By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

ANIMATION outsourcing studios in the Philippines are experiencing a worker shortfall as demand for their services surged during the pandemic, an industry group said.

Demand for animation from global entertainment companies has been increasing amid the coronavirus health crisis as lockdowns slow down live-action filming, Animation Council of the Philippines, Inc. (ACPI) President Juan Miguel del Rosario said in a phone interview. The Philippines is an outsourcing hub serving animation studios based in countries like the United States.

The Toon City chief executive officer said the need for a quick turnaround has led local studios to shift to more rigged or digital animation from hand-drawn, requiring retraining across their workforce.

But most Filipino animators working from home are now drawn to freelancing for foreign clients, leaving studios in search of talent.

“We’re aggressively hiring all over the country — in Cebu, Iloilo, even in the Bicol area,” Mr. Del Rosario said.

Large studios, he said, have been promoting the assurance of consistent work to lure talent as more animators either choose to work freelance or for smaller studios.

Adel S. Garangan, president of the Philippine Animation Workers Association, said in a phone interview that more animators are attracted to freelance work to capitalize on increased demand for their work.

As live performance-based creative industry revenues plummet, Mr. Del Rosario said that there is more demand for digital creative work, including animation.

“The latest game in town for animation is Netflix, which aims to beat Disney in their own game,” he said.

Eric Calderon, a Los Angeles-based animation producer, said global demand is growing, but “not as much as you might think.”

“Actually, animation itself has been on the rise for years, especially with new content demands from streaming platforms,” he said in an online message. “So, it’s hard to say what was pandemic-related and what was the launch of new distribution systems. But, definitely a handful of projects opted for animation when live-action could not be achieved.”

Representing a small fraction of the industry, Philippine animation outsourcing revenue growth targets pre-pandemic were higher than the pace of outsourcing overall.

Mr. Calderon said the global animation industry experienced some hiccups as it transitioned to remote work, but remained productive.

Most of Toon City’s employees are working remotely. The company, Mr. Del Rosario said, plans to retain a hybrid model of remote and in-office work, reducing 80% of its office space in the process.

Work-from-home operations continue to cause delays. Toon City is now reporting a 10% lag after productivity dropped by nearly 30% during the stricter quarantine last year due to connectivity issues and disrupted feedback methods.

Clients are so far tolerating the situation, Mr. Del Rosario said, as the lockdowns across Europe have similarly disrupted the global industry.

According to Mr. Calderon, animation outsourcing — and Philippine competitiveness — would remain unchanged because outsourcing is already remote by nature.

“But, I would agree that if artists don’t have access to high-speed connectivity, it could become a dangerous bottleneck to overcome,” he said.

Mr. Del Rosario, however, maintained that remote work could create work opportunities outside the capital.

“(The lockdowns) really worked to the advantage of the industry because we’re digital, and therefore that digitalization and internet has given access to people from outside of Manila to work, and that’s a big reach.”