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09-10-2019
Interview

"Is there such a thing as ‘too soon’ for toys?"

A very interesting article by Elizabeth Foster published today in Kidscreen: "Is there such a thing as "too soon" for toys"?"

Having spent almost 30 years in toy industry and working on a lot of properties related to TV content, I can only agree with the below statement of Lionel Marty:
“Usually, the master toy deal is further down the road,” says Lionel Marty, managing director of APC Kids. “But at that stage it’s harder to make adjustments on the creative side. It’s better to make those changes early on, when they’re easier to implement.”

I would however like to add a few points that seem very important to me..

First, it becomes increasingly difficult to "exist" in a world where internet platforms take away a big part of the audience from traditional TV broadcasters. Kids are spending more and more time on mobile devices and the anticipated arrival of 5G will simply amplify that trend. But there is so much on internet platform dedicated for kids, that you need to be extremely fast and flexible as a content producer and toy maker to adapt your content to your audience. Then, and only once you have built up your audience, one can start watching toys selling through…or not. There is a solution for flexibility.

Second, as described in the article, the nice animated project mentioned (“Minimecs”) was pitched last month at Cartoon Forum, meaning the trailer was probably prepared around 3 or 4 months ago. The series should be released in 2022, meaning it will follow the usual production lead-time of approximately 22 months. That requires financial planning, and as we know, “time is money”. Ideally, it would be great to be able to produce a series in much less time, without affecting the quality level (story-telling, assets production, images quality, post-production,…). There is a solution for faster delivery of content.

Third, if a series proves successful in a way that kids watch it and toys start selling well, one might want to develop Apps, VR content, video game…a movie. That is of course great and possible, under the condition that a significant investment be put in place in order to create new assets, in real time, using Unreal engine or Unity. Not only global budget will reach high amount but such additional nice developments will come late, around 3 years after initial assets of the series have been created. Which property these days can guarantee investors that it will last up to three years and still be worth the money invested? There is a solution to re-use initial assets and avoid heavy new investments.

What I have learned throughout my career in toy industry related to entertainment is that the sooner toy industry is involved in creative stages, the better. That is clearly and very well explained by Lionel Marty in Kidscreen article.

What I have learned in 2015 and 2016 when I paid attention to Unreal and Unity softwares as I was curious with the commercial potential of VR, is that there are tools available today to create content that can easily help adapt the series to the audience. The average 2 years linear process to create CGI animation seems to me somehow “obsolete” and I know a lot of people might disagree with me on this. However, who could have predicted that Kodak would one day disappear from the photography or that siderurgy would be almost vanished from industrial states like France?

In today’s world, where kids can no longer “wait” but “need” immediately what they want, it is extremely difficult to plan IP development as it has been done for years. Kids need short formats, high quality images, possibilities to play their favorites characters or stories on Apps or video games and they watch more and more content on internet platforms. Content producers need to be there and think that way from the beginning of creative process.

Real time production is the answer to today’s challenges in our industries (animation and toys).
Basically, based on ratings on TV or views on internet platform, real time production allows studios, broadcasters and toy companies to adapt to the audience by either remove a non-performing character / background or to the opposite produce more of a particular environment with a specific character if it proves successful among kids. Traditional CGI animation cannot offer the required level of flexibility and the good article of Elizabeth Foster illustrates this very important dilemma: “is there such a thing as “too soon” for toys?”.

It is exciting to see that some studios finally pay more attention to real time production. I created Big Up Studios with Julien Ramakers who comes from computer science and enjoys a unique background in technology. We provide real time solutions.

Big Up Studios will release some initial developments developed in our Belgian studio for some IP owners. We are happy to discuss with existing studio willing to partner with us and board with us “the tech train”…!

I had good meetings at Brand Licensing Europe in London last week and look forward to coming Mipcom which I will gladly attend and meet key individuals.

Big Up Studios. Happy to enjoy real time!