Interview with Jérome Alby, Managing Director of Mediatoon, about Bobby and Bill, which has been nominated for an Export Awards 2021 in the animation category.
TV France: Bobby and Bill (known as Boule et Bill in France) is, above all, the brainchild of Philippe Vidal…
Jérome Alby: Yes. In addition to Jean Roba, the creator and writer of the original comic book, this nomination is largely thanks to the talent and work of Philippe Vidal, director at Mediatoon Audiovisuel studios. As an animation fan, this is not the first time that he has used his expertise and technical prowess to create a magical adaptation of one of our properties. He made other star shows in the Mediatoon catalog such as Valerian & Laureline (40×26’), Garfield & Company (214×12’) and Leonard (78×7’), all of which have been nominated for Export Awards in the past!
TV France: From the comic book to CGI, what an adventure!
Jérome Alby: Indeed! We have watched the characters get “modernized” over the years. First there were the comic books, then the first 2D series in the 1990s and another in 2004, then several live-action films, and now a CGI series for a third generation of fans. From one adaptation to the next, Bobby and Bill is always a hit.
TV France: How do you explain the long-term appeal of Bobby and his dog?
Jérome Alby: Who didn’t want a dog when they were a kid? This unique, charming and timeless series is all about the strong relationship between Bobby and his dog. But, when we watch their adventures, we rarely – indeed never – feel like we’re looking at a dog and his master. Sometimes it feels more like the roles are reversed, actually! Everyone can relate to the child’s affection for his pet. Without forgetting, of course (and yes, she’s a little jealous) his tortoise, Caroline.
TV France: Parents enjoy it as much as their children, don’t they?
Jérome Alby: Bobby and Bill has a universal appeal – it is loved by parents and children alike. And with good reason – the tales of this little boy and his dog have been winning us over since 1959. That enthusiasm felt for Bobby and Bill is something handed down by parents to their children and, even within the same generation, from older siblings to younger. Bobby and Bill is a program that unites people and transcends generations.
TV France : Apart from the work of your sales teams, what is behind its international success?
Jérome Alby: We’re lucky to have a program that has strong, universal values: friendship, helping each other, adventure, growing up together, and imagination.
Bobby, Bill and Caroline the skateboarding tortoise, are an inseparable trio. They are day-to-day adventurers riding on their limitless imaginations – something with which all children can identify. Whether it is to protect Caroline from their ex-secret agent neighbor or to cheer Bill up when he loses his sense of smell, anything can become the pretext for a crazy new adventure, full of surprises and humor.
All of these qualities make this a universal series that appeals to children the world over.
TV France: So, how do you build the brand?
Jérome Alby: Over the years, Bobby and Bill has become a multi-faceted brand. The show has been translated into 33 languages and sold in more than 100 countries.
The property gets its life force from the comic book, of course, and the series too, but we also have a wide range of derived products. There are puzzles, toys, stuffed toys, t-shirts, and collectables, including figurines.
Establishing the brand also depends on the creation of a ready-made graphic style guide, thought out, created and kept up to date especially for our licensees. The Bobby and Bill universe has even reached the big screen! The film recorded 2,000,000 box office admissions, and nearly 600,000 copies were sold of the 13 DVD boxed sets of the film.
Add a few other ingredients like the passion and inventiveness of our teams (Publishing, Adaptation Rights, Merchandising and Audiovisual Distribution); the co-ordination and support of TV France International; and a little dash of luck, and you have what it takes to ensure a long-lasting license and a popularity that never ceases to grow over the years.