Friday, December 16, 2011

‘Filipinos can really draw,’ says cable network exec

(Published Dec. 16, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“There are lots of Filipino kids who are incredible at drawing,” enthused Silas Hickey, Hong Kong-based Cartoon Network Asia Pacific creative director.

Hickey visited the country in March to scout for animation industry talents, and recently returned to promote various Cartoon Network projects such as “Johnny Bravo Goes to Bollywood” and “Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens.”

He was a guest speaker at Animahenasyon 2011, the annual Filipino animation festival held in November. Hickey also shared updates on his talent search at a press conference in Quezon City.

“People here can really draw,” Hickey said. “It’s interesting. Has everyone been to art schools or is it just like anyone can draw? In terms of animation, Hanna-Barbera used to be here; they had a training program. But it’s not just those people. There are studios on the outskirts of Manila, little houses and stuff… it’s really incredible.”

His first visit yielded other “really exciting” discoveries. “There are some incredible established studios in the Philippines,” Hickey said. “[There are many] very skilled animators here. We are continuing negotiations with some of these larger studios, to perhaps work on some of our Cartoon Network properties. We need to tap into that. That’s what we’re trying to do since I came here in March. We’ve had some very successful meetings, met some really wonderful people in the industry. We have plans to work with these more established studios as well as individuals.”

Hickey also talked about the Snaptoons (Short New Asia Pacific Cartoons) program, an ongoing regional project aimed at discovering new, original content. “How that works is there’ll be some sort of solicitation that goes out mainly to professionals,” Hickey said. “We’ll approach studios, animation professionals, directors and writers, and we’ll ask them to submit ideas. It’s not free; we pay them to do that. We’ll make those into ‘shorts.’ If it’s successfully received, we’ll consider making that into a telemovie or a series.”

“There’ll be a solicitation to sort a Philippine Snaptoons,” he added. “There’s something like that on the horizon. Actually, what we’re considering is to have a regional Snaptoons; we can also [include] Korea or Japan.”

Hickey observed that Filipinos have unique advantages. “The thing that’s always encouraging about the Philippines is we do get lots and lots of material [from Filipinos],” he said. “There really is a sort of understanding of western culture.”

Many successful original properties debuted in the shorts format, according to Hickey. “Johnny Bravo started as a short. It’s a great concept and there’s a lot less risk if you have that concept, rather than just launching a multimillion-dollar series.”

Hickey has advice on content-creation, specifically the parameters of irreverence: “It’s case by case; you can’t do certain things in India that’s totally fine in Australia. You have to be very sensitive, very careful that you don’t make any mistakes.”

He added that kids primarily want entertainment, so certain things must be avoided. “We don’t want to make content that comes off as sounding preachy. Kids don’t like it,” he said. “Contemporize it in some way. Really write a story and characters with export potential in mind!”

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