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DreamWorks keeps an eye on European animation

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DreamWorks keeps an eye on European animation

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What are the Americans looking for at Cartoon Movie? Shelly Page, Head of International Outreach for DreamWorks Animation, speaks to Euronews.

Cartoon Movie is Europe’s biggest event for pitching animated feature films to prospective buyers. This year’s edition welcomed over 800 participants from 41 countries. The event also caught the eye of American animation juggernaut DreamWorks Animation and their Head of International Outreach Shelley Page.

Page began her career as a London-based illustrator before her move into animation as a graphic designer under industry legend Richard Williams. She went on to become Head of Backgrounds at Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation Studio which would eventually go on to become DreamWorks Animation.

Her work with DreamWorks includes hugely successful film series like “Shrek”, “Kung Fu Panda”, “Madagascar”, “How to Train Your Dragon” and many more.

Wolfgang Spindler, Euronews: Two busy days, did you buy something? Did you see something? How did you spend your money?

Shelley Page, DreamWorks Animation: I thought it was really interesting this year, there were so many more adult projects. Every year there seem to be more of those. This year, I think there are a couple of projects which are going to be huge. For example from Cartoon Saloon, the Wolfwalkers project was extremely beautiful and the pitch was great. And I am also looking for slightly unusual projects with unusual characters that are not, sort of, talking animals but may be for a slightly more adult audience

Wolfgang Spindler, Euronews: So, what did you find?

Shelley Page, DreamWorks Animation: I loved the Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtels, it’s very specific but just a beautiful project. I actually loved a smaller film from Ireland, the “Little Caribou”, I thought the animation was absolutely stunning and a very touching story set in the Arctic. So, those two are on my list to watch out for, for sure.

Wolfgang Spindler, Euronews: What does it mean when you say they are on your list to watch out for? What would be the result? What could be the result?

Shelley Page, DreamWorks Animation: It’s not really about a collaboration, it’s more to be aware of where the strongest talents are right now in Europe in terms of director, in terms of art direction and in terms of storytelling – and to see what the trends are. I think it’s very important for a US Company to have a very global vision and this is a wonderful event to see a wide variety of different themes.

Wolfgang Spindler, Euronews: What does this mean in real life? You go home and you tell your boss: ‘Oh, I have seen those Europeans, they are doing this’, we as DreamWorks we should also go in this direction’ or ‘we should not go in this direction because it’s already done by the Europeans’? What is the result?

Shelley Page, DreamWorks Animation: It’s not really so much that, it’s more a question of saying: ‘Here is a project we should be aware of, here is a director who has shown enormous promise’. A good example is Arthur de Pins who is working on Zombillenium, who is someone I have known since he was a student and I have been watching his career grow and grow and grow and he is now producing this wonderful movie and that’s the kind of project I would make sure that DreamWorks is aware of. Maybe we screen it when it comes out, these kind of things.

What’s really interesting to me personally is, that European projects can be made of extremely high quality with wonderful storytelling and great direction and artistic quality for a very limited budgets by comparison. And I think this is the interesting thing that our movies are all very big budget but I think there is definitely a place for movies that are made more economically that reach a very specific audience. At the same time there are audiences for very big budget productions that have a global appeal. So, I think there is room for all of them.

Wolfgang Spindler, Euronews: But don’t you think that European productions like Ma vie de courgette could do better if they had a better marketing strategy, a better distribution and release strategy?

Shelley Page, DreamWorks Animation: I don’t think that’s the case because I think the smaller budget gives them the opportunity to tell a slightly different sort of story. I mean there are themes in “Ma vie de courgette” which are quite dark which would not really work for a mainstream American audience, even so the film is for a young audience. So I think you have to know your niche, you have to know where there is an audience but what I see are international productions, co-productions which have found a wider audience and I think that’s growing a lot and I think this is really the trend that I am seeing here this week.

Wolfgang Spindler, Euronews: Thank you very much.