Trends in Children’s Content: What Content Will Children See in 2026

The Cartoon Forum 2023 event, which took place in Toulouse, France last week, is like a time machine that allows industry participants to travel to the future and see what content will reach screens in 2025-2026. The autumn season is a busy time for those working in the content industry, as global market events take place, from Cartoon Forum and MIP markets in France to initiatives in Poland, Belgium, and other locations. Currently, creators are presenting their content for the future, and the recent event reflected the trends in children’s content. Simona Krasauskienė, working with the brands “Kakė Makė” and “Nelly Jelly,” presents what content to expect, who the heroes are, and what significant changes are coming.

Trends in Children’s Content: Characters and Themes

“Trends in children’s content don’t change rapidly. I’ve been attending industry events for the past three years and have been observing them, but each year there are more so-called ‘shape’ changes – changes in themes, character appearances and thoughts, animation genres, but not necessarily the themes themselves,” says Simona, sharing insights from Cartoon Forum. At this event, 76 animation projects from 16 European countries were presented. If we calculate in hours, that’s 473 hours of future content for children aged 5-11, families, and young people. This content will spread across Europe and the world over the next few years.

“The heroes of future content presented by creative teams are quite diverse: from the well-known trend of creating content about animals and their adventures to themes of climate change, where not only animals but also space and cosmic beings are involved. Traditional characters like princesses are still present, but there’s a noticeable new trend – the preservation of stories and values through content, such as the character introduced by Poland – Fredi – a young composer in the childhood of Chopin, but, of course, stylized and adapted for today’s audiences. It’s fascinating to see inanimate objects becoming characters,” Simona shares and highlights certain groups:

  • Characters with personified mental qualities, reminiscent of the “Cars” era. Last year, content featuring anthropomorphic scooters was introduced, and this year, Disney launched a show with cars transformed into human child’s parents.
  • A variety of robots, from cute and cuddly to technologically advanced.
  • Many animals, from dogs and cats to sharks, foxes, mice, owls, ducks, dinosaurs, winged creatures, and more. They are highly stylized, and each team presents its own vision and chooses the suitable technique – 2D, 3D, or others – for portrayal.
  • Monsters continue to be a presence in children’s content, often portrayed as friendly characters who experience various adventures and possess traits like fear of the dark, among others.
  • Witches are also important and diverse, ranging from young girls with magical powers to stylish elderly witches in jeans, shaking up the witch character.
  • Children themselves become animated heroes from around the world: from a girl with seaweed-coloured hair from remote tropical islands to a charismatic boy with russet hair, from a ballerina girl to a baby committing “crimes,” and more.
  • Unicorns are still in demand. They are stylized with rainbow colours that change based on mood.
  • Familiar characters from parents’ stories, such as the heroes of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales: the princess and Hans, stylized and adapted to today’s context, or Polish composer F. Chopin becoming a young boy who explores the world through music and discovers himself.

“I want to add that the heroes are very diverse, reflecting people from all around the world, and every child can identify with them not only based on eye shape, skin colour, or certain physical characteristics like disabilities or body shape, but this year’s event introduced a lot of content where heroes have unique worldviews, self-perceptions, or only one day to live, leading to distinctive traits. Creators pay great attention to these characters, making sure they appeal to a young audience, reflect the world, and allow children to see themselves,” says Simona Krasauskienė, working with the brands “Kakė Makė” and “Nelly Jelly.”

After attending trend presentations from Annecy to MIP events this year, where the biggest studios and broadcasters share their insights, it can be concluded that the main themes in content remain largely unchanged. The most common themes identified after the event include:

  • Friendship and loyalty
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Diversity and a reflection of the world from various perspectives
  • Space and astronauts
  • Oceans and aquatic creatures
  • Climate change and its importance
  • Exploration of the world, delving into what’s beneath the Earth, on the Earth’s surface, and above human reach
  • Empowerment of girls
  • Love
  • Nature
  • STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics)
  • Magic and spells

“Many of these themes are accompanied by adventures and humour, but there was also sentimental, heart-warming, and gentle content meant to be watched slowly. I missed discussions on the latest technology themes at this event, but I was impressed by a show from Poland where a child presents older inventions and their contemporary alternatives. For example, they showcased the first mobile phone, weighing 40 kg, and demonstrated how many different devices a modern mobile phone replaces by placing them on a table. The creators are charismatic, and this is where not only European giants meet but also young artists presenting their first works. Many stories are adaptations of books, while others are original content. It’s great to see that the relevance of books and their stories serves as a springboard for content creation on other platforms,” says Simona Krasauskienė, working with the character Kakė Makė, originating from books in Lithuania.

How Much Does Animation Cost in Europe?

This year’s event featured 55% 2D animation. “We also created the ‘Kakė Makė’ series and film using this technique. On a European scale, the budget for creating an 11-minute, 52-episode series this year ranges from 8 to 10 million euros, with a cost of about 13,000 euros per minute. Using CGI or hybrid techniques, the cost of creating a show can increase to 1 million euros per episode.”

“I’ve been attending global content industry events with my team for the past three years, including MIP TV, Annecy Film Festival, MIP markets, Brand Licensing Europe, and we don’t plan to stop next year. This year, our entire team is heading to MIP Junior and MIPCOM in Cannes in mid-October, and the following week, we’ll have a booth at Brand Licensing Europe 2023 in London, the largest licensing business event in Europe, where we have 60 meetings scheduled over 3 days with market representatives, from publishers, producers, licensing agencies to global manufacturers and platforms like Amazon. We’ve also been invited to participate in a public expert discussion to share our market and brand history, how we turned a book character into a brand that now includes animation,” says Simona Krasauskienė, CEO of “Nj world” UAB.

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