a common European price structure.

To produce at lowest possible cost is one thing. But the selling price has to be right. The association aims to start a dialogue with broadcasters and will discuss the possibilities of specific quotas for cartoons and a standard European label. This promotional effort will be rounded off with a press campaign to increase awareness of the problems facing the cartoon industry.

A.E.F.A. will come up with a logo and intends to set up pre-production aids, including a pilot production (a one minute demo tape, essential when looking for backing). Projects which the association helps must be totally European (especially the making of the film) and preference will be given to small producers. The criteria for the projects were to be decided upon on the 8th October 1988, at the same time as the establishment of a selection committee. This will include an equal number of directors and producers. Some European productions were already being proposed at Annecy, notably a series on pollution in Europe throughout the ages. Last but by no means least, the Association envisages training seminars for cartoon professionals and the setting up of a European cartoon training studio. Some European countries have no training facilities in this area and there is a great need for education in innovative technologies. The Association is also seeking to collaborate with other projects within the M.E.D.I.A. 92 Programme, in particular with EURO AIM, BABEL and the Investment Club in the area of leading edge technologies.

Printed in Animator Issue 25 (Summer 1989)