The CoPro Chronicles: Eric Rollman's Marvel(ous) keynote

By ANAND GURNANI | 21 December, 2009 - 16:29

Next up after the John Stevenson Story keynote was Marvel Animation President Eric Rollman's keynote. And in what can be termed as a double whammy, Eric too began with the line, "Story is the Glory."

Marvel has for decades dominated readers imaginations, minds and their loyalty and cult fan following. Eric shared that, "Why Marvel has been able to do so well over the last decades with over 5000 characters and is continuing to do so, is by reinventing the characters over and over for different mediums, geographies and platforms. At the end of the day it's all about the character and story."

"Marvel has been making animation since the 60s, have had a big resurgence since the 2000s, have finished 8 animated films to date." shared Rollman. He then pointed out that the focus of this particular keynote of his was on co-productions. "I have been doing co-productions since the 80s" shared Eric, "I worked on the first co-production with China, also did lots of French, Canadian and German co pros."

Sharing a list of pros and cons related to co pros, Eric shared,

First the PROS,

- Minimize financial risk
- Tax credits
- Government funds and subsidies
- Increased license fees
- Allows broadcasters to program their shows as local content
- Gives broadcaster ownership in the program
- Broadens the creative talent pool and brings objective input into the team
- Working with fun and talented people from around the globe!

"Animation is one of the businesses, where you have the most international travel and exposure", shared Rollman, and adding about how broadcast helped market the merchandise related to the shows, "We use our television shows as toys and consumer products awareness for our brands."

Talking about the link between co-productions and airtime benefits, "The more copros we do, the more broadcasting airtime we get with the copro partner country".

- Too many cooks
- Spreads the financial upside across multiple parties
- Startup time to secure funding approvals
- Limits freedom on creative staffing and production
- Longer production schedules
- Multiple approvals for key milestones
- Conflicting creative opinion

Rollman then went on to give breakups and basic structure copros, giving the examples of some of the Marvel Co-Productions he had captained. "Several years ago we did a co-pro on Fantastic Four with French company Moonscoop"

    This was the break up
    US-Development at Marvel
    France - Pre Pro & Prod at Moonscoop
    Korea- Animation
    Canada - Voice Recording
    France - Post pro & Mastering at Moonscoop…
    Domestic Distribution - Marvel
    International Distribution - Moonscoop

    Another actual co-pro example shared was

    Iron Man Armored Adventures in co-production with Method Animation

    USA - Development at Marvel
    France - Pre Prod & Post Production at Method
    INDIA - Overseas 3D Animation at DQ
    CANADA - Voice

    COPRO with First Serve Toonz and Liberation

    USA - Development at Marvel
    USA - Pre Production
    KOREA- Overseas Animation
    USA - Voice Recording
    USA - Post Production & Mastering
    This was a coproduction because of the financial involvement of Toonz & First Serve, shared Rollman.

    He then spoke about a new initiative of Marvel towards localizing of programming in key markets including India, China, Korea and Japan. "We started with Japan" shared Rollman, "which is a tough market to enter, they kind of like their own programming"

    So, hold your breath and its true, but as per what Rollman shared, Marvel actually let the Japanese reinvent the Marvel characters in their own way. In this kind of approach the structure was as follows…

    Japan - Development in Japan
    Japan - Pre production
    Japan - Animation 2d
    Japan - Voice recording
    Financed out of Japan and US

    In conclusion, Rollman shared that, "The Co-Production model for kids TV animation series is critical for survival. It's about embracing strengths and identifying weaknesses and working towards getting the best inputs from all the worlds."