KINGSTON: Jamaica’s large talent pool and its close geographical proximity to film and entertainment in the U.S. have perfectly positioned the country to develop a strong animation sector that will have the potential to command a meaningful share of the multi-billion dollar global industry, according to Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) creative industries manager and film commissioner, Kim Marie Spence.
Speaking ahead of the staging of the Kingstoon animation conference and festival, which is scheduled to take place today and tomorrow at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Spence said Jamaica has the right attributes to establish itself as a quality provider of animation services to big markets such as the U.S. and Canada.
“Recent interactions with representatives from major entertainment companies in the U.S. have confirmed that they consider Jamaica to be excellently positioned to assume a significant role in the provision of animation services and content based on our proximity, common language and cultural affinity,” said Spence.
Spence said among Jamaica’s advantages are its large English-speaking workforce, which is critical when working with English-speaking animated characters, lower production costs and the country’s well-established track record and global influence in the creative industries. According to data from the Overseas Examination Council, over 2,500 students passed art and design with grades one or two between 2008 and 2012.
“These young people have the basic skills required to become world-class animators,” said Spence. “When you consider older age groups or existing professionals in the field or allied industries, that number is easily tripled. The animation industry can provide a clear avenue to develop raw local talent into highly skilled resources, which will generate many jobs for Jamaicans in the process.”
The global animation industry was valued at US$222.8 billion in 2012, with much of the animation outsourcing jobs going to countries like India, South Korea and the Philippines. Spence said as the animation companies in these countries shift from outsourcing to the development and production of their own content, a gap will be created for outsourcing services that countries like Jamaica can seek to fill.
“The local animation industry is expanding and there are encouraging signs from existing ‘pure play’ studios, mixed companies and independent animators who are seeking to formalize the industry,” she said. “Once the country is able to demonstrate its growth potential in this area through the establishment of more professional firms with improved production capacity, we will be able to attract the attention of more global players.”
Kingstoon, which is being organized by the Government of Jamaica in partnership with the World Bank, Canadian High Commission and JAMPRO, is geared towards raising local awareness of the emerging opportunities in animation, particularly among youth. The event will also provide a platform for showcasing Jamaican and Caribbean talent and identifying key policy decisions needed to support the animation industry in Jamaica.
Kingstoon will feature panel discussions with local and international industry leaders, as well as an animation competition. Among the sponsors of the event are the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), Columbus Communications Jamaica Limited (Flow), Jamaica Gleaner and LIME.
JAMPRO’s involvement with Kingstoon is the latest in a series of activities undertaken by the agency to catalyze the growth of the animation industry, which has been identified by the Jamaica Film Commission as part of its medium-term strategy to encourage non-traditional exports.
In November 2011, JAMPRO sponsored and hosted Animae Caribe Jamaica, an animation festival which featured workshops by experienced Hollywood animators, James Parris and Kristin Solid. In December 2012, JAMPRO provided support to the Japanese embassy in hosting a lecture on manga – the printed cartoons that form the basis of many popular Japanese animated series.