“Our intention is to grow exportable, Made-by-Singapore animation and gaming content for international markets”
There are many ingredients that go into the making of a successful Animation and Gaming Ecosystem, a vital one being agency and Government support.
Indian animation and gaming studios have long been seeking support from the powers that be and the recent formation of the FICCI Animation and Gaming Forum sounds promising.
Even as the newly formed Indian Forum gets into action mode, Animation ‘xpress pans its radar across to Singapore where agencies such as the Media Development Authority, the Infocomm Development Authority and the Economic Development Board are effeciently executing their vision of nurturing and supporting Singapore’s Media Industries.
In an exclusive one on one interview that he gave to Animation ‘xpress Editor Anand Gurnani Seto Lok Yin, Director, Industry Development Division, Media Development Authority, Singapore spoke about the MDA’s involvement in a lot of impressive developments that are happening in Singapore’s animation and gaming space…
Excerpts from the interview …
Please share with us some basic information and objectives of the MDA?
The Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) is the lead champion agency for the media industry in Singapore. Our strategy for growing the Singapore media industry is captured in the Media 21 blueprint, which envisions the development of Singapore into a global media city.
The Media 21 strategy seeks to create a vibrant environment for both the industry and public via five key thrusts: establish Singapore as a media exchange; export ‘Made-by-Singapore’ content; internationalise local media companies; nurture local media talent and develop digital media. To achieve this, the MDA takes on the role of a catalyst in nurturing the growth of Singapore-based media companies that are capable of producing original, high quality Singapore-made TV, film, animation, games and print media content for international markets, as well as growing a pool of strong local media talents in Singapore.
What’s the size of the Animation and Gaming Industry in Singapore? What’s the profile of the companies like?
The animation and games industry has grown over the last three years. There are more than 60 animation and games development studios to date.
Specifically, the companies are involved in the production of animation, be it in producing original animated TV series and feature films; undertaking outsourced animation production; animation production for television programmes, commercials and computer games as well as post production work. There is also a growing pool of animation artists working in studios or as freelance animation professionals.
Please elaborate on the kind of support that the MDA offers to animation and gaming companies in Singapore?
Since the launch of the Media 21 blueprint in July 2003, the MDA has put in place a comprehensive set of initiatives and schemes to develop and nurture the animation and gaming industry in Singapore.
One of these key initiatives is the creation of original animation and gaming content. Our intention is to grow exportable Made-by-Singapore animation and gaming content for international markets. Over the past three years, through one of our schemes called Digital Content Development Scheme, the MDA has supported as many as 30 animation and games development projects to convert interesting ideas into a tangible products such as animated pilots/ trailers or playable game prototypes, where the companies could use the products to garner more funding support for the full production as well as test the market for feedback before moving into full production. We have been successful as some of the animated pilots/trailers as well as game prototypes have been produced into animated TV series, feature film and completed game.
Additionally, the MDA partners local enterprises and co-invests in the production of original animated TV series and feature films for export to international markets. Some examples of such co-investment partnerships are ) MDA – ST Electronics (Training & Simulation Systems) – Nelvana Limited Partnership with a worth of US$50 million of production value over a period of 5 years for 13 animation projects; MDA – Cubix MoU to produce a slate of 5 animated feature films worth S$30 million including the first of the slate Legend of the Sea, which is currently in pre-production stage. Besides this, Cubix and MDA’s first collaboration is Singapore’s first 3D animated feature Zodiac, the Race Begins… A line of merchandise based on this animation movie was premiered in January 2006 during the Chinese New Year period.
Then there is Peach Blossom’s recent announcement of 3 animated TV series co-production deals with International partners such as Sunwoo Entertainment of South Korea, Submarine of Netherlands, etc, targeting at the US markets were under the S$18 million Peach-MDA Co-Production Partnership signed in Dec 2004.
Besides grooming local companies, the MDA also works closely with other government agencies like Economic Development Board (EDB) and Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) to build up the local media industry. For example, EDB has been successful in attracting international companies such as LucasFilm and Southern Star to set up their animation studios as well as game development companies like Koei & Genki to set up their development studios here.
We also recognise the importance of internationalising our local companies as well as the export of our local media products to other key markets around the world. Therefore, the MDA encourages our local companies including animation studios to attend international trade events and markets such as MIPTV & MIPCOM (for animated TV series), Cannes Film Market & American Film Market (for animated feature films) as well as E3 for games & entertainment, to showcase and market their products to overseas broadcasters and distributors. These platforms also enable our local animation houses to find international partners to collaborate on animation projects.
Any exciting new developments in Singapore’s Animation and Gaming scenario?
There have been lots of creativity and buzz in the media sector here, especially in the area of animation and gaming, which has grown in recent years.
The animation production companies in Singapore have produced contents, from animated TV series and feature films to TV commercials to artwork and visual effects used in computer games. A growing number of these companies have moved on to produce their own original animated content in the last 3 years. To list a few, they are Peach Blossom Media, Scrawl Studios, Oak 3 Films, Infinite Frameworks, Cubix, IV Lab [a subsidiary of ST Electronics (Training & Simulation)] and Media Freaks.
Investments by international animation and gaming firms like Lucasfilm, Southern Stars and Koei & Genki to set up their studios in Singapore have also further boosted the industry. Singapore’s animation content has been making inroads into different parts of the world. There are growing interest from such international buyers with many more new projects in the pipeline.
Singapore animation companies and artists are steadily building up a strong international reputation. For example, Tomato Twins, a production by Peach Blossom Media was the first Asian-originated cartoon to air on Nickelodeon’s regional network. Another animation series by Peach, Tao Shu: The Warrior Boy, was also shown on Nickelodeon Asia. Scrawl Studio’s Nanoboy, a 2D animated TV series, has secured Agogo International Limited to handle distribution for Nanoboy for the Asian market and Village Productions for the European market.
Cubix’s Zodiac, the Race Begins…the feature film on the birth of the Chinese Zodiac, has already been sold to 22 countries, including China, Thailand, Taiwan, France and regions in Eastern Europe. In addition, a whole slate of Zodiac merchandises were also launched to coincide with the recent premiere of the film in Singapore. Another digital media company, Infinite Frameworks, is currently working on an animated feature called Sing to the Dawn, targeted for release in 2007.
On the gaming end, local game developer Mikoishi launched a number of successful original mobile games at the E3 and signed a distribution agreement with leading mobile game publisher THQ Wireless for distribution of their games in the US, Europe and South America in 2005.
What’s the scenario here in terms of availability of skilled talent, also please elaborate a bit on animation & gaming education in Singapore?
The Singapore animation and games industries are witnessing fast-paced growth due to several reasons. Our local digital media companies are creating more original intellectual properties and working with international partners to create exportable content which can appeal to the global market. Due to the rapid growth of the animation and games industries, there are insufficient skilled talents in a number of areas, such as CG Directors, Lead Animators, Lead Games Designers and Programmers.
Our local institutions of higher learning and commercial education training providers are training our next generation of talent in these fast growth sectors. It is also encouraging that reputable overseas institutions like the DigiPen Institute of Technology is setting up its Asian campus in Singapore to tap on the fast-growing opportunities in the region. The MDA, working with its partners like the Workforce Development Agency (WDA), will monitor the manpower trends and needs closely and implement relevant programmes to bridge the skills gaps in the industry.
What is the positioning in the global animation and gaming eco system that Singapore is opting for?
The success of Cubix’s Zodiac and Peach Blossom’s Tao Shu: The Warrior Boy testifies to Singapore’s unique position and ability to creatively produce compelling content for the international market. These two products which are both Asian-themed content have a unique mix of multi-cultural and multi-ethnic appeal but yet tailored to suit the cosmopolitan and global audience. Therefore, we feel that Singapore is in the position to tell our own stories and create content that blends the best from the East and West for the international market.
Any specific plans towards working with India and China?
These successes in the international arena are testament to the long-term potential of our animation industry and will certainly help open doors to international markets and fuel the drive for our local animation companies to produce more quality products in the future, be it on their own or partner with other international partners from around the world including China and India. It also shows that we have the talent and capabilities in Singapore to produce animation products for an international market.