BBC kids chief, Patricia Hidalgo, has called for UK tax incentives to be brought into line with other countries as animation becomes harder to produce domestically.
Director of children’s & education Patricia Hidalgo, who wants to triple the number of UK-produced animation shows for 7-12s, said working with international partners has become “unavoidable” because the UK’s low tax credits make productions so expensive.
UK breaks provide up to 20% of the total production costs for an animation, compared with 35% in Ireland and 40% across other European countries and Canada, according to the former Turner exec.
“It is getting harder to make animation solely in the UK because our tax incentives are much lower than anywhere else,” she said. “We have to forge relationships with international studios because they can help align budgets with the rest of the industry. Producers also want this to happen and to be in the same playing field as the rest of the world.”
She added that improving tax incentives would help to create long-term job opportunities due to the time it takes to produce animation.
However, despite the growing dependence on international partners, Hidalgo is determined that her slate continues to champion British talent and storytelling. It is a “condition” that CBBC and CBeebies shows have this at their core, she added.
The recently commissioned 26 x 22-minute animated series Digital Girl, from French developer Cyber Group, only got a greenlight after Bristol’s A Productions came on board, for example. “I had to focus on getting a UK [stamp] on a show we really liked.”
Hidalgo revealed that the BBC has 17 animations in development, with the ambition to ensure that 80% of animations are UK originals within the next three years – up from the current 65%.
“At the beginning of the journey, there was a lot of back and forth to ensure the shows have the British sensibilities I’m looking for, but we are on track to hit our targets and in a good place.”
Additionally, she revealed that eight projects are still in the running for the £800,000 Ignite animation initiative, which was established to support unknown UK creatives. Three pilots will be ordered by the end of the year with one scoring a full commission. The remaining five, Hidalgo said, will continue to be supported.
Despite this, she hasn’t yet found the ultimate commission - a child-friendly UK version of The Simpsons.
“It’s not an easy pitch, but I hope somebody will come up with it,” she said. “If we have been so successful with pre-school shows such as Peppa Pig, there’s no reason we can’t with other age groups.”
Hidalgo is focused on building iconic British brands around the world – particularly in the 7+ category - and is seeking global partners to help as she believes the BBC must become more like a streamer.
“It needs to be the norm that instead of making content with the parameters of linear TV, we order series with the parameters of a streamer,” she said.
She wants to provide broad family entertainment, as well as more “sophisticated” streamer-like dramas.
“I’m excited by questions like how do you phase series? Do you need so many seasons? Are seasons made up of 13 episodes or six? What do you do in between series to reignite interest again in that content?,” she said.
“All platforms are still learning about the best ways to react to changing viewing habits, and these considerations will have an impact on some of our budgets and business models.”
The 2021 double series recommission of lockdown hit Malory Towers exemplifies Hidalgo’s high-stakes approach. She went with a “hunch” that the show had potential to be a fast-growing brand and ordered three series in quick succession.
“We didn’t want to leave such a gap between seasons because with so much competition, we might have lost the audience,” she said. “New brands don’t cut through like they used to, so we have to take those bets to galvanise the audience and build them up quite quickly.”
On iPlayer, three series have garnered almost 10m views in the last 12 months.
Earlier today the BBC unveiled Short Form Film’s exec Anita Burgess as commissioning editor for 7+ drama, following the departures of factual commissioning editors Michael Towner and Hugh Lawton.
Hidalgo also hinted at the imminent appointment of a commissioning editor for pre-school brands. Last week, it was revealed that an animation-focused assistant commissioner would be appointed in Northern Ireland as part of the long-running assistant commissioner scheme.
This article originally appeared on KFTVs sister site, Broadcast.