Finweek English Edition - - Letters - FIR­DAUS KHA­RAS

I WOULD LIKE to thank you for an ex­cel­lent ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled “An SA Pixar?” ( Fin­week, 22 Fe­bru­ary).

As a keen ob­server of South Africa’s an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try, I com­mend your re­porter for cap­tur­ing well both the chal­lenges and the prom­ise of the lo­cal an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try.

I am the Di­rec­tor and Ex­ec­u­tive Pro­ducer (along with Mfundi Vundla) of the se­ries Magic Cel­lar, which is men­tioned in the ar­ti­cle. I am the per­son that fa­cil­i­tated the train­ing with Al­go­nquin Col­lege, which is lo­cated in my home­town of Ottawa, and I have per­son­ally trained over 100 South Africans in pro­duc­ing long-form an­i­ma­tion.

I would like to cor­rect two sen­tences in an oth­er­wise good ar­ti­cle. First, it’s not ac­cu­rate to say “the se­ries was largely pro­duced in In­dia”. By con­ven­tional def­i­ni­tions, Magic Cel­lar is a South African-Cana­dian co-pro­duc­tion.

The first 20 episodes were largely an­i­mated in In­dia, but that’s not the same as pro­duc­ing. As the ar­ti­cle points out, most long-form an­i­ma­tion is an­i­mated in Asia, even those pro­duced in West­ern coun­tries like Canada. The Simp­sons, for ex­am­ple, has al­ways been an­i­mated in Korea. That does not mean it’s a Korean se­ries.

In the case of the first 20 episodes of Magic Cel­lar, the con­cept, sto­ries, voices, voice di­rec­tion, video edit­ing, sound de­sign and mix were all South African. The pro­duc­ers are South African ex­cept for me, a Cana­dian. A lot, al­though not all, of the money was South African. And the en­tire copy­right is and will al­ways be South African. It’s South African in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.

Even at the an­i­ma­tion stu­dio in In­dia, there were six South Africans for three months, both for train­ing and to pro­vide valu­able in­put into the de­sign of the se­ries.

We are cur­rently plan­ning a sec­ond se­ries. Even more will be done in South Africa this time. We have trained al­most 40 South Africans and are go­ing to em­ploy many of them in ar­eas like script-writ­ing and modelling.

Sec­ond, it’s also not ac­cu­rate to say that In­dia’s stu­dios are “sweat­shops”. Far from it. They are some of the world’s most ad­vanced an­i­ma­tion stu­dios. In fact, soft­ware de­vel­op­ers and tech­nol­ogy man­u­fac­tur­ers are in­creas­ingly us­ing In­dian stu­dios to test new de­vel­op­ments.

A se­nior an­i­ma­tor can eas­ily earn over $100 000 a year in In­dia. There’s fierce com­pe­ti­tion for tal­ent, which has driven up salaries con­sid­er­ably over the last few years.

In­dia is a good ex­am­ple for South Africa to fol­low.

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