Netflix-funded animation school tries to address shortage of anime artists

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Netflix and the Japanese animation studio Wit Studio “let’s train the next generation of anime artists” in a new academy for budding creatives.

Over the past few years, the anime has seen a boom in pop culture, beating the global box office with the 2020s. Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, flooding streaming platforms with hits, including Castlevania and disney Star Wars: Visions.

However, art once considered a niche interest has seen a setback. According to an article in The Star, Japan will soon experience “a shortage of qualified animators” due to the animation industry’s penchant for low wages, high work volumes, and a revolving door of animators.

Image: Wit Studio / The Pokémon Company

Fortunately, the American streaming giant Netflix and Wit Studio (The attack of the Titans, Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us) are working to resolve this issue. Together, the two companies launched the WIT Animator Academy, a school “Which offers a group of junior artists free training and an allowance for their living expenses as they learn”. The school is currently accepting its second cycle of students.

Studio president George Wada compared the school to a crash program.

“If you become an apprentice to a great sushi chef, it may take years before you master all the recipes, but you can go to a sushi academy and complete the whole program in a year.” Wada said while speaking to The Star.

The course lasts six months, with students focusing on “Between” art. In other words, artists learn to draw the frames that “create the illusion of movement” we see on the screen.

Graduates of the program will also be offered positions at Wit Studio or other affiliates to work on shows for Netflix.

Host Hitomi Tateno (Princess mononoke, Akira, Kiki’s delivery service) is one of the teachers in the program. According to Tateno, there is more to animation work than just drawing characters on paper.

“This job is like weaving a carpet. It is very delicate and requires patience … Many budding animators want to quickly reach a position of key animator, and even if some want to specialize in the in-between, few can survive ”, Tateno said.

If WIT Academy turns out to be successful, there are plans “To expand and offer avenues in other animation specialties”.

The attack of the Titans
Image: Spirit Studio

Taiki Sakurai, the chief anime producer at Netflix, said this:

“We will continue our efforts to support and strengthen the talent that sustains the animation industry. “

According to the Japan Animation Creators Association (JAniCA), animators who work as intermediate artists are typically freelance or part-time – only 18% work full-time. If that wasn’t stressful enough for those looking to enter the industry, 80% of the work is outsourced to studios in South Korea or China. In this way, WIT Academy offers a “security net” for emerging talents. Maki Ueno, a student in the program, said the classes gave her a sense of security.

“I have a friend who works for another studio, who tells me that the training program is much shorter and that there is no payment during the training” she said, quoted by the International Business Times.

JAniCA lawyer and secretary Daisuke Okeda expressed his hope that the school will initiate a cultural change in the industry:

“It is widely accepted that the quality of animation increases when a studio keeps qualified intermediaries on the team… The best studios have also started to invest in the region. The industry is already recovering.

In 2020, the global anime industry was valued at $ 23.56 billion (AUD 31.51 billion), according to industry analysis in a 2021 article published by Grand View Research, and it is expected to grow by because of streaming services.

The pandemic has also seen its popularity increase, with Netflix gaining two million more subscribers in Japan. According to Netflix, “Over 100 million households around the world have watched at least one anime on Netflix in the past twelve months”.



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