Rai Fiction has been supporting Italian animation for over 15 years, not only financially but also by following every creative aspect of the projects it finances. We talk to Luca Milano, head of marketing and animation
Our objective is twofold: on the one hand, to produce series and, as an exception, single movies, that can be easily integrated with our networks’ proposals, offering exciting and educational content for children and teenagers and, on the other, to support and consolidate the Italian animation sector, from young talents to well-established production companies. For this reason, a co-production has to have a strong editorial content, involve an Italian production company and be suitable for our networks’ schedule.
The Rai networks are doing an excellent job: from Raidue, which offers the latest episodes of the best Italian and international series, to Yoyo, which has become the leading Italian network for children, and Gulp, aimed at the more demanding audience of older kids.
Our proposals are amongst the best in Europe (around 750 hours of cartoons on the generalist networks every year, plus two themed net- works). We can say, with great satisfaction, on our own behalf as well as on the part of our Italian produWith cer and film-maker partners, that the series co-produced by Rai Fiction are successful and are some of the most watched and enjoyed by the public.
In such a fragmented television panorama, how can success be calculated?
The first indicator of the success of a cartoon series is replicability. When I see that, in ten years, the 130 episodes of Winx Club produced so far have had a total of 11,000 screenings, or that, in just three and a half years, the 52 episodes of Geronimo Stilton have already been screened 2,000 times, always with excellent viewing figures, it is evident that we are talking about successful products. And the same goes for many other titles, starting with the evergreen Pimpa.
But, along with the figures, the editorial content is also important for a public broadcaster. Our series have to help small children to develop, whilst enjoying themselves. We have to stimulate their imagination, their curiosity and their taste for beauty, illustrations and music. We have to help them learn about literature (which is why many of our series are inspired by books) and sport, we have to promote the values of tolerance, friendship, respect for nature and for others and – increasingly – to have self-confidence and not to give up in the face of difficulty, to know where to get help and to offer help where necessary. It is easy to find these messages in even our most carefree cartoons.
Considering the cost of animation products and the cultural differences that often make international co-productions difficult, do you think the latter constitute an opportunity or a necessity?
International co-productions are generally a necessity. It is difficult for a broadcaster, producers and distributors in a European country to be able to finance the production of a series on their own, with an adequate budget for making quality products. It can happen, but it is not the rule. So co-productions are inevitable. They can also become an opportunity when reliable partners are involved: Italian producers who are able to move on international markets and dependable foreign partners, better still if linked to other broadcasters right from the start. Collaboration between producers can improve a product, making it possible to find the best writers, artists, musicians and directors on an international and not just a national level.
The dialogue between broadcasters is also important. The periodic meetings we have at international events like Mip, Mifa, the Cartoon Forum, the Kidscreen summit, and so forth, are very useful not just for talking about individual projects but also for discussing common strategies for television companies that need to be constantly updated in order to keep up with changes in the market.
How much does Rai invest in international co-productions?
As you know, our total budget is 15 million Euros a year, and more than half of the biggest titles are realized as international co-productions.
The first step is to approve the estimate for each project, taking into account the dif- ferences in budget composition in different countries, and the division of the work agreed between the production companies: how much work will be carried out in Italy, the film-makers and studios involved, if there are any non-European partners and, obviously, all the technical aspects.
Our participation ranges, in general, from a minimum of 10% to a maximum of 40% of the total budget. The actual involvement of an Italian production company, which is proposing the project or is at least responsible for realizing an important part of the work, is an element that will move us towards the higher part of this range. Then, during negotiations, obviously our rights and the possibility of the commercial recovery of our investment quota are important.
Which are the new Rai Fiction titles that, although not co-produced with foreign partners, you think will have an international appeal?
To tell the truth, the production of an animated series requires such a high level of investment that foreign investment should always be sought, except perhaps for special products of civil value such as the film about Garibaldi’s expedition and the unification of Italy, or the specials dedicated to Falcone and Borsellino, or Father Pino Puglisi. We can and must also allow ourselves to make some products that are destined for an audience of Italian children and families only.
Amongst the titles to be released soon, apart from the new Winx series, an Italian series that is distributed all over the world, I think that the series about the youngJules Verne, the new season of Spike Team about girls’ volleyball and L’arte con Matì e Dada, an amusing and educational series about figurative art, are examples of Italian products that can certainly also be appreciated by other countries.