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Spanish YouTuber Rubén Doblas, aka El Rubius, has become one of the world’s most popular gaming personalities online, with more than 28.6 million subscribers on YouTube, 11.4 million Twitter followers and 7.9 million fans on Instagram. Now he’s becoming an action hero in his own anime series, co-developed by Motion Pictures Studios in Barcelona and Jaruyi Studios in South Korea.

He drew a crowd to his Next Gen Showcase session this afternoon, speaking alongside Movistar head of production and business affairs Ismael Calleja Baldominos, and ZeppelinTV / EndemolShine Iberia director and screenwriter Alexis Baroso Gascó. Journalist Catherine Boullay moderated.

“If you know Ready Player One, it’s like a parody and combination of that and Guardians of the Galaxy. The friendship part of that movie, and the crazy part of virtual reality headsets,” said El Rubius. “This is one of my most-dreamed projects all my life. I’ve always loved Japanese anime, and I’ve also studied animation before I started on YouTube. So it’s been a big project that I have thought about for my entire life! It was important to get all the parts together: to find the right animation studio and the right people in Spain. I think it’s coming out pretty good!”

Movistar’s Calleja Baldominos talked about how he hopes the project will appeal to the young adults who love El Rubius’ videos on YouTube and his broadcasts on Twitch. “We are trying to reach these younger audiences. The most important thing for us is we have found a very talented creator… who was really convinced of the story he wanted to tell. It was a very unique and original story. That was the key,” he said.

“In this show there’s a lot of Spanish humour, but it’s also global,” promised El Rubius, before talking about his past experiences being offered TV projects that weren’t suitable for his talents. “I like watching movies and TV shows, but I never see me doing something like that. I tried some small things before, but it’s difficult to bring my character, who is me, to the screen. People tried to censor me, I can’t be myself! And that’s really important for me,” he said, before praising his partners for Virtual Hero. “They give me the freedom to help write the script, and give my input on that. And make the character from the series look as much like me [as possible].”

El Rubius was asked why he’s become so popular on YouTube. “I don’t know! I just try to be myself and it seems to be working for me!” He still uploads around two videos a week on his YouTube channel, and when asked how long he’ll continue, struck an optimistic note. “Until I get tired I guess! This is the thing I love doing the most: YouTube videos. I’m probably going to stay here for a little bit longer. I don’t think I’ll be playing video games on YouTube when I’m 60 years old. But who knows: maybe…

This is one of the biggest projects of the year for Movistar, which is looking for a global distributor, but already has its premiere plans for Spain. “Our intention is to premiere the show in two parts. The first one around the beginning of the summer, and the second part around Autumn,” said Calleja Baldominos.

Today also saw a keynote showcase focusing on Safe, the new drama created by top crime-novel author and showrunner Harlan Coben. He was joined by actor and executive producer Michael C. Hall; writer and executive producer Danny Brocklehurst; and executive producer Nicola Shindler of Red Production. The moderator was Rola Bauer, MD of Studiocanal TV.

“It looks at parenting, it looks at community, it looks at relationships. Already those are the biggest international themes, because they’re so universal,” she said. “We just had to make sure that it didn’t feel too internal-looking, because it’s about a gated community. It could end up feeling too small and soapy… And it shouldn’t have looked like a typical British place to live. It had to feel bigger than that.”

Coben: “I always teased them: no raincoats, no trenchcoats, no grey streets, no fog… It’s bright colour, it’s life, it’s family, it’s community and all those sorts of things. They knew that!” he said. Brocklehurst said that making the show feel grounded in those universal themes was the key challenge. “It was about making sure that we could do a thriller, set in this tight community, that felt like we were delivering important themes about family and community.” Hall was asked how he felt about playing a British character. “I wanted to turn the tables. There are British and Australian actors going to the US and taking parts from real Americans! I wanted to take a part from British actors!” he joked.

Safe will be distributed globally on Netflix, and the panel were asked whether that influenced the creation of the show: was its structure optimised for binge-viewing? “The answer’s yes really. We knew this was going to Netflix early, and that meant the hooks were absolutely key,” said Shindler. Coben chimed in: “I want this to be: instead of writing a novel on paper, I want to write a novel on a screen. To me this is a novel. I want you to take my book to bed at 11pm at night to sit and read for 10 mins, and then at 4am you’re cursing me! I want everything to do to feel bingey, even if it’s not for binge. But yes, we directed it that way.”

There was still time for an audience member to ask Hall whether we’re ever going to see Dexter again. “I don’t know, man! Honestly I don’t know. I can’t definitely say absolutely not. He’s still alive. I can imagine being presented with something that felt like a story worth telling. But nothing’s in the works,” he said. The panel were also asked about their guilty pleasures, and mixed humour and seriousness in their replies, with Brocklehurst admitting to a penchant for belting out Barry Manilow classics.

Finalists of the inaugural Kids Live-Action Series Pitch for scripted series were revealed this afternoon. Moderated by consultant Christophe Erbes of Kids Media (c)nsulting (far right), judges include Nina Hahn (left), SVP production and development, Nickelodeon International; David Levine, VP-programming, production & strategic dev, Disney Channels EMEA, The Walt Disney Company Ltd.; Paula Taborda dos Guaranys, head of content and programming, Gloob | Gloobinho; Lee Adams, CCO of Toon Goggles; and Jo Allen, producer, CBBC Children’s Animation & Acquisitions, BBC.

The finalists were: Mrs McCutcheon (Buffalo Media), which follows biologically male 10-year-old Tom, who prefers wearing dresses and wants everyone to address her by the name Mrs. McCutcheon. Newton Camp for Extraordinary Children (Avi Films) is about the precocious Sara, who returns to summer camp after her father passes away. Among other things, she and her friends encounter an alien. Hijinks ensue!

Piperazzi (Piper’s Picks TV / Piper Entertainment) is a fictional take on a real teen entertainment reporter, Piper Reese, who’s worked the red carpet since she was 7 years old and done over 900 interviews. In the show, Piper is 15 and a new student at school, where she joins the news team. Tess the Inventor (The Gault Shop) is about a brilliant 12-year-old orphan and protégée of Nikola Tesla, who creates a device that opens a portal to parallel universes … resulting in the complete collapse of the multiverse. Thomas Edison is a frequent villain. Lastly, White Dragons and the Secret Crypt of Gaudí (Diagonal Televisió) sees five students discover a baby dragon, who engages them in a game of clues to discover Gaudi’s ultimate secret.

After the pitches, the judges were asked to speculate which would come out on top. Hahn and Allen put their chips on Tess the Inventor, which Hahn felt has a clear perception of what kids need and want at this point in their lives.

Adams opted for Mrs. McCutcheon, observing it’s thoughtful but also daring. “And the buzz around it will be incredible,” he added.

Directly after, broadcasters and platforms weighed in on what they’re looking for in live action scripted series for kids. Moderated by Nico Franks, C21Kids editor at C21Media, panelists included Deirdre Brennan, general manager, Universal Kids; CEO Stephen Hodge of Toon Goggles; and David Levine, VP—programming, production & strategic dev, Disney Channels EMEA, The Walt Disney Company Ltd.

Brennan said it’s little-known that Universal Kids operates like a startup. “We do have new ground to break in the US,” she said. “The first step for us was finding great proven international hits we can acquire quickly; now we’re moving into the development of programming that could be ours” or co-produced.

“Toon Goggles has penetration in 196 territories globally,” said Hodge. “We can help shape the production of your series. We’ve also been known to take short features and webisode them, then provide feedback based on those from both features and pilots.”

“People have a misconception about Disney—that when we deal in production, we need to own everything and it needs to live across all platforms,” Levine said. “We do business in a lot of different ways.” Today, he felt, was about focusing on how specific EMEA territories do business: “With local productions and partners, and flexible business arrangements” that enable creators to hold onto their rights and grow out of their home markets.

In terms of how they balance scripted versus unscripted content, Levine said there’s a “pretty healthy mix” at Disney, but “from a tonnage perspective we lean more non-scripted on local; multi-territory content is scripted.”

“Unscripted has advantages, particularly since we’re new in the market; it’s fast to produce,” said Brennan. “We’re also tapping into the portfolio of lifestyle channels such as Bravo, and big brands like Top Chef Jr., which is part of the family.”

Notably, Universal Kids just picked up Find Me in Paris for Canada and certain US windows, with Disney on board in key markets.

As for Toon Goggles? “Live action, mostly unscripted,” said Hodge. “We’re working very heavily with influencers.”

Conveniently, the day ended with MIPTV’s first ever Kids World Premiere TV Screening: Find Me in Paris. Produced by Cottonwood Media, co-production partners include ZDF, Be-Films in Belgium and the Opera de Paris. It is also supported by the European Union Media programme.

The series is a premium English-language tween drama with sci-fi elements. It follows Lena, a young ballerina from 1905 who’s magically transported to 21st century Paris. While her boyfriend tries drawing her back into the past, Lena—who attends the Paris Opera Ballet School—tries juggling high school and rigorous ballet training … while exploring the universe of an underground dance crew.

Moderated by Andy Fry of the MIP News team, the screening panel included Tiphaine de Raguenel, executive director of France 4 and director of children & youth activities, France Télévisions; Arne Lohmann, vice president, ZDF Enterprises; Nicole Keeb, head of international coproductions/acquisitions, ZDF; Hélène Hetzy, Disney France; and David Michel, CEO of Cottonwood Media.

“We were looking for a fresh spin on the ballet show, a genre that works really well—but many [ballet shows]are alike,” Michel said. Cottonwood sought out great writers and showrunners and landed on Jill Girling and Lori Mather-Welchfound, who conceived “this magnificent concept of the time-traveling ballerina.”

“The strength of the idea is it blends ballet, hip hop and the adventure spin that time traveling gives you,” he went on, making it appealing to both girls and boys.

The Opéra de Paris is a co-producer, marking the first time in history it’s ever co-produced a television show. Per Michel, they provided access to rarefied locations and even lent them their choreographer.

“The fact that the Opéra de Paris accepted opening not just their doors but their costumes and talent as well, to create this show with us, was amazing,” Etzi said. “It was so obvious that we had to do this show with these guys.”

“We like to attract kids with culture and art,” said De Raguenel. “This kind of drama is a strong way of doing that.”

Find Me in Paris is streaming exclusively on Hulu in the US, but major broadcasters will be airing it in other territories—including France Television (France), Disney (France and Italy), ABC (Australia), VRT (Belgium), and ZDF (Germany). A second series has been commissioned, and is being distributed by Federation Entertainment. Shooting for the next 26 episodes begins in June.

“It’s a serialised, epic story,” Michel said. “Season one ends on a huge cliffhanger I will never tell you about!”

The afternoon also saw a session exploring one of the hotly-tipped technologies around the TV space: augmented reality (AR). A panel including Viacom VP of international digital content and engagement Karmelina Parouka; LucidWeb CEO Leen Segers and Microsoft general manager of mixed reality capture studios Dr. Steve Sullivan discussed the potential, moderated by Medina Media’s Maria Medina.

Parouka said that Apple and Google’s moves to embed AR in their smartphones (with their ARKit and ARCore platforms respectively) has helped AR to vault ahead of virtual reality in terms of mainstream usage. “With ARKIt and ARCore, suddenly millions of users have the capabilities in their mobile devices. It doesn’t require cumbersome headsets… the mobility and accessibility is definitely what’s changing the equation,” she said.

Segers said that AR is rapidly emerging from its early, experimental phase, while also encouraging producers to keep experimenting. “If you have millions of downloads in the App Store I don’t think it’s still experimental. It’s still fine-tuning the use cases, but that can only happen if people start experimenting with it and go further,” she said. “The benefit of AR and definitely mobile AR is that people are already using the device in their hand.”

The panel were more measured in their assessment of whether there’s a convincing business case for AR. “There really isn’t one, right? But you have to think about how this project also really affects your brand, and affects your IP. The cultural conversation around AR, and being part of it, and the positive noise that comes around it, is a KPI in itself,” said Parouka. “Are you seen as a company that’s innovative and driving new content experiences forward? But it’s very hard to figure out that return on investment: to say that as a producer I’m going to spend this amount of money to come up with this experience, and then I’m going to get X or Y.”

Sullivan agreed. “The way to model it is very challenging right now… We’ve had plenty of brand activation, advertising things. But we’ve also had applications that are intending to be businesses… Early on it’s a bit of a risk, but they believe that’s the future…Its not just an R&D experiment or just an advertisement any more.”

The panel ended by talking about lessons they have learned from their AR projects. “The technologies are limiting, but if you’re willing to work within those limits and be creative, you can execute a vision… If people are able to be flexible, we think there’s room for plenty of success now,” said Sullivan. Segers agreed. “Every question mark is an opportunity. The sooner you start experimenting, the better you will be,” she said.


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Stuart Dredge

Stuart Dredge is a freelance journalist, and a regular contributor to Music Ally, the Observer, The Week Junior, and more... including MIPBlog :)

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