The Orange Economy – Animating Income

Author: Sonja Dumas

Orange Economy

It’s been a little over 80 years since commercial animation hit Hollywood – specifically, full-length feature films in the form of Disney productions 👸. In the earliest days of these movies, each frame was painstakingly drawn by hand and then crafted into a motion picture. Fast forward to the digital era (i.e., now), where animation is used across several walks of activity – from education to advertising to gaming (and, still, of course, animated films). Technology has made animation tools far more accessible💻so the endless days and nights of creating handmade illustrations are a distant memory. But as rare as Caribbean animation was in the pre-digital era, we still had our classics. Back in the 1980s, a sprightly little man with a toolbox warmed the hearts of many in T&T as he bounced along to a re-imagined calypso that invited people to shop at Nagib Elias Hardware.

Caribbean Expansion and Connection
As appealing and as ubiquitous as the Nagib Elias character was, the power centres of animation still reside outside of the Caribbean, as the Disney and Japanese anime empires will testify. However, there are increasing opportunities for those powerhouses to outsource projects or segments of projects from Caribbean animators, “The Caribbean is positioned really well”, says Camille Selvon-Abrahams, founder and director of Trinidad and Tobago’s Animae Caribe, the longest running animation and digital media festival in the region. “What you’re finding is that Netflix is investing in African animation and Indian animation and they’re looking for diversity…and what could be more diverse than Caribbean stories?…The hodgepodge of culture will give us characters that are so unique to the world that people would want to look and want to hear.” Case in point: the Netflix-driven project, re-root is currently seeking proposals from the Caribbean.

Additionally, animation certification in the region has dramatically expanded over the past twenty years, with tertiary-level degrees 🧑🏻‍🎓 available at institutions such as the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Animae Caribe is also training-oriented, and the festival attracts leading animators from all over the world for its annual event, as does Kingstoon, based in Jamaica, powered by the World Bank. There is also the Jamaican Animation Nation Network, an association to support local animators. Other Caribbean countries are also in the game.

Investment and Interest
In addition to the World Bank, regional and other international institutions such as the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Export Development Agency and the Inter-American Development Bank have also been paying attention to the development of animation in the region by supporting training and development. Coupled with this is the youth quotient – many young people are attracted to animation, especially in the wake of increased visual communication through social media.

There is also the resilience of the production channels in COVID; Selvon-Abrahams points out that “animation, gaming, digital media…flourished during COVID…those in the industry could work from home.”

The future, therefore, looks animated. So in the orange economy, the possibility of animation and 2- and 3-D digital media as a conduit to diversification is a real and viable one. Time to get a good Caribbean slice of the US$270 billion dollar animation industry pie 🥧.

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