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Cartoon Network and other companies seek to co-produce series and animated films from countries like Colombia, where labor is cheaper
Cartoon Network's calls for Latin America animators are not new. For years, it has had an agreement with an Argentinian animation company to give animators from all over Latin America the opportunity to have their productions on Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and Tooncast.
Leer en español: Empresas de animación extranjera buscan talento latinoamericano
In June, the annual call began, for which representatives of the company, at its headquarters in Latin America, attended universities such as Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogotá. Its main objective was to invite recently graduated students and professionals to get inspired to create content, which could be co-produced between both parties.
According to Lucas Arechaga, Cartoon Network's Operations and Programming Strategy Director, Boomerang and Tooncast Latin America, in his conference in Bogotá, what they are looking for in Latin American talent is a cultural rootedness represented in new ideas. The new narratives have to have local value "in the language and in the popular wisdom of its people, which in turn enables its commercialization under license," said Arechaga. With this commitment to the culture of the region, Cartoon Network seeks, precisely, to strengthen the Latin American audience by making them feel identified with the productions.
While that was the speech that excited many young amateurs in their professional lives, for whom working with an international company that is recognized at the level of animation would open many doors, it may not be the only reason why, for years, international companies have decided to reach the Latin American market.
The search for new talents and ideas is mostly linked to the television crisis that has generated the rise of Netflix and other streaming platforms. According to Bloomberg, channels such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Disney Channel are in free fall and the only way to adjust to the market is to turn to this type of platform.
In 2018, the portal Cartoon Brew said that "ratings are down 20 percent from just a year earlier; ad sales haven’t grown in five years, and between 2010-2017, children’s viewership of conventional tv dropped 30 percent".
With this crisis, it is normal for channels to struggle to stay alive. For example, in Disney's case, the company has decided to join the streaming platforms and launch their own. For its part, the Latin American company of Cartoon Network has bet on these calls to create original products and, therefore, specific audiences interested in new narratives.
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Throughout this process of change, there is also an important factor that turns out to be the region's greatest attraction for this market: labor.
Felipe Fierro is a Colombian animator who works at Pigmalion Animation Studio, an animation and visual effects studio that, although operating in the Latin American country, the majority of its clients are abroad. After working with licenses such as Marvel Comics, Transformers, and HBO, his experience has allowed him to understand the reason behind foreign investment in Colombia and other countries in the region. Hiring studios and people in Latin America, or other countries such as India, China and Japan, is cheaper for large entertainment companies than doing it in their own countries, due to the low price of labor.
However, both local and foreign enterprises benefit from this, because animation studies in these countries also get more revenue when working with large productions, since the national industry does not pay well for this type of work. "They find it cheaper and, even so, we get more than what a customer pays here, then it ends up being profitable for both parties," says Fierro.
The calls of this type, of more companies that look for new talents in the region, are an opportunity to strengthen the Latin American market. By creating international confidence, foreign investment begins to strengthen and allows the creation of increasingly profitable products.
The real need of the industry ends up being betting on the domestic market. If so, when the world of animation and visual effects is conceived as a complex sector and national companies are aware of what these studies entail, labor can grow in quality, quantity and, above all, in value. Thus, in addition to increasing confidence and foreign investment, this industry can grow by itself internally.
"It is necessary to change the mentality at the national level (...) so that people understand, not only the complexity of the work, but also that it has a high cost", concludes Felipe Fierro.
LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez
Translated from "Empresas de animación extranjera buscan talento latinoamericano"