Animate me.

Animator Mark Stepanek

How else then could BBC have come up with their mind blowing Walking with Dinosaurs documentary? That production relied heavily on animation and took more than two years to complete. Who would have thought we would someday be marveling at computer generated dinosaurs that are as real as it gets?

Look at the latest money churners – Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Shark Tale and Shrek .

These animations make use of state of the art software created especially for the purpose of the movie. So realistic are the effects that you sometimes are fooled into thinking that drop of tear is actually real. It’s either the animators’ are getting more skillful or that technology is getting better. Either way, you’ve got to admit that animation is pretty hot on the market right now. It’s the trend to produce animation, much less watch it.

Let’s see, we have The Matrix , the movie which brought the world to the edge of their seats – the movie relied heavily on animation, without which, certain effects would be impossible. Games these days also use animation to heighten the fun and cool factor. Final Fantasy is one of them.

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Animation is taking the world by storm; but what about right here in Singapore? Recently, Lucasfilm Ltd. built a digital animation studio right in Singapore, to produce digital animated content for audiences globally. And that includes games, television and films.

George Lucas appears to have taken a fancy to Asian animation, “I’ve been a fan of Asian animation and illustration all my life. Asian cinema has had a particularly big impact on a lot of my work. When we began thinking about developing new ways to explore the craft of animation, it seemed a natural step to combine the two”.

He hopes that by having a base in Singapore, they can “create a new style of animation that will blend east and west -and offer something not seen before.”

It seems almost too good to be true, to have one of the world’s most successful production companies tying up with Singapore’s pool of talents to produce Lucasfilm Animation Singapore. Lucasfilm of Star Wars fame is actually building upon something huge and concrete.

The facility will span over 40,000 sq. feet and the company will be employing about 300 creative individuals once they start its operations. Singapore is to be a central hub for tapping into the talent both island wide and regionally, as suggested by Michelin Chau, Lucasfilm Animation Singapore’s chief operating officer, “to create a world-class animation studio, we need to attract the best, and we believe Singapore will allow us to do that”.

In light of the hype that surrounds Lucasfilm Animation Singapore, our island on the other hand, does also offer courses in animation for those who are looking to garner the ‘known-how’ in the field.

One such place is CITS, the Creative IT Training School where they are now offering courses for those interested in mastering the art of animation. “we have identified animation films as an emerging market and thus have established the new Diploma in Photo-realistic Animation Film Development, the first such diploma in Singapore that is tailored specifically to the needs of the animation film industry”, says Mr. Axl Loon, 25, managing director of CITS.

Axl holds a Diploma in Electronics, Computer and Communication from Nanyang Polytechnic and founded the school in 2001 because he “had identified private IT education to be an emerging market, especially since Singapore and the rest of the world are evolving towards a knowledge-based economy”.

To him, “animation is the magic that allows you to bring the richness of your imagination to life, without which the things you dream of creating on-screen will remain as unrealised fantasies”.

In Axl’s opinion, “animation techniques can be used to enhance a great story with all kinds of special effects, thereby making the story more visually appealing.”

This seems to be the opportune time in promoting the study of animation and Axl couldn’t agree more, “People across all industries are beginning to realise the need for better visual effects and their use in different applications, such as movies, game development, graphics design and advertising.”

When quizzed about the recent announcement of Lucasfilm Animation Singapore taking shape, Axl adds that “George Lucas’s recent foray in Singapore represents a watershed moment for the digital animation industry. It is also encouraging to know that the Government intends to promote the digital content creation industry, which embraces both technology and the creative arts, in Singapore.”

The CITS diploma in photo-realistic animation film development offers a holistic approach to animation film development and looks set to equip students with the relevant animation skills that would allow them to create production akin to the likes of Monsters Inc. The duration of the diploma is six month (full time) and costs about $6,900.

Don’t worry about the authenticity of the diploma though; it is accredited with the University of Northwest in the US.

For those who are not so particular about the time duration can check out the Diploma in Interactive Media Design at Temasek Polytechnic. Animation is one of the modules in the syllabus. The entire course lasts for three years. So are we all headed the right direction?

Banking and tapping into the well while it is overflowing with great opportunities? I think yes. No doubt, our bustling nation is full of talented individuals and who knows; someday we might even produce an animation that’s on par, if not better than Shrek.

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