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Jamaica seeking to tap into lucrative animation industry
Published on December 19, 2012 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Douglas McIntosh

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- The Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) is positioning Jamaica to tap into the lucrative animation industry.

The global market for animation, inclusive of outsourcing activities, is estimated to gross earnings of between US$5 billion and US$175 billion annually.

Animation is defined as the art or process of preparing and developing drawings, commonly referred to as a cartoon, which depicts humour, satire, or any other symbolism.

JAMPRO's creative industries manager and film commissioner, Kim Marie Spence, said in addition to income generation, the industry presents opportunities for job creation and technology development.

“We feel (that) it is a 21st century industry that offers us technologically transferrable skills. Also, animation is a labour-intensive industry that entails the placement of creations frame by frame, moving (a certain) amount of frames per second,” she outlined.

Noting that Jamaica is “new on scene”, she said the sector is currently in “development” phase, with a number of advancements piloted over the last two years.

“In that short space of time…three studios (have been established), and they are at different levels of development. There is GSW Studios…that is presently doing animation outsourcing work; they are doing work for an overseas studio, so we are supporting the establishment of studios,” she added.

Additionally, JAMPRO has been collaborating with UTech to add a Bachelor’s Degree in Animation to its slate of programmes for the 2013/14 academic year, and the agency has staged a number of public lectures for persons and entities with an expressed interest in animation.

The first, Spence said, was held two years ago, and the most recent, on December 14.

The first lecture, she said, was focused on the business of animation, and looking at how extensive the industry is and how rapidly it has grown.

She noted that, at the initial lecture, there was a lot of skepticism on the part of those who attended, but “we were able to have a number of different players come together, and hear about the possibilities of the (local) animation industry.”

The most recent lecture, on December 14, was facilitated by the Japan Foundation and the Japanese Embassy in Jamaica, and hosted in JAMPRO’s business auditorium. It featured a presentation by prominent Japanese Manga artist and lecturer, Takuya Kurita.

Manga is indigenous Japanese animation, developed during the 19th century. A huge industry in Japan, Manga grosses in excess of US$5 billion annually, and commands one-third of that country’s entire publication industry.

The visit by Kurita and his delegation was the first official trip to Jamaica by a Manga artist. Kurita’s presentation, which focused on the topic: ‘Evolution of Japanese Manga and its Characteristics’, was one of three engagements during his two-day visit. The others were two workshops, staged on December 13 at the University of Technology (UTech), and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

Speaking at the lecture at JAMPRO, Japan’s ambassador to Jamaica, Yasuo Takase, pointed out that Manga is regarded as literature in his country.

“Manga includes a broad range of genres, including: romance, history, adventure, science fiction, and business. People of all ages read Manga. In my opinion, what distinguishes Japanese Manga from Western comics is the depth of the story. By reading it, we often learn what is important for our lives, such as love, friendships and social norms,” he explained.

Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Anthony Hylton, expressed gratitude to the Embassy, the Japan Foundation, and Kurita for facilitating and staging the activities, pointing out that the gesture would go a long way in “deepening the cultural links between Jamaica and Japan; a very strong friendship that can only get stronger”.

Spence said that the lectures and workshops are important in developing the craft.

“We realize that, in as much as we, at JAMPRO, are looking at the business element, there are a number of different factors that we have to look at. So those who have an interest in animation… we bring them out to events, like these, so that we are able to relay information to them about the prospects for jobs, (and) ways to develop,” she said.

She noted that some persons are at home doing animation, “but in no structured way that we…know about, so we have to use these events to bring them out, and also to educate them further on the activity they are doing.”

In noting the economic constraints that the government currently faces, and the fact that animation-related activities require a medium to high budget to undertake, Spence said inputs, such as those provided by the Japanese Embassy and Japan Foundation, is welcome and timely.

“Through partnerships, (the) government sends an important signal in the economy about what we are interested in and what we are willing to support,” she argued.

In pointing to the growing interest in animation, particularly among young people whom she says, have been “captured”, Spence underscored the need for all relevant stakeholders, who can influence the industry’s growth, to utilise all resources in doing so.

“We need to utilise the Diaspora contacts; we need to get strategic. We have to look for new industries and animation is something that is popular,” she contended.

Spence points to the success of popular British children’s animated series “Rasta Mouse”, as an example of the existing demand for Jamaican material and programming content.

“Rasta Mouse is, basically, about a Jamaican Rastafarian mouse whose philosophy is about peace and love, etcetera; and we didn’t make it. It was made by a Trinidadian animator. What (that) does, is to send a signal that we need to start doing it (producing material for the global market).

“We have been more successful with the music content aspect, definitely the reggae industry. But there is demand for Jamaican content in a different kind of media. We have seen it with our films… people want to know more about Jamaica-centric content,” she stated, while citing the popularity of the local television animation series, “Cabby Chronicles”.

Regarding the local animation sector’s potential, Spence said it is currently “too early” to determine this, in light of the fact that it is still a “growing industry”. She was quick to point out, however, that the sector’s growth potential is contingent on stakeholders’ inputs.

“Our research shows that the opportunity is there. It’s now for us to get ready for that opportunity. Because animation is a skilled industry… we need to actually train our people to be able to take advantage of the opportunities… it’s our plug for investment. We are happy about (the progress made thus far), but there is a lot more to go,” Spence said.
 
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