Television looms large over European animation. "The biggest problem in selling animation in Europe is that the market is primarily for (TV) series - 30-minute episodes," says Czech-based producer and sales agent John Riley, who has sold the work of Czech master Jan Svankmajer.
With bigger-budget Euro-animated features, sales agents need to bring buyers on board at an early stage. "The whole process takes much longer (than live-action)," says Odyssey Entertainment's Ralph Kamp, whose credits include 2005's Valiant, about a pigeon during the Second World War. "From start to finish, the actual production period is two years. If you add another six to nine months for the set-up, financing and structuring - and then the period between delivery and release - it can be three years."
Kamp acknowledges that a film like Valiant was tough to merchandise. However, the games and toys are already being prepared for another Odyssey title, Space Chimps, due for release by Fox next year. "You have to spend a lot of money in the licensing field to create a brand," Kamp says.
Still, animation can take advantage of niche markets not available to live-action features; it is well positioned to thrive in the digital download era. "It's relatively easy to place," says Sydney Neter of Amsterdam-based SND Films which sells short animation for downloads to mobile phones as well as on the internet and to TV stations.
Michael Werner, of Sweden's NonStop Sales notes that European animation has begun to sell in Asia for the first time. "Traditional Scandinavian animation used to be difficult in some territories, but what's now happening with the new computer graphic animation is that Asia - which has always been very difficult for European animation - is waking up and showing more interest," Werner says.