September 24, 2004
This year, the Television Animation Conference made its Ottawa debut—a conference-within-a-festival that puts together production companies, broadcasters, and the people who are trying to get their productions seen and heard.

The focus yesterday morning was on the American market—certainly not the only market in the world, but easily the most significant right now. There were, of course, plenty of clips: the most interesting being those for Cat Scratch (welcome back, Doug TenNapel; we've missed you since Earthworm Jim and the Neverhood computer game) and Avatar, both from Nickelodeon, and Spike TV's Afro Samurai. I love these kinds of confabs because they're tremendously encouraging for those of us trying to break into the TV animation business—not the least because they help you focus your story and your pitch.

The most interesting overall trend I saw was the ongoing broadening of the market. Spike TV, in aiming at animation for men, is increasing the sex and violence quotient, which helps to reinforce the notion that animation doesn't stop being acceptable after you're a teenager. (Though admittedly the content is still more or less adolescent.) Meanwhile, KidsWB is not only looking at creating more cartoons for girls, but creating more cartoons with "dual-gender" characters—that is, boys and girls who exhibit some characteristics we usually assign to each other's gender.

Avatar, by the way, looks awesome. The teaser and the preproduction art point to a show that's full of action and comedy, and some great design and animation work. One interesting thing I didn't notice until after the clips is that no characters actually hit anyone; all the action is through spells and evasive martial arts. But it's done so well you don't notice or care.

Later on I caught the screening of Nausicaa, which was truly a joy to watch on the big screen. I've seen the movie many times on video, but never as it was originally meant to be seen. It's amazing that a twenty-year-old film can still be fresher than the stuff that came out last year.

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