Dublin firm wins €5m BBC animation deal

Sunday, September 14, 2008  By Elaine O'Regan

Dublin production company Jam Media has secured a major broadcasting contract to produce a new €5 million BBC animation series.

The British broadcaster provided over half of the funding for the 'Badly Drawn Roy' series, which will feature a combination of live action and animation aimed at the pre-teen market.

Additional funding came from a number of Irish sources, including the Section 481 government tax incentive for film and television, Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, Irish Film Board and RTE. John Rice, managing director of Jam Media, said the series would air on RTE in early 2010, with additional deals with broadcasters worldwide also in the pipeline.

''The BBC has the UK broadcasting rights, but we will be at the Cartoon Forum in Germany later this month talking to other broadcasters internationally," he said. ''Our other series Picme and Funky Fables are both currently performing extremely well globally and we would certainly expect that Badly Drawn Roy will achieve similar success."

Rice said the funding environment in Ireland was a major advantage for animators operating here.

''Securing finance can be a difficult process," he said. ''You need your anchor broadcaster on board and then you go about securing the rest of the money.

''The big advantage with producing the series in Ireland is that you can go to the BBC, for example, and tell them that you could get between 30 and 50 per cent of the necessary funding in Ireland yourself with initiatives like Section 481, the BCI and Irish Film Board."

Principal photography work for Badly Drawn Roy began last week. The series will debut on the BBC next March.

''This is our most ambitious project so far," said Rice.

''We'll be producing the series in Ireland and contracting in 90 writers, crew, actors and animators to work on the project in addition to our own staff. We're looking at a 12week live action shoot and 30 weeks in animation production."

The BBC picked up the series following Jam's short film release of the same name in 2006.

Produced under the Frameworks Scheme with funding from RTE, the Arts Council and Irish Film Board, the original film was presented as a mock documentary about an animated character called Roy and his life as part of an ordinary live action' family in a Dublin suburb.

Rice said the format for the new BBC series had been re-jigged to appeal to a pre-teen audience.

''It was commissioned by BBC drama, which is really unusual for a kid's TV series," he said. ''The idea is that it might appeal to children on the verge of puberty who often feel kind of different - Roy is a cartoon boy living in the real world.

''Roy tries to fit with the real world around him, but how do you blend in with the crowd when you can squash and stretch, involuntarily turn blue when you're sad, green when you're jealous and produce a flock of twittering birds when you get a bump on the head?"

The new series is expected to appeal to six- to 12-year-olds, a slightly older target group than existing Jam Media series Picme and Funky Fables.

The company's original animation series Picme, first broadcast on RTE in 2004, has since sold to international broadcasters Nickelodeon and high-definition US network Animania HD.

The series began its run with another US cable network, PBS Sprout, last month. Jam's Funky Fables series began broadcasting on BBC children's channel CBBC at the start of the month. Between them, Rice said the two series had a combined international audience of over one million.

''With PBS Sprout alone, Picme has a penetration of over 50 million homes in the US," he said. ''The series is in 80 territories around the world now with Nick Junior outside the states and the two US deals."

The company plans to use the Headhunter software developed for Picme to tap into the mobile content market in Ireland and beyond.

''The idea is that mobile users will be able to take photos of themselves on their mobiles and send them to a server," said Rice. ''We can crop out the shots and send them back with a personalised live action or still background - a user's face super-imposed on a Man U player scoring the winning goal for example.

''It's amore adult-orientated idea, which we hope to launch at the end of the year for the likes of the iPhone or iTouch."

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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