TAKING THE MICKEY OUT OF COMIC
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.