ANIMATION/The Relaunch of Made in Italy Cartoons

Cartoon Italia is the association set up at the end of the 1990s with the aim of supporting, promoting and safeguarding the interests of the associated animation companies in Italy and abroad. There are 18 associated production companies.
The theatrical and television animation sector in Italy employs around 3,000 people including freelancers, and has an average annual turnover of over € 100 million.
Together with Anne-Sophie Vanhollebeke, President of the association and Alfio Bastiancich, the Institutional Relations Manager, we take stock of the state of the art of the sector after the enactment of the decrees implementing the new Film Law (Law no. 220 dated 14/11/2016) which introduced new instruments to sup- port cinema and audiovisuals, making available guaranteed resources of € 400 million per year.

September was a key month for Italian animation, essentially the implementation phase of the Law was completed. What changes for animation and how can these new rules contribute to the growth of the sector?
Alfio Bastiancich: the lengthy work of collaboration with the ministry during which the intrinsic potential of animation emerged, starting with its international vocation and universal audience, resulted in the recognition of Made in Italy cartoons. The new rules assign around € 6.5 million a year to this sector to finance new productions. As we have always maintained, this will not only help the growth of the production companies but also that of the young talents who will no longer be forced to go abroad but will find employment more easily in Italy.
In addition to these contributions, the 30% tax credit increase for international co-productions will help us compete on an equal footing with our European counterparts who are often our co-production partners. But funding on its own is not enough: a system of new rules governing the relations between producers, TV and OTT will also be necessary, starting with investment commitments that help create more stable structural conditions.

Since January 2016 the “Cartoon Italia” Association has been a member of ANICA, the association that represents the Italian cinema and audiovisual industries in relations with institutions and in trade union negotiations. Considering the journey you have taken, are you satisfied with this collaboration agreement?
Anne-Sophie Vanhollebeke: is collaboration, which began in 2015 even before we formally joined, has become even more consolidated over time. We are grateful to ANICA and its president Francesco Rutelli for the consideration demonstrated towards animation.
The involvement in the working tables for the Film Law, the organization of the missions to China, the ongoing collaboration between our associations every time there is an action aimed at safeguarding the entire sector on a European level as well, have borne excellent results and demonstrate that creating a system is the right way forward. In fact, in this sense there has also been a pro table collaboration with ASIFA Italia, the association that represents Italian animation creators and professionals.

There is still work to be done on some points such as de ning the gure of the independent producer which, until now, has meant anyone who is not controlled by or linked to a broadcaster or who, for a period of three years, has not devoted at least 90% of his or her production to just one broadcaster. This definition does not t in well with our domestic situation where Rai is practically the only investor in the production of animated television series. What is your position on this?
AB: With regard to this point we are working on the text of the legislative decree which will soon be presented to the Cabinet. We expressed our perplexities about the first draft mainly because it still contains the criterion regarding the destination of previous productions for the identification of an independent producer. This could strongly penalize the animation sector as it does not take into account the current market context.
Despite the fact that Italy has a large number of themed channels for children, most of these limit themselves to purchasing finished products abroad. is certainly costs less but it is only by investing in projects that the audiovisual industry can continue to exist and grow.

What is the situation with regard to the observance of the investment and programming quotas by the private television networks?
ASV: Not a lot has changed to date; many television networks have requested dispensations. With ANICA we have brought an appeal for annulment to the Regional Administrative Court. But we are confident because the Film Law itself allows for this quota system to be changed.
Our proposals were partly acknowledged in the draft of the reform legislative decree that will impose more stringent obligations on the broadcasters and more suitable sanctions.
This is a very important aspect for us. The new Film Law supports the whole sector including animation, but for the growth of our section it is necessary to unblock this almost monopolistic situation in which just one broadcaster, RAI, invests in independent production whilst the investments of the other networks are completely marginal, especially with regard to children’s programming.
Unless all the operators (SVOD, VOD, OTT, broadcasters) who offer content in Italy and make a profit from the same start to reinvest part of these profits in Italy, there cannot be true growth in our market. For this reason, apart from the planned investment quota, it is important for it to be unequivocally established that the majority of this quota be destined for co-production or pre-purchasing, and that a sub-quota be introduced for children’s educational animation works.

Rai does not appear to have any intention of investing in the animation film sector. However with the new law there is finally also a fund for project development. Will this offer a chance to relaunch the production of animated features?
ASV: We hope that the success in Venice and in movie theaters of the Neapolitan feature lm “Cinderella the Cat” will drive the whole sector and restore con dence to all Italian investors.
AB: There are some parts of the Italian film industry that still consider animation to be a marginal genre. Just like television series, animated features, whether they are aimed at an audience of children or adults, also have considerable national and international market potential. Naturally, it is a question of giving them the chance to develop. We are convinced that the incentives offered by the new Film Law will permit this and we will do our best to make sure it happens.

Nella sezione: Focus on italy