Good news for the U.K.’s animation industry: the BBC has pledged to triple what it spends on animation for the 7–12 age group. The policy was announced by Patricia Hidalgo, director of BBC Children’s and Education, at the Manchester Animation Festival (which is running onsite and online until November 30).
The pubcaster will aim to broadcast three original British animated shows for this demographic per year; it currently airs only one. That number will start growing in around 18 months, and the BBC is now looking to acquire and pre-buy new content. Commissioning for preschool animation will stay at the same level.
Hidalgo didn’t give specific budget figures. Last year, the content budget for the channel CBBC, which targets kids aged 6–17, was £58 million (USD$78M). CBeebies, which is aimed at younger children children, got £25M ($33.8M).
Future kids’ shows will lay an emphasis on local stories. “We are British-first,” said Hidalgo, “and we want to make brilliant British animated shows with U.K. cultural values that U.K. kids can find and recognize themselves in.” Hidalgo noted that only three culturally British animated shows — Mr. Bean, Horrid Henry, and Danger Mouse — were among the age group’s most watched, alongside ten international titles.
Hidalgo cited The Amazing World of Gumball, whose production she oversaw as a former creative executive at Turner, as an example of a British-made series that is more American in its sensibilities. British animation has sometimes tried to emulate American styles and ideas, with less-than-stellar results. This is the trap Hidalgo wants to avoid: “Britishness sells, blandness doesn’t.”
In the same spirit, the BBC announced the £800,000 ($1.1M) Ignite scheme in July with a view to finding “the U.K.’s next animation hit.” Hidalgo has given an update on its progress: the 1,000-odd entries have yielded a shortlist of 40. Eventually, three projects will get pilots with a view to a full greenlight.
Earlier in the year, Hidalgo announced her intention to find the country’s answer to The Simpsons. “We could set our characters in a British setting,” she said. “When I’m talking now to some of the people I’m meeting, I’m basically saying, ‘What about roast beef instead of turkey when we have a family around the table?’ Why not infuse more of our culture? Mr. Bean is fantastic and he is so British — think of the Mini.”
Image at top: “Danger Mouse”