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Remote possibilities

Karolina Kaminska looks at how the pandemic is posing some new opportunities for producers pitching at this year’s Cartoon Forum, while familar challenges remain.  

The past year has undoubtedly been a challenging one as the world has continued to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic and businesses have had to contend with serious and significant changes to their operations.

For many industries – hospitality, retail and travel to name a few – the coronavirus crisis has had disastrous consequences, which tragically some businesses have been unable to come back from.

While the TV sector has also faced difficulties during these trying times, like delays to production and sudden gaps in linear schedules for example, there is no doubt that some opportunities have arisen for the industry too, such as increases in viewing figures during lockdowns.

The animation sector is one which has certainly benefitted from the pandemic, although that sounds like an awful thing to say and animation studios can’t help but feel guilty admitting that. But with their live-action counterparts struggling against Covid restrictions and social distancing measures, animators have found themselves relatively comfortable to continue working remotely from home.

One of the questions we asked our Insiders in this year’s online edition of the Insider’s Guide to Animation was if physical animation studios are still essential, or whether remote working is now the future of the industry.

For most contributors, the answer was that a hybrid model would be implemented going forward. The pandemic has allowed them to realise that flexible working is possible, but face-to-face contact is still vital, they said. For other Insiders, however, getting back into the studio full-time is desired.

While remote working may not have posed a particular challenge for the animation industry, the sector faces various other issues that have. Every year in the Insider’s Guide to Animation we ask the contributors what the biggest challenge they are currently facing is and year-after-year one answer frequently pops up: funding.

One Insider put it simply, saying the biggest issue they face “is always finding the financing.” Funding has proved a huge problem for the sector for years and doesn’t seem to be letting up, pushing producers to increase licensing and merchandising efforts to help make a profit. Traditional consumer products like toys are an obvious way to achieve that, but in the digital world things like apps and mobile games are also becoming increasingly important to animators.

Another challenge which often comes up when asked about current issues is recruiting talent, with one Insider highlighting that there is not enough talent to cater to the boom in demand for animated content.

Other issues raised by the Insiders included maintaining very high production quality in the face of extremely tough competition, the length of time it takes to complete an animation project, and gender equality on- and off-screen, among others.

Whatever challenges and opportunities the animation industry has faced over the past year, it has certainly been an interesting period for companies and producers in the sector. It’s probably safe to say that in a year’s time when C21 is compiling its 2022 Insider’s Guide to Animation that funding will still be an issue on many producers’ lips. But will animators still be working from home? Will this hybrid model of working pan out as planned? Or will everyone be back in the office nine-to-five? Only time will tell.

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