Get­ting into the Ring

Animation Magazine - - Spotlight -

FBroad sup­port in Costa Rica and Gu­atemala helps the Cen­tral Amer­i­can na­tions’ an­i­ma­tion and VFX in­dus­tries

gain world­wide at­ten­tion. By Jan Nagel.

or the last few years, Costa Rica has set up a stand at Kid­screen Sum­mit to share the abil­i­ties of its an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try. The ques­tions have been: What can they of­fer? Can they com­pete? Is Costa Rica the only Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­try pro­duc­ing an­i­ma­tion?

There are bou­tique stu­dios pro­duc­ing an­i­ma­tion, vis­ual ef­fects and games all over Cen­tral Amer­ica. The in­dus­tries have been serv­ing lo­cal needs for decades. The in­dus­tries in Costa Rica and Gu­atemala are de­vel­op­ing and grow­ing with the help of GIZ, a more than 50-year-old fed­eral en­ter­prise sup­ported by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, the United Na­tions, the pri­vate sec­tor and gov­ern­ments from other coun­tries. Its mis­sion is to help iden­tify, de­velop and sup­port small and mi­cro en­ter­prises in emerg­ing economies. GIZ se­lected Costa Rica and Gu­atemala for an ex­ten­sive study and sup­port of their an­i­ma­tion in­dus­tries.

Costa Rica has been pro­duc­ing an­i­ma­tion for over a decade. The lead­ing an­i­ma­tion stu­dios are Rocket Car­toons, Marte Es­tu­dio, Mor­pho An­i­ma­tion, Stu­dio Flex and Figueroa Pro­duc­cion, which has been ex­ploit­ing its pop­u­lar Tri­colin prop­erty for more than 30 years in ev­ery medium. In ad­di­tion to the sup­port from GIZ, an­i­ma­tion in Costa Rica is sup­ported by Pro­comer, the na­tional trade com­mis­sion, with help from the Min­istry of Cul­ture.

Rocket Car­toons is a real suc­cess story. This is a fam­ily-run Flash stu­dio headed by tal­ented an­i­ma­tor Leo Trinidad. Rocket Car­toons has cre­ated orig­i­nal tele­vi­sion se­ries that are be­ing dis­trib­uted world­wide by AWOL An­i­ma­tion and Mon­ster En­ter­tain­ment. Their orig­i­nal car­toons in­clude Yum Yum & You, Ivick Von Salza and The VoltaKid. Rocket also is do­ing ser­vice work for Tit­mouse and other stu­dios. The stu­dio is small, but in de­mand.

Marte Es­tu­dio is a well-es­tab­lished vis­ual-ef­fects CGI stu­dio that, un­der the di­rec­tion of Oliver Zu­niga and his part­ners, pro­duces ad­ver­tis­ing an­i­ma­tion in Costa Rica, as well as pho­to­re­al­is­tic an­i­ma­tion and vis­ual ef­fects for pro­duc­ers in Canada and the United States.

Mor­pho An­i­ma­tion is rel­a­tively new. In just a few short years. Gus­tavo Madri­gal has built a CGI stu­dio and his pro­duc­tion team has cre­ated sev­eral orig­i­nal prop­er­ties the com­pany is pitch­ing. One of its most re­cent pro­duc­tions is Félix el Robot Aven­turero, a se­ries of pub­lic-ser­vice announcements run­ning in Costa Rica’s the­aters.

Madri­gal has been be­hind the scenes in Costa Rica, or­ga­niz­ing the in­dus­try and get­ting the gov­ern­ment to sup­port this grow­ing area. It was Madri­gal’s mis­sion, af­ter at­tend­ing Kid­screen Sum­mit sev­eral years ago, to get Costa Rica rec­og­nized as an an­i­ma­tion pro­ducer, and he lob­bied Pro­comer to sup­port the in­dus­try at Kid­screen Sum­mit. He helped es­tab­lish Costa Rica An­i­ma­tion Hold­ings, a pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tion that de­vel­ops fi­nanc­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Games on the Rise Game devel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion also is a grow­ing busi­ness in Costa Rica. FairPlay Labs, a game com­pany with a staff of more than 50, has been a ser­vice provider for ma­jor toy brands in the United States for many years, de­vel­op­ing video games and other dig­i­tal game play for more then a decade. Small bou­tique game stu­dios, such as Head­less Chicken, are pro­duc­ing their own ti­tles for con­soles, as well as do­ing work-for-hire app games for lo­cal ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies.

The gov­ern­ment of Costa Rica is be­ing very ac­tive in de­vel­op­ing the na­tion’s an­i­ma­tion and dig­i­tal-me­dia in­dus­tries. Vice Min­is­ter of Cul­ture Max Valverde Soto is look­ing for ways to sup­port the in­dus­try fi­nan­cially, as well as through treaties.

Costa Rica is among the top 20 best-ed­u­cated na­tions and has a 94.9 per­cent lit­er­acy rate. Its ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem sees an­i­ma­tion

and dig­i­tal me­dia as vi­able vo­ca­tional tracks for its pop­u­la­tion. CETAV is a two-year ac­cel­er­ated pro­gram in an­i­ma­tion, sup­ported un­der Par­que La Lib­er­tad, a na­tional cul­ture cen­ter. In ad­di­tion, art and an­i­ma­tion pro­grams are flour­ish­ing at ma­jor pub­lic and pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties, such as Uni­ver­si­dad Ver­i­tas.

Gu­atemala’s mod­ern in­dus­try was es­tab­lished by Car­los Ar­guello’s found­ing of Stu­dio C in about 2003. This Os­car-nom­i­nated VFX pro opened a stu­dio in Gu­atemala City, and started to train a crew in VFX with­out gov­ern­ment sup­port. He brought in vis­ual ef­fects work for tent-pole movies such as Chron­i­cles of Rid­dick and Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia.

At the same time, a game com­pany, Lion Works, set out to cre­ate a con­sole game called Pok-Ta-Pok, based on an an­cient Mayan game. Over the next few years, many tal­ented pro­fes­sion­als were trained for the game in­dus­try. But for eco­nomic rea­sons, both stu­dios waned and many tal­ented and trained peo­ple were let go. The two stu­dios are still in busi­ness, though smaller than they were at their peak.

Gu­atemala City is the largest city in all of Cen­tral Amer­ica and is the cen­ter for Latin Amer­i­can mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing. Many of these stu­dios’ for­mer crewmem­bers now are es­tab­lish­ing new en­ter­prises, mostly in app games and dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing. Mi­cro en­ter­prises, such as Ket’zal An­i­ma­tion & Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing and Dig­i­tal Part­ners, are em­ploy­ing lo­cal ta­lent for com­mer­cials and mar­ket­ing game apps.

Two of the largest dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies in Gu­atemala City are Milk n’ Cook­ies and Mas Dig­i­tal. Each is us­ing the well-trained lo­cal work force to cre­ate dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing tools for in­ter­na­tional clients.

One Gu­atemalan in­die game com­pany is 2401 Stu­dios, cre­ated by Joaquin Colina and Luis Fernando De Leon Martinez. It is one of the only Gu­atemalan stu­dios de­vel­op­ing for Sony PlaySta­tion de­vel­op­ers and is in talks with Mi­crosoft to be­come an exclusive de­vel­oper. They are creat­ing their own game apps, as well as dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing games for clients. 2401 Stu­dios has or­ga­nized Gu­atemala IDGH to fur­ther sup­port the devel­op­ment of the game busi­ness.

In ad­di­tion to sup­port from GIZ, the Gu­atemalan gov­ern­ment backs the na­tion’s an­i­ma­tion and dig­i­tal-me­dia in­dus­tries through Prona­com, the na­tional trade com­mis­sion; AGEx­port, the ex­port com­mis­sion; and ICREA, a new or­ga­ni­za­tion set up by the Gu­atemalan trade com­mis­sion to sup­port the cre­ative com­mu­nity. This ef­fort is the first step in pre­par­ing to help grow an­i­ma­tion and dig­i­tal-me­dia pro­duc­tion in Gu­atemala.

Sup­port from Schools Like the rest of the world, Gu­atemalan youths have been ex­posed to gam­ing and an­i­mated en­ter­tain­ment. Hav­ing had a vi­able in­dus­try for sev­eral years, there is a strong de­sire by youths to learn the an­i­ma­tion and dig­i­tal-me­dia trade. Be­cause of the de­mand, and as a re­sult of the GIZ stud­ies, more uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges are of­fer­ing cer­tifi­cates and de­grees in all as­pects of pro­duc­tion. One of the most com­pre­hen­sive new pro­grams is at the new art school, Uni­ver­si­dad In­ter­na­ciones, lead by Guil­laume Le­bourg, a French VFX pro. Cen­tro TIC de In­te­cap is an ac­cel­er­ated ac­cred­ited pro­gram where the stu­dents learn CGI in a com­pressed time frame with a great suc­cess rate.

Costa Rica and Gu­atemala are poised to join the world in­dus­try in a vi­able way. Each coun­try is train­ing its work­force to be equal to the rest of the world’s an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try. Each wants to be rec­og­nized for its abil­i­ties and tal­ents, how­ever, they are learn­ing quickly they need in­cen­tives to at­tract pro­duc­ers. As each coun­try’s in­dus­try grows, the re­spec­tive gov­ern­ments will see the ben­e­fits of this in­dus­try on their lo­cal econ­omy and work­force and will be en­cour­aged to find ways to help. [ Jan Nagel, en­ter­tain­ment mar­ket­ing diva, rep­re­sents an­i­ma­tion pro­duc­tion stu­dios from around the world and con­sults with con­tent cre­ators to bring their prop­er­ties to life. Nagel was con­tracted in fall 2015 by GIZ to eval­u­ate the Costa Ri­can and Gu­atemalan in­dus­tries.

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