Filipino animators land their ‘dream’ job | Inquirer Business

Filipino animators land their ‘dream’ job

WORLD-CLASS Australian film Exchange Student Zero, an animation project with Cartoon Network, is part of Top Draw’s rich portfolio. —Top Draw website

WORLD-CLASS Australian film Exchange Student Zero, an animation project with Cartoon Network, is part of Top Draw’s rich portfolio. —Top Draw website

Jade Pagunsan, 27, often daydreamed about becoming an animator, but never thought it could happen. His father died when he was young and he grew up in poverty. To help support his family, he took on a series of odd jobs.

Inspired by cartoons that he had fondly watched growing up, he used his break time at work to draw. But without financial support, pursuing higher education and specializing in animation seemed out of reach.


Working as janitor at MRT Kamuning, he saw the billboard of Filipino animated film “Dayo: Sa Mundo ng Elementalia.” He asked himself if he could ever be part of such a cool project.


One day, while working as a truck driver and delivering parcels at Tektite West Tower in Ortigas, he stumbled upon office workers wearing Top Draw lanyard. He researched about this local studio that specializes in 2D animation and has worked with the likes of Nickelodeon, Disney and Dreamworks. That same day, he mustered all his courage and sent in his application.

Lo and behold, Top Draw Academy opened its doors to him. He got into its six-month intensive boot camp where talents from various parts of the country receive training in animation.

“Talagang mahilig ako magdrawing pero kulang. Nung [tinuruan ako] ng [principles] of animation, nabubuo ko na; kaya ko na mag animate ng solid,” (I am really interested in drawing; however, I lack the skills. But when I learned the principles of animation, I started to put it all together, then I could animate well) says Pagunsan.

The instructors are very hands-on and fair, he says. He isn’t treated differently, even if he didn’t go to college.



Topnotch talent

Pagunsan shares with the Inquirer that as he didn’t have a computer at home, he used to rely on his phone instead. He is thankful to Top Draw for giving him access to industry-standard apps and a computer for animation.

“The talent here [in the Philippines] is topnotch,” says Jared Wolfson, executive vice president at Top Draw. He adds that the company invests a lot in developing its employees, both old and new, to unlock their potential and bring them to the top of their game. The company is also currently planning to create linkages with various universities and colleges across the Philippines to attract fresh talent.


“I think the idea that you can walk into a dream job and this being a dream company, really is a dream. We want to continue to keep that here so when you come here, you enjoy the experience,” says Wolfson.

“Top Draw looks for animation-relevant skills and capabilities, but also takes passion, creativity and potential into consideration. A few additional things that are highly valued at Top Draw Academy [are] pride in work, desire to learn, self-motivation, ability to have fun on the job, agility, communication and teamwork, among others,” Wolfson shares with the Inquirer.

The animation studio is currently eyeing expansion outside of Metro Manila, in the hopes of attracting new projects from all over the world and new talents from all over the archipelago.

“By growing our footprint across all of the Philippines, that allows us to probably shift some of the resources into different places. So if we can test other markets outside of the NCR (National Capital Region) and we can put satellite facilities in certain places [then] we can grow talent from different places, it gives us access to things that we didn’t have before that allow us, again, to strategically grow in the right ways,” says Wolfson.

“From a facilities and resources perspective, there are very few places like [Top Draw] in the world. There is a strong culture of fun, creativity and exploration, all of which ends up in the work product. The people are friendly, kind, courteous and truly care about what they do,” Wolfson quips.

Top Draw was founded in 1999 by husband and wife Wayne (retired managing director) and Stella Dearing (senior executive vice president), who had previously worked at Hanna Barbera, out of one computer in their living room. It has since then become well-known when it comes to Filipino-made animation, receiving various international recognition like the Sydney Design Awards in 2018.

Jade Pagunsan

Jade Pagunsan —Contributed photo

Pinoy character in the works

“I think what you do is you grow with intention, and you grow with purpose, and you grow and you learn along the way as you grow,” says Wolfson. “We want to increase our exposure to the world so that we continue to fill our pipeline and expand our pipeline.”

Company officials share that they are working on a new intellectual property that will incorporate Filipino culture.

“If Latin America has a Dora, the Explorer, we can definitely have a Filipino character that reaches out to the whole world. All the directors are pitching concepts. Our artists are also pitching concepts. Even the [students at Top Draw Academy just] came from a pitching session, and in the next visit of our executives, they are going to present it … We encourage that because it’s a good idea and it’s a good project,” says Kleyr Chainani, chief people officer at Top Draw.

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“When you look at a Disney movie like Moana, that’s specifically about Hawaii. It’s relatable across the world … It’s not only relevant to the Hawaiian,” Wolfson says. “We’ll continue to make sure we build this place in a way that’s culture-specific, but that also delivers the great work product and the great relationships and service that we want to.”

TAGS: animation, Filipinos, talents

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