NOTE: Opinions are the author’s, and do not reflect any official position held by Cartoon North. Mike’s just a guy sharing his thoughts.
Here’s another quick peek at various Canadian animation news tidbits from around the internets.
Ottawa’s Mercury Filmworks is a quarter century old this year. That’s not the news, but it’s pretty darn cool. And any news release involving them seems to feel it’s important we know it. Congrats to the gang at Merc! Hm. You’re Gen Z.
The news release mentioning it that we’re sharing is via AWN, and it’s an announcement that they’re teaming up with French, not Canadian French, but France French, animation and VFX house Stim Studio, for the preschool series Octicorn & Friends. It’s based on a kids’ book and looks super cute.
And yes! I know the AWN article says French Canadian studio. But it’s wrong. Stim is based in Lyon. That’s super French.
Quick sidebar, the book it’s based on looks like this awesome little squiggle. Which is amazing. The show looks completely different, and super slick.
And here’s my context/commentary.
Expect to see more announcements like this. There’s no broadcaster attached. It’s a Canada/France co-production. This is the kind of news you should expect to see from studios for the foreseeable future. After the streamer implosion of the last year, and all the other drama that surrounded it in the US, and now the writer’s strike added to the mix, we won’t be seeing big announcements with broadcasters/streamers attached for a while. Prominent Canadian studios like Mercury and Jam Filled and others have been working tirelessly for the last few years on a lot of non-Canadian series (not exclusively! And yes, Merc does lots of co-pros! Don’t crucify me, I’m making generalizations). That’s over for a while. You’re going to see them shifting their attention back to Canadian broadcasters for their deals, and with that comes the co-productions. Canadian broadcasters don’t fully fund anything anymore. They haven’t for a while, license fees are a small fraction of what they once were. And while the big guys down south are skittish, we’re pivoting. Studios are taking on work that generally pays a less and gets funded through our labyrinthine system of grants, tax credits, license fees, presales, and whatever else we can scrounge up. This show looks like a pretty safe bet. Merc is a very solid company with a diamond-encrusted track record. They’ll land a broadcaster here in Canada, paying for a fraction of the overall production budget. They’ll need Stim to do the same in France, triggering whatever incentives their government provides. Maybe they’ll nab a distribution deal somewhere, but distributors don’t chip in a ton of money either. They’ll then have to break down the labour between France and Canada to maximize tax credits, which they’ll secure a loan against via one of the small number of banks in Canada that specializes in that kind of thing. The book is created by Americans, from what I can find, so the show probably won’t credit them as creators, officially. That’s a tax credit thing too.
I’m going to guess they’re hoping to secure some kind of merch deal around that time as well. Merc will probably eat some of the cost, which is the stand up thing to do, and keep their crew going during the lean time ahead. Both these companies will be working on the cheap side, so preschool makes a lot of sense. Expect snappy, pose to pose animation, and simple backgrounds. Which is all great.
And if you’re an Ottawa area animator, this is what you’ll be working on next year sometime. If all goes well.
And you’ll likely have to be Ottawa local. Ontario at the very least. You won’t see a ton of remote freelance work going to out of province artists on this. Tax credits will rule the day for upcoming productions, and those are largely provincial, even regional.
So this will be the overall circumstances that you guys should expect to see for the foreseeable future. Studios are reverting to Canadian coproduction models, funded largely by provincial tax credits. Core staff will be prioritized, and will need to be local. I expect we’ll also see some studios use this as an excuse to incentivize back to work in studio as well, which I believe is unnecessary on the whole, but concede has case specific benefits.
In other news, Quebec-based Rodeo FX just got a bunch of money from the government. Very propaganda-ish language, emphasizing the contribution to creative industries and entrepreneurship. We’re all a little sensitive about government money these days. I get it. Here’s the link.
That’s it for today folks.