KINGSTON, Jamaica –
Jamaica is trying to position itself as the next hub of global animation, according to a report by the Associated Press, a growing industry that generated more than $100 billion last year.
Jamaican and World Bank officials hope that the international animation industry can create thousands of jobs for young artists in Jamaica, where good jobs have long been scarce.
Last week, on Thursday, a conference on animation drew dozens of Jamaican hopefuls and industry leaders such as California-based animation producer Bento Box, which provides animation for such series as Fox’s Bob Burgers and Comedy Central’s Brickleberry.
The World Bank says because animation skills are transportable, capable individuals can serve international clients from anywhere.
Industry Minister Anthony Hylton reportedly said animation “offers huge potential for the creation of jobs” in Jamaica, and that the country is well-positioned to become part of the industry's “global supply and value chain” because the English-speaking country shares a language with major content producers in the U.S., Britain and Canada and its citizens have always displayed a deep talent for the arts.
Today, there are thousands of animation studios and trade schools across Asia, many of them in China. Animation outsourcing by major companies such as Disney Animation and Nickelodeon to subcontractors in countries such as India and the Philippines has become a flourishing business.
Long a musical innovator, Jamaica is now having some success with animation. Cabbie Chronicles, an animated comedy featuring a sullen Jamaican cab driver named Delly and a changing cast of colorful customers, has won several regional awards.
Joan Vogelsang, president and CEO at Montreal-headquartered Toon Boom Animation Inc., said she's confident that Jamaica has the necessary ingredients to become a popular animation destination "not only for subcontracting opportunities but also for intellectual property development."
Vogelsang, who has helped develop animation sectors in India and other countries across the globe, also said the industry creates well-paying jobs that can help build a strong middle class in countries like Jamaica. "The day of the starving artist is over," she told a conference room of eager creative types.
Joel Kuwahara, co-founder and principal of Bento Box and a former producer on The Simpsons, said the global industry is enthusiastic to bring talented artists from Jamaica and other regional spots into the fold.
"Technology gives you the chance to work with more partners overseas," Kuwahara said before giving a presentation. "It's a necessity for us because it's expensive to produce in Los Angeles. And these days, there are no limitations to where you live to collaborate."
Watch an episode of Cabbie Chronicles celebrating 50 years of Jamaican independence, below: