“We responded early to deal with COVID-19”: Splash Entertainment co-CEO Mike Young

Mike Young
By this time everybody is aware of how COVID-19 has affected various sectors and industries globally including entertainment. While outdoor entertainments, theatres, cinemas and live-action projects stand still, the animation sector, though affected, is still kicking. Earlier we wrote about how the studios across the country like Green Gold Animation, Toonz Animation and Wackytoon Studio, have been coping with this pandemic while producing fresh episodes for kids content. Today, we speak to animation studio of international repute, Splash Entertainment co-CEO Mike Young about the effects of the Coronavirus and how they are sailing and managing through this situation. Founded in 1990, Splash Entertainment is a multi-award winning studio that specialises in children’s entertainment content. They have been an innovator, developer, producer and distributor of animated television series and movies with brands that are implemented across all media formats. With its main studios based in Los Angeles and subsidiaries in Canada and Ireland, they are ones behind Norm of the North, Rock Dog and other franchises.  Here are excerpts from the conversation : How’s Splash Entertainment coping with the pandemic as a studio? We were early responders. We had moved our entire studio set ups to our staff at their homes over nine weeks ago, possibly a full week before the U.S. Government had made any proper acknowledgment of the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. Animation is possibly the only form of film production which has proceeded throughout this situation. How is it affecting the projects like upcoming Norm of the North film and others slated soon? We had already completed three Norm of the North movies with Assemblage and Mad Max, with whom we were the very first Western studio to produce a full CGI series out of India in 2000-2004. The series Jakers: The Adventures of Piggley Winks won eight Emmy’s and a British Academy Award. The work is still on for the ones in production with employees working from home. We are in full production on the Woody Woodpecker series right now for Universal Studios; also working with Cartoon Conrad in Nova Scotia who are doing a great job, also two Rock Dog movies for Lionsgate working with ReDefine in Mumbai and a not-yet-announced movie for Netflix working with the wonderful high end studio L’Atelier in Montreal. We are also now working with a very famous British/U.S. producer and major Thai Company on a series of high-end animated music video shorts. How are employees who don’t have opportunities to work from home managing? How’s the Splash studio helping them? Productivity from home has actually been greater for us than when we were in the studio and that has been a life lesson. It requires real coordination, but all of our employees have been able to make the transition to working from home and we’ve been helping to ensure they have all they need to move full speed ahead, from  secure systems for all productions, our administration, accounting and legal departments to run from home to the hardware and software needed for production. Have there been any monetary challenges during this lockdown? If you could through some light on salary reductions and furloughs or layoffs in this situation, if any?  I’m glad to say we have not laid off a single person. And we have not reduced any salaries or furloughed anyone. We have lost some income especially on AD revenue and YouTube, plus the jury is out on the next wave of commissions at the time of writing. How’s Splash Entertainment extending a helping hand to the families of its employees if needed? We closely support our direct employees and their families whenever required. I also serve as a Trustee for Caring Hand For Children, a charity that for the past decade has sponsored street children in India, giving them education and other support. The organisation recently expanded its mission to feeding children in the U.S. too. Thus far, we’ve helped the group serve 20,000 meals and counting.  How are you managing if there are some technical issues during work hours?   Our IT Head Patrick Coy has helped us to have everyone setup very quickly. He is available to troubleshoot on technical issues and walk people through solutions. Editing has been the most challenging aspect, but all is working well for now.  Are you getting necessary hardware and software delivered during this lockdown period? Yes, from 2D systems such as Toon Boom Harmony, through the various 3D Maya (and spin-offs) software, Avid and Evercast. Suppliers have been very supportive. How do you think COVID-19 will affect the global animation industry and what would be the solutions to overcome it? We in the animation industry have to count ourselves lucky in that, especially in the U.S., Canada, UK, and France, we had the bandwidth generally, especially at our private homes to allow the transmission of all digital aspects of our productions. In India, it has been more challenging for the transition to home working, though even there ReDefine has made great progress and we are catching up and the workflow is increasing successfully. Two of our current projects have production (one 2D, the other CGI) in Canada and both have proceeded without a hitch.