The world of animated film creation/distribution is made-up of major players and the smaller studios, who are also producing and releasing content on a regular basis. One of those is Viva Pictures, an independent studio and all-rights distributor, whose animation division, Viva Kids, has brought hundreds of feature films to screens big and small. The studio’s latest movie is Ploey. Industry veteran Victor Elizalde is Viva’s Managing Partner.
Jackson Murphy: Viva Kids, your animated division, is an off-shoot of Viva Pictures. When did you start the company and what was your inspiration?
Victor Elizalde: Viva started in 2010 and from the onset we wanted to change the formula of distribution by providing gross royalties paid off-the-top deals so that Licensors actually saw money beyond their MG, versus the old distribution model whereby Licensors offered to pay a distribution fee and then had endless “distribution expenses” taken from their share of revenue. Our inspiration was the continual call by producers and investors for a fair distribution model.
A scene from “Ploey”
JM: Ploey is your latest animated release. What number is this in your animated catalog?
VE: Somewhere between 700-800. This is not specific because we do a lot of aggregation for other distributors and we treat them as our own with close care and attention.
JM: You do both original and branded content stories. As a small studio, how do you go about securing the rights to such franchises as “Top Cat” and “Speed Racer”?
VE: Both myself and my business partner have worked at several of the major studios over the past 20-years, so we understand the needs and requirements of both original and branded stories. Ultimately, what we find works is treating the IP of an indie project like Ploey the same as you would with a pedigree film of a Hanna-Barbera franchise property.
JM: You often use big-name voice talent in your films. Is it difficult to get a John Stamos or Jeff Foxworthy for your projects, when other studios are going after these stars as well?
VE: Having worked for Disney and Warner Bros., and watching those companies work their animation magic, we know that the biggest challenge is understanding the talent needs before making an offer. These “A List” actors are never doing it just for the money. For example, working with John and Jeff was great. They may not have done a project like Ploey or The Aviators 10 years ago, but now that they both have kids of their own we were able to pull at them in another way than just financial by offering projects they can proudly share with their kids.
JM: You have a lot of great relationships with distributors and platforms, such as DirecTV, which, it seems, gets first crack at showing your movies. How did that relationship take shape?
VE: All of our relationships, including DIRECTV, thrive from being honest and fair with our distribution platform partners. Ultimately, we are all trying to maximize the customer experience so that the customer returns for more, and since not every movie is a Ploey, the platforms appreciate the honest approach in marketing a film since every film has an audience somewhere.
JM: What’s your overall goal for these films? What do you want kids and families to get out of watching your movies?
VE: Our goal is always to provide quality entertainment that can be enjoyed by families.
JM: What animated movies did you watch growing up? How does this background affect the stories you want to tell now as a studio head?
VE: Growing up in Chicago in the 70’s meant we got a heavy dose of Disney in the theaters (Flubber, Herbie, Poppins, Apple Dumpling) and Warner Bros on TV (Bugs, Looney Tunes & Hanna-Barbera). These universal stories are timeless, and that is what we strive to produce and distribute.
JM: Obviously, the animation business is very competitive. How does Viva not just survive, but thrive, against the big guys – the Disneys, DreamWorks, Illuminations of the world?
VE: We have always followed two rules: #1 – “A rising tide lifts all boats!” is our motto, so we do not see our business as being against anyone. The more tickets they sell the more inclined consumers are to try our products and vice versa. I suppose this philosophy is what helps us thrive, and fair business dealings is what help us survive. #2 – Our advantage to survive is that as a company we carry no debt and are 100% self-financed. With this strong financial position we never feel pressured to adhere to an untimely release schedule or providing subpar content.
JM: Talk a little bit about Ploey. It stars a young chick who can’t fly, but has to rise-up to save his family.
VE: The film was a must have from the day we first saw segments of the animatic in Cannes. The story is about a young plover bird, who is without a father, and thinks he cannot fly. So he ends up getting separated from his flock. The adventure is that he must now travel to get back to the flock across difficult terrain to reunite with the girl who he cares for the most. Beyond the amazing story, the film has a solid original score by Alti Ovarsson and is supported by original music and video by Greta Salome.
JM: What’s the future of Viva Kids? Where do you see the studio going?
VE: We have initiated more original productions to lessen the burden of acquisitions. We plan to offer 1-2 quality animated/family movies per month, along with a push into theatrical exhibition when that makes sense. In addition, we have started to launch consumer goods with our movies. Consumers can look forward to seeing more of their favorite Viva branded products in the marketplace, starting with China’s #1 kids IP coming to America in May 2019, The Boonie Bears.
from Animation Scoop http://www.animationscoop.com/interview-viva-pictures-victor-elizalde-and-ploey/