Paris-based TeamTO – one of Europe’s leading kids’ entertainment companies – is investing in new IP projects to broaden its global reach, while pioneering green production techniques that have set the standard for the French animation sector.
The company, with a capacity of up to 700 staff, has developed a high-end production pipeline, primarily catering to kids animation series, such as the Emmy-nominated “Angelo Rules,” “Jade Armor” and “Behind the Beats,” as well as servicing third-party series, ranging from Hasbro’s “Kiya & the Kimoja Heroes” to Netflix hit “The Creature Cases,” recently nominated for an Annie award and a Kidscreen award.
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In a fast-changing market, impacted by strikes, narrowing ad revenues and cut-backs at streamers and broadcasters, TeamTO’s strategy is based on investing in high-quality IP projects and pursuing strategies to build their international brand recognition.
“When social media and channels like YouTube began there was big competition with linear TV,” says TeamTO co-founder Corinne Kouper. “But these days, they’re just complementary windows. You can have shows on YouTube in territories that are not sold to linear broadcasters. That can help you build a loyal fan base.”
TeamTO is currently in production on season two of martial arts action comedy “Jade Armor,” about a teenager, Lan Jun, who gains extraordinary powers after putting on a mysterious jade bracelet. Delivery is planned for early 2025. For both seasons, France Télévisions and SUPER RTL are coproducers and international sales are handled by APC Kids.
Season one enjoyed strong ratings and has been sold to multiple territories including ABC (Australia), SRC (Canada), Téléquébec (Canada), WildBrain (Canada), RTBF (Belgium) and DR (Denmark). Kouper says she sees major upside sales potential in Asia in particular.
U.S. rights were sold to HBO Max but Kouper says that after the merger between HBO Max and Discovery+ in 2023, the broadcast plans were revised. “We launched an English-language YouTube channel for ‘Jade Armor’ in November 2023,” explains Kouper. “We aim to build awareness of the series in territories where the show has not yet aired. We are optimistic that it will build an active fan base that will appeal to broadcasters. We think that’s a good way to start seeding the property in English-speaking territories, in particular in the U.S. The initial results are very promising.”
TeamTO is also working with Plug In Digital to launch a video game for “Jade Armor,” complemented by a global licensing and merchandizing strategy spanning games, toys, costumes, plush, publishing, stationery and promotions.
The success of TeamTO’s recent YouTube Originals/France TV show “Behind the Beats,” which clocked up almost 12 million views in its first three months, highlighted the potential of using YouTube to build a strong fan-base worldwide.
Following the scaling down of YouTube Originals, TeamTO has explored alternatives for “Behind the Beats,” and recently sold rights to RAI in Italy. “This is our first broadcast deal after its worldwide launch on YouTube Originals,” says Kouper. “We are also in discussion with other broadcasters, and will be announcing further deals soon.”
In March 2024, TeamTO plans to launch a “Behind the Beats” YouTube channel in territories not yet sold to broadcasters.
Other dedicated YouTube channels recently launched by the company include “Babar & the Adventures of Badou,” in French, and “My Knight & Me,” in English.
TeamTO is currently prepping an animation feature film, “Ninn,” for viewers aged 9+ and families, based on the comic books by Michel Darlot and Johan Pilet. Budgeted between $12 million – $20 million, the script is due to be completed in spring 2024, with delivery planned for 2026/27.
“Our studio is structured to produce high-end projects, so it’s a kind of normal evolution for us,” remarks TeamTO co-founder Guillaume Hellouin. “It’s a robust pipeline and we can handle very complex scenes, with thousands of characters and effects.”
In 2015, TeamTO produced 3D animated movie “Yellowbird” in coproduction with Haut & Court, La Cie Cinématographique, Panache Productions and Rhône Alpes Cinéma.
“After our experience with ‘Yellowbird’ we always wanted to develop more feature films,” explains Kouper. “We now have greater financing options and more cost-effective production solutions. The artwork for ‘Ninn’ is truly exceptional. The story, which follows the mysterious investigation of a girl and her tiger companion in a fantasy-laden Paris underground, is completely original.”
Another project featuring a strong female kid character is the upcoming series “Elisabeth, Princess of Versailles” adapted from a kids book series that has sold over 1.5 million copies in France to date. Elisabeth is the 11-year-old sister of France’s last king, Louis XVI, and the series will follow her adventures through the secret passages and recesses of the Palace of Versailles.
Maria Antoinette and Louis XVI, who married at the ages of 14 and 15 respectively, are secondary characters. “Elisabeth is a free-spirited girl and we want to explore her forgotten history,” explains Patricia de Wilde, TeamTO’s director of marketing and new business.
“She was extremely well educated, which was unusual back then when only boys tended to be educated. She was very good at maths and actually never wanted to marry, which as a sister of the king was unheard of.”
Kouper believes that young audiences are attracted to headstrong characters: “At first you wouldn’t think that modern viewers would have anything in common with a princess from Versailles, or a boy stuck in Ancient Greece (‘Next Level: Odyssey’), or a girl trapped in a Parisian metro with a tiger (‘Ninn’), or a martial arts superhero battling villains (‘Jade Armor’), but they all are kids with the same sensibilities, abilities and outlooks.”
Other projects in development include “Next Level: Odyssey” and preschool show “What’s Up Eesha,” both in development with French broadcasters.
In addition to strengthening the global reach of its IP projects, TeamTO has been a trailblazer in terms of eco-conscious production.
In December 2022, the studio moved into a brand new 2,700 square-meter (29,063 square-foot) studio facility in the Bastille district in Paris, that has enabled it to cut its carbon footprint to 63% below traditional facilities.
The studio belongs to the prestigious Coq Vert community, a movement of entrepreneurs launched in 2020 by the French public investment bank Bpifrance.
“We didn’t just achieve Coq Vert accreditation,” beams Hellouin. “We got the equivalent of Premier League status in the Coq Vert community, which means we’re the leader of the pack. Because we produced the first carbon footprint calculator for the animation industry over 12 years ago and recently we launched the second version, in conjunction with the animation producers association AnimFrance, which is called the ‘carbulator’ and is available online in five languages.”
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