Hello world! is both an animated documentary series and feature film, the brainchild of Anne-Lise Koehler and Eric Serre, with Normaal Animation. Today on a quest to conquer the world, this nature animation is both inventive and unusually beautiful. After its success with France Télévisions and RTS, the series is set to be shown soon on CESKA TV. And, after the film’s theatrical release in France and French-speaking Belgium, it is soon to be distributed in Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and Flemish-speaking Belgium. It was also broadcast on February 13 on NHK.

From its origins to its international distribution, we retrace the adventure of Hello World! with Marc Dhrami.

The Interview

TV France: Hello World! is a very visual and dreamlike world that tells the story of the birth of various animals. Where did the idea for an animated documentary series for young viewers come from?

Marc Dhrami

Marc Dhrami: Firstly, it was Anne-Lise Koehler’s imagination that attracted us – her naturalist sculptures made of paper and her artistic way of looking at the world. Everything lent itself perfectly to an animation series. By inventing naturalist animation, Hello World! shows us nature’s riches in every season, day and night, in the water, on land, in the sky. And it reveal’s the natural world’s beauty in a new and unexpected way.  

TV France: The bet paid off. And following the series, there is a feature film…

Marc Dhrami: Yes, with France Télévisions and RTS, we managed to finance and produce 10 nine-minute episodes.  

The feature film is the product of our discussions with Gebeka. Marc Bonny initially wanted to compile a few episodes for a theatrical release in France but discussions turned naturally towards making a single film of 61 minutes. We had material from the episodes, we just needed narration to link events and the different species together within the ecosystem the animals inhabit. That bet paid off too, as the film received some great support and excellent coverage when it came out in cinemas.

TV France: Both the theme and style are very special, but so is the format. How do buyers react to this “UFO”?

Marc Dhrami: Well, calling it a UFO is a bit too much! I prefer to think of it as a capsule collection.

The beauty and elegance of this content have been recognized by industry professionals since the beginning of our adventure, first when it won Annecy’s Cristal prize, then with the arrival of prestigious broadcasters interested in the project, and again with the theatrical release.   

I think that with such an unusual piece of work, something that is different both in terms of how it’s done and the format of its presentation, you really have to be flexible and creative. You have to draw on tried and tested methods already used during screenings in certain countries in order to convince others.

For example, a “capsule collection” is not what you could call a traditional series format. When a buyer gets really excited about it, it’s usually to include it as part of a special programming event. France Télévisions did a remarkable job, for example, using the series for World Nature Day and Earth Day.

The film, on the other hand, lends itself to being shown during special events or at specific times of year, like Christmas, the beginning of spring, etc. It’s less difficult to schedule.

It’s like a surprise “special”, a little gem that creates a lovely family moment. The subject is accessible to all, the references are precise and verified – it’s a documentary but at the same time, it’s entertaining because it’s animation, and it is breathtakingly beautiful.  

TV France: What’s your positioning abroad?

Marc Dhrami: As an international distributor of both the series and the film, my approach is to diversify the options for distributing the property as much as possible. 

In countries that don’t have cinemas that would welcome this kind of film, I prioritize public broadcasters who are looking for content that is both intelligent and entertaining. They can choose between the series and the film, or take both. In most cases, it’s a case of “love at first sight” for buyers. Then, I explain what their peers have done in other countries, after which they make their choices in terms of buyers and programmers.    

In countries that have the necessary theatrical network, I prioritize releasing the film via local, independent distributors. That’s what we’ve done in Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Spain. 

And then there’s COVID and the rather surprising impact it has had for us. People all over the world have rediscovered that the natural world – in the form of flora and fauna – is all around them. That’s the kind of nature that makes Bonjour le Monde so amazing – it’s the nature that’s all around us – by the lake or in the forest near our homes, or along the walking paths we take. It’s magical!

TV France: What is your favorite episode?

Marc Dhrami: The next one!

TV France: Changing how things are done seems to be Normaal’s trademark.

Marc Dhrami: We may like to shake things up with our projects and productions, but our editorial strategy is clear and identifiable for buyers. 

NORMAAL is about ambitious original projects like Hello world!, and more recently Woolly Woolly and Misstache.

NORMAAL is also about high-quality, well crafted adaptations of the classics like Gaston, Peanuts, Barbapapa and ZOUK, which is currently in delivery.

These two types of content are clear for the market and for buyers. They work very well together as they are driven by the same ambition: to offer quality productions created in our studios in Paris and Angouleme. 

We take our focus on quality all the way through to our presentations – for example, at the Cartoon Forum, which we produce with the same care and attention that we give to our series. Integrating our distribution through FESTIVAAL gives us necessary feedback from the market and from buyers, right from the development phase. Distribution is at the heart of our editorial strategy discussions, from the very start of projects. It has to be nowadays, as pre-sales are crucial to turning a project into an international production.