Toronto's Animation Studios

By Caroline Gdyczynski

 

“Toronto produces good hockey players and good animators,” says George Elliott, the creative head of Elliott Animation Studios in Toronto. As an independent studio owner, Elliott is swept up in Toronto’s very avid animation scene.

The cities most recent economic profile places Information and Communications Technology in Toronto as the best in Canada and third within North America. According to Statistics Canada Ontario led the growth in this sector with $1.4 billion increases.

animation Illustration by Dila Velazquez

 “It seems that there is more work than ever right now, especially in the last three to four years, and a lot of it has to do with technological advancements,” says Dejan Brujic, an animator for Elliott Animation Studios.

One of the most significant developments is Maya, an Oscar winning Canadian software program developed by Alias| Wavefront. A statement from the company credits Maya as the world's leading professional 3-D animation and effects package for the film, broadcast, video, game development, 3-D web and location-based entertainment markets. In 2003 Alias|Wavefront won an Oscar for Scientific and Technical Achievement for Maya.

Kevin Tureski, the director of product development, accepted the award on behalf of the company. “It was a very proud moment because some of the individuals who worked on Maya, have spent the better part of their professional lives trying to advance the state of the art.
Maya has just celebrated its 10th anniversary as the leading software of choice for bringing 3-D magic to the movies according to Autodesk, which purchased Alias|Wavefront in 2005. “Our goal in releasing Maya was looking to the next generation of animation systems; which, required very specific capabilities that no other software had,” says Tureski.

“One of the great things about Toronto is that we’ve got a rich environment, where we have a lot of really great animation studios and schools,” says Tureski.

Elliott Animation Studios, an independent company, has experience success in children’s television series. “We do a lot of series animation work in Canada, and that teaches animators to be good and fast. It’s a very intense and effective training ground,” says Elliott.
The work produced by the studio includes children’s television shows such as Backyardigans, Sitting Ducks, Total Drama Island, and  Zixx-Level One. These productions are often internationally co-produced for channels such as the Cartoon Network, Nelvana, Nickelodeon, and YTV. The ratings of each of these channels are among the top youth networks in Canada and the world.

As with any industry, competition plays a leading role in regards to how successful one can be. According to Elliott, Toronto is competing on a global scale, as almost every country has developed an animation industry. “ We are all competing for the same jobs,” says Elliott. “A client is always looking for the lowest bid, but that doesn’t mean that they will get the best quality.” This has been the case especially with Asian territories says Elliott. “These countries are fighting to get projects based on lower labour rates,” he said.

Reasons for Toronto’s success in the industry include the fact that Canadian and American culture is very similar. “We speak the same language and have many of the same cultural references. This type of understanding goes a long way in a creative industry,” says Elliott. “We also work in similar time zones to American producers, which makes it easier than working with a company located on the other side of the world.” In the end, reputation plays a large role when it comes to getting the job.

There is no doubt that Toronto’s reputation keeps the animation industry alive and moving into the future. “Toronto has a very big part to play in the on-going development of software for computer animation and production,” says Tureski.  “I look forward to our future success.” 

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