Animated People: Top Draw’s Wayne Dearing

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On the eve of the MIPTV market in France, we caught up with Wayne Dearing, founder and manager of Manila-based Top Draw Animation, one of the world’s leading indie animation production houses. Specializing in 2D and digital animation, Top Draw offers a wide range of pre-production and production services to toon producers around the world. Kid vs Kat, Martha Speaks, Invisible Network of Kids, Dennis and Gnasher and Eliot Kid are some of the studio’s recent credits

Animag Online: What are some of the new projects you’re working on/taking to MIPTV?

Wayne Dearing: We leave it to our clients to talk publicly about their projects as we are not content developers in our own right. We are currently working on eight exciting projects; six of which are for air on major international broadcasters, one that is web-based and the other theatrical.

Animag Online: How do you see new media/platform accessibility for animation affecting your business?

Dearing: From a business perspective, TV remains the biggest driver by far and strong economic models are yet to be created for alternative and new media. We watch closely what our clients are doing and ensure that we remain a good fit for them. The bottom line is that our work is output digitally and can be applied to any digital media.

Animag Online: What are some of the new challenges you’re facing in 2011?

Dearing: As with 2010, our major challenge in 2011 continues to be lost margin at the hands of unfavorable exchange rates, especially with the stronger Peso and weaker Euro when compared to the US Dollar. Economies of scale are important. As a company, we are taking advantage of the strong production slate for 2011 and are working on strategies to expand beyond our traditional 2D television markets and into CGI – across gaming and television. We see further diversification as a key for our future.

More recently we have created our own distribution arm, Mango Distribution, that concentrates on Australia, New Zealand and Asia and offers better solutions to our clients in territories that otherwise remain a challenge. Interestingly, we have also entered into other broader based outsourcing/BPO sectors and have added transcription and accounting divisions to the group’s activities.

Animag Online: Has the amount of service work increased internationally for your company or is it pretty much the same?

Dearing: Top Draw has a 30/70 mix of co-production/service work and in terms of actual output, 2011 is looking to be our biggest year on record with six long-form series, two short-form series and a feature film slated for the year.

Animag Online: What are some of the tools/animation software you work with currently?

Dearing: Our two main animation software platforms are Flash and Toon Boom (Harmony); in that order of use. Other software platforms include Photoshop and After FX.

Animag Online: What are some of the advantages of working in your territory? Any downsides?

Dearing: The Philippines is probably the most experienced destination for overseas animation production in the world today and it is the most creatively driven and capable. As testament to this, it has long been a trend for other territories in the region (such as India, Malaysia and Singapore) to use Filipinos to train up their own work forces and build their own local industries. Add this to relatively low wages and true western sensibilities and the Philippines presents the leading value proposition when outsourcing animation production. Government-based subsidies available in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore would be helpful but our superior business model overcomes that as an issue.

Animag Online: Does the government offer any assistance to animation producers in the region?

Dearing: As an export company, Top Draw was granted a tax-free period of five years and moving forward, we are VAT exempt on all direct production expenses.

Animag Online: What is the secret of Top Draw’s longevity and success?

Dearing: Top Draw is now in its 12th year of operations. We select our clients carefully, understand their requirements and deliver what they need – to the highest standards. We are good business managers and have developed industry acumen that is second to none and which we apply to a value proposition that pertinently blends quality, reliability and price.

Our clients feel the benefits internally of a well managed production and they certainly see the value of our ability on-screen. As a result, repeat business and word of mouth is our strength.

For more info, visit topdrawanimation.com