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PAS taps into home market for toons amid gloom

Post-9/11 draws a new industry strategy

MANILA — The local animation industry is in suspended animation after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. and the resulting worldwide slowdown.

Mimbi Eloriaga, studio manager of Philippine Animation Studios, says projects scheduled for early this year have been put on hold and the peak months of October and November, when production normally picks up, were slow.

PAS, which is among the top toon studios in the world serving the U.S. and Europe, has set its sights on an untapped territory — its home market.

PAS is creating a promo reel of the first Filipino animated series for local production and distribution. Although the title and final format are still to be finalized, talks with local TV stations for a PAS Cartoon Hour are in the works — all exploratory, Eloriaga stresses.

The downturn may have been a blessing in disguise, she notes. “It’s about time Filipino artists get the credit in their own country. When you look at Japanese anime, you can instantly tell it’s a Japanese cartoon. We want to introduce a Filipino look in animation. We already have some stories and character designs in mind.”

PAS hit a peak in mid-2000 when orders came in from the U.S., Canada, Hungary, France, Denmark and Japan. The new organizational and marketing scheme introduced by creative director Frank Saperstein turbo-charged production and pulled PAS way out front of the competition.

English-speaking countries such as the Philippines have had the upper hand in getting orders from the U.S. and Europe, with Filipino artists hailed as “the most creative people in Asia” at the recent Asian Animation Conference in Singapore.

“The bulk of the work over the last 10 to 15 years has been created in North America and Europe, but the actual production … has been done in Asia to save costs,” Saperstein says.

PAS also is using the downtime to hone its animators’ skills in Flash animation. “A lot of our clients are using it for broadcast TV because it costs less in terms of people,” Eloriaga says.

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