Business

Local toon company gets animated

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter

Friday, August 31, 2012    

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ROACHNETO, a half-human, half-cockroach, is always looking for the next suspect to point his gun at.

Assuming, that is, that he isn't distracted by pop. Strong carbonated beverages land him in trouble with the law.

So questionable is his character that sometimes it is hard to tell if he's a hero or a vigilante.

Roachneto is one of four completed projects — the others are Vex, Patty Shop and Abeng — that Reel Rock GSW Animation is hoping to sell to international companies such as Disney, Fox or the Cartoon Network.

Reel Rock has partnered with Montreal-based Toon Boom animation, one of the largest producers of animation software in the world, to produce the films.

Toon Boom links global companies that need animators to studios able to do the work. These workrooms are filled with graphic artists, scriptwriters and designers with the creative eyes to fashion works, from concept development through graphics and storyboards to finished films.

Toon Boom's "enterprise management production platform" allows for real-time collaboration with our clients overseas, Reel Rock said.

Toon Boon and Reel Rock share resources and clients, but not profits, said Wayne Sinclair, the Jamaican company's executive director.

"As many as six studios can work concurrently; this will cut production cost," Sinclair said.

Toon Boom's clients range from major studios creating Hollywood features to individual animators creating their first masterpieces.

Reel Rock GSW, named after Lorna Green, Wayne Sinclair and Fayval Williams, its directors, has been operating for over a year and currently employs 12 people.

"The plan is to pave the way for the other entrepreneurs to go into animation production," Sinclair said. "We can't grow the industry by ourselves."

They want to transform the Jamaican animation industry, making Reel Rock the local production hub, Williams said.

If, in the future, Reel Rock gets requests through Toon Boom for more work than it can handle, it would like to share the bounty with other Jamaican firms.

This will help to improve the quality and efficiency of Jamaican production for international clients.

Market-leading studios using Toon Boom's products include Disney, Warner Bros, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Fox, Bento Box and China Central Television.

The fast-growing animated film industry is estimated to be making more than US$50 billion ($4.4 trillion) annually. Reel Rock believes that Jamaica can tap into this developing market.

"Jamaica is way ahead of other Caribbean countries with animation producers," Sinclair said.

In the first six months of operation, Reel Rock completed Toon Boom's training module, giving it the competence to provide services for a global client base, the directors said.

Four story concepts and trailers for which it is seeking international distribution have been developed.

Telling a story through animation is rigorous and time- consuming. Corrections are constantly being made to perfect a production.

It could take up to three months to do a production for a 30-minute slot; 22 minutes of content and up to eight minutes of commercial time.

Globally, the cost of animation ranges from US$750 per finished minute to 10 times that amount.

Projects drawn by hand, rather than on a computer, are more costly.

"While some concepts may be developed overnight, we keep drawing characters to develop them over time," said Leighton Campbell, a production animator at Reel Rock.

The company uses a technique called 2.5D animation, traditional flat images, but with perspective tricks to give them depth.

Production test work for Los Angeles-based Bento Box studios, maker of Neighbors from Hell, and Paris-based Studio Red Frog for animated series to be broadcast on FOX Television and Disney Junior, respectively, has been submitted.

Feedback from these tests has encouraged GSW, which expects to get deals soon, Sinclair said.

One of the projects is for Bento Box's sitcom Bob's Burgers, which airs on Fox channel. The show debuted last year.

The company is looking to do work for some local advertising companies that usually use studios in Miami.

It has negotiated a contract with Heart Trust NTA for the implementation of a curriculum of animation production, to be launched next year.

But most of its work is likely to be for export, because local television companies may not be able to pay for the time and effort put into a product.

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