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Close-up With Animation Head Honcho Alison Latchman
CEO and Co-Founder of Alcyone Animation sits down for a quick (e)chat with Susumba as we talk about Alcyone’s recent sojourn to MIPCOM as well as Alcyone’s impending entry into children’s content. Animation has been touted as one of the creative sectors to watch in the Caribbean and Alcyone is one of the leading animation outfits in Jamaica. The company produced the hit television series Cabbie Chronicles whose tongue in cheek humour has delighted audiences and is getting ready to introduce Magnus the Mongoose.
Susumba: You recently returned from a successful foray into the screen festival world. Tell us about the journey there, any major challenges and the most rewarding lessons/experiences (if the best experience was a fabulous cup of coffee feel free to include).
Alison Latchman: Preparing for MIPCOM was exciting and nerve - racking. It was our first time going to MIPCOM and we wanted to make a great impression. Preparation was going well then bam ... Insert chikv carrying Aedes Egypti bite here. We were reduced to a staff complement of 2 down from 8 so that put extra pressure on us but we got everything done. In celebration of 30 years, MIPCOM launched a competition called 'Be the star of MIPCOM' so we said 'what the hell' and entered. We were just having fun really and did a 15 second video doing the Brukins to Stanley Beckford's winning festival song "Fi Wi Islant a Boom!"
We won by about 100 votes. Winning allowed us to walk the red carpet, mingle with some celebs and meet top level tv executives. There were so many memorable experiences however it was nice to meet a fellow Jamaican who left from in the 1960s and works with The Jim Henson Company and of course Gene Simmons' reaction to my being Jamaican!! He delivered a slew of expletives ending with ‘claat’ and hailing HIM Haile Selassie. I never laugh so much.
S: In a country with a fledging animation industry, what is it like to head up one of the leading companies?
AL: Sometimes it can be frustrating, as Jamaica just isn't there yet with enough trained animators and of course the ever important trade legislations. However with suggestions and bringing certain challenges to light, I believe we, as an industry, can move in the right direction.
S: It's been suggested that animation offers great potential for Jamaica. Do you agree and what do you think we're doing right, and what are we doing wrong?
AL: It does offer great earning potential for the country however the animation training needs a more structured approach.The expectation so far has been unrealistic. A 6-month training course does not an animator make. The first task is to debunk the myth that anyone can do it. No. That's not the case. I mean you can do anything if you put your mind to it, yes? However, anyone venturing into animation must understand that it requires dedication and passion. It is time consuming and labour intensive.
The exchange of information is what has been encouraged by the more seasoned animators who saw the gap, to help develop skill outside of the formal animation training offered by the institutions. JANN is a great resource for young animators. A host of information is available from them including but not limited to tips on improving and what open source software is available for use.
S: Tell me about the upcoming animation Magnus the Mongoose. Is it Alcyone' s first foray into children's content? How long was the development process? and how did you come up with Magnus?
AL: Magnus was in development for sometime now as we always wanted to create content specifically targeted to Caribbean children but relatable globally. There's just not enough content that our children can identify with. Most of our children's content comes from North America and Europe and it is difficult to cultivate self acceptance in our youth when most of the images presented suggest that they are not valued. We are releasing the first in the series of ebooks on all major digital platforms in December, after which the animated series will be further developed. It is always difficult to say how you 'come up' with ideas.
Inspiration is everywhere and as a creative person, you just tap into what speaks to you although nuh mongoose neva come whisper in mi ears still :)
S: Characters are like your children, and they say you should never play favourites, but do you have one? Which is it and why?
AL: It is a toss up between Fluffy and Rodfin (Crackhead) from Cabbie Chronicles. Both characters have fun within the context of their lives. Fluffy is bold, confident, loves her size and shape, speaks her mind but holds no grudges. Rodfin is a good soul but got disenchanted with the world by seeing too much and just decided to play with people, to push their buttons - like the world is one big social experiment to him.