Monthly Archives: August 2009

Calling Time

International conference calls are like health checkups – you set one up not too far in the future, never quite look forward to it (maybe even dread it) when it comes, but know you’ve got to get through it to resolve some issues. Once it’s over, you either feel assured that things are ok, or panic at the crap that’s about to hit the fan. Either way there’s always some action to be taken, and you start counting the days to the next appointment, hoping the situation would improve by the time it comes around.

But – it’s part of the business. Probably a little tougher for a studio based in Singapore who needs to speak with partners from Toronto, Vancouver, LA, Paris and London, to name a few far flung places. The calls are often at a time too early to be thinking about anything serious or too late to be thinking about getting cartoons made instead of just watching them.

Still, it’s always nice to hear a voice and maybe share a laugh (provided no impending disaster is apparent), especially with people whom you’ve gotten disturbingly close to attaching an emoticon to the name.

What’s annoying though are the pregnant pauses, when both sides are waiting for a response and invariably start to speak at the same time, in which case it reverts back to silence as each party, out of courtesy, waits for the other to party to continue.

I’m guessing that’s not a problem at Dreamworks Animation, judging from their modest video conferencing system in their studio over at Glendale, California:

DreamWorks Storyboard Solution


HP Halo DreamWorks 450

DSC00213Doing it old school at Scrawl Studios

SICAF 2009

Yeah, we love animation and all…but live action definitely has its appeal too.

SEOUL 22-24 July – SICAF has grown into a real classy gig. International participants are not quite storming the show yet, but  with Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, PBS Sprout, Corus, RDF and a whole host of  North American and European buyers and producers turning up in the hot and humid Seoul summer, I’d say it’s definitely on its way to surpassing Tokyo Anime Fair as the international focal point for animation in Asia. Sure, the Korean organisers flew these honchos over, but it’s still a heck of a long way to come and it’s clear the Korean animation market, particularly from a supply perspective, is generating  ever growing interest from overseas markets, especially in this messed up economy. And it definitely seems like the organisers have the ambition (and the funds) to make this even bigger next year.
View from hotel room

Combining Character & Licensing Fair and SICAF was a great move. Throw in a swanky venue like COEX (the adjourning 5-star Intercontinental ain’t too shabby either) and you’ve got an Asia-centric event that is fast becoming a must-attend for kids entertainment execs.
The pitch. Glad I got that out of the way on the first day.
As far as animation (in particularly pre-school and CGI) for TV goes, the Koreans are, in my book, technically  peerless. Every character and frame  is often rendered so beautifully and oozes such detail one can only wonder how much investment had gone into these projects, many of which are essentially still in development. That is of course, a basic difference in how many Korean studios approach the development process, compared to their western counterparts who take a far more script-driven stance, even ahead of visual development at times, and tend to simmer projects in development over many months before a frame is animated.
The Koreans do it for two primary reasons: 1) prospective Korean investors need to see something good before they’d consider investing (and they see a lot of Korean projects), hence no expense is spared to produce a pitch 2)  it’s in the creators’ DNA – the end result demands perfection.  What’s on screen is pure heart, soul and sweat – sometimes that of just 2-3 people for a project.
This is not to say that these Korean studios develop projects in a vacuum, or are not concerned with script and story.  However, as the Korean industry look  ever more towards the international market with vigor and a desire to prove itself, this long-standing attachment to local, Korean tastes does not appear to prepare it for global buyers hungry for a diet of American comedy, prime-time writing and even educational curriculum that culturally deviate from many Asian producers’ sensibilities – especially those that have traditionally been reliant on domestic consumption in largely homogeneous markets (like Korea, Japan, China).
.Bobo and Cus. Not your typical private investigators. © 2009 Sugarcube.

That’s when co-productions come into play, and Korean studios are the most aggressive in Asia in pursuing such opportunities. The word from overseas buyers at SICAF is that while most of the stuff look gorgeously executed, editorially few have a chance of crossing over to the US / Europe, at least not without major creative changes (which is never easy, cheap or even that amicable). Still, many Korean studios have done so through partnerships with overseas producers and through that, stepped into a bigger world. More are emerging each year, at each market.
Asia is the fastest growing market for Animation in the world, and the Koreans are leading the charge. While the Japanese struggle with an even more insular market that consumes, almost exclusively, a cultural-specific product i.e. anime, the Koreans seem determined to break out onto the world stage, and will remain restless until that is achieved.
Ghost_Messenger_by_PeacebettaOne of the coolest concepts I’ve seen in years. Fighting digitised ghosts in mobile ether-networks with handsets that changes into weapons (2-year contract plan optional)! From the insanely talented guys from Studio Animal. Congrats on the win!

I didn’t see much of Seoul last year, and sadly this year was the same, such are the schedules at these events. That said, I had enough Bulgogi beef to upset any animal rights group.

The best thing about going away to these events though are meeting up with friends and partners from around the world, having a beer and a few laughs. In the end, it’s the heart of it all – working with and hanging out with people who do it because they love animation and are always ready to let out their inner child and go loco every once in a while (in some cases, all the time).
The cats from Coolframes Digiworks, our partner on a new show! Hey, Asians do look the same…

Looking forward to returning next year!