Asian Economy

Asia's animation industry spreads its wings
By Kalinga Seneviratne

SINGAPORE - Asia's fledgling animation industry is vying for a bigger chunk of the world market as it attempts to make the leap from producing for Hollywood to creating original content that can cross cultural boundaries.

The world's animation industry is worth some US$25 billion and is predicted to grow at an estimated 20 percent a year with Asia taking a lion's share of it, according to a recent report from the US-based Computer Animation News People Inc. The report pegged the Indian animation industry at about $500 million and predicted that it will grow at 30 percent annually in the near future.

With the cost of infrastructure needed to produce computer animation significantly reduced in recent years, Asian countries are now able to produce high-quality animation at low cost.

India, South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore are all competing for a place in the animation market and the Chennai-based Pentamedia Graphics has been ranked third in the animation niche by the report. Meanwhile, South Korea has set up some 60 courses on animation, the Philippines is offering a four-year degree course in animation and India has also set up a number of training programs.

Frank Saperstein, the creative director of the Philippine Animation Studio Inc, believes that Asian animation industry is on the brink of breaking away from being service providers to producing original content "not only for the region but for the world".

Two Indian companies are already doing just that. This year, Hyderabad-based Padmalaya Studios started preselling its new animation project, the Buddhist Jataka Tales - a 200-episode series to be run over four years. It is being produced at a cost of $150,000 per episode.

Trivandrum-based Toonz Animation India has just signed an agreement with the Britain-based distributor, Indigo group, to market its 26 episode, 11-minute-each series The Adventures of Tenali Raman, based on a 16th-century Indian folk tale.

Indigo sales manager Emma Collin said the series "has cross-cultural appeal". Toonz's director of operations, P Jayakumar added, "As more and more Asian providers concentrate on international quality standards, they will find a significant global appetite for our stories and our films."

Biren Ghose, chief operating officer of another leading Indian animation house, UTV Toons, said that most of the staff got their start in animation by outsourcing for Hollywood producers, who were trying to cut costs for their productions. "We have done it for 10 years. Animators require a great variety of work and experience in order for them to become adept at creating long-form [feature film] animation."

"Asian producers have been complacent because they have got enough work from the West," said Michael Loke, senior manager of Silicon Illusions, a Singaporean start-up company. "Now Hollywood is slowing down and it's a wake-up call for Asia."

With a start-up grant from the Singapore Broadcasting Authority, Loke's company has started production on a homegrown animation feature Sing to the Dawn. Based on a prize-winning novel by Singaporean author Minfong Ho, it is set in Thailand and dwells on a young village girl's desire to pursue higher studies despite objections from her traditional family. It is an Asian story yet will appeal to a global audience as it deals with two common themes: the place of tradition and gender discrimination.

One of the most successful Asian animation projects has been Malaysia's Kampung Boy, which has been shown in some 60 countries since its release in 1996.

Saperstein, who was involved in the project, said the key to international success is "taking a local story and making it possible for someone living in the United States, Brazil or France to relate to it".

(Inter Press Service)
 
Dec 12, 2002


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