Dec 10 - 16, 2007

Pakistan is one of the countries, which have no history in the character animation sector. Although, the nation was blessed to having loads of talented artists in various other fields of art in gone decades, it was difficult to single out a complete one-minute duration animated work. Lack of facilities might be one of the reasons, but unavailability of training institutes are the main hurdle. Not a single institute in Pakistan is teaching basics and principles of character animation. Students are only learning about animation software instead of creation techniques of character. PAGE recently interviewed Asif Iqbal, CEO Post Amazers. The Post Amazers is one of the largest internationally-acclaimed post production houses in Pakistan. Character Animation has become its hallmark. It has introduced local animation works on several plate forms across the globe and landed its expertises into two Hollywood movies. Talking to PAGE, Asif Iqbal expressed his utter dismay over the performance of institutes deficient in producing talents well-savvy of character animation. Even, faculties are not trained animators. How could one expect them to produce talents? This is one the biggest bottlenecks in engineering character animation industry, he commented. There are only two or three character animation companies in Pakistan. The total revenue generated in post production industry including animation sector counts only around Rs.100 million per annum. Above all, local market is not growing as much as global owing to budget constraints. Consequently, they are exploring international markets. Asif Iqbal is associated with character animation for the last 20 years. In 1988, he graduated in Arts faculty from Karachi. He acquired his further studies from UCL extension, USA. That he said was one of the best vocational training institutions world-over, faculties of which compose of producers, directors, DoPs of Hollywood. What he called luck was a chance he got to work with Apple which had launched first colour computer for graphics. Following his graduation, he started working in an ad agency. That was a time when slicon graphic machines were used to design graphics and while desktop publishing confined computer utility to performing few specific jobs. Then, he joined as a demonstration artist in one enterprising slicon graphics company which was carving its debuts in static graphics. By attending seminars and trade shows, his knowledge about the industry expanded to grow. Later, he moved to a Singaporean company as an animator. Before finally decided to return to Pakistan in year 2000, Asif Iqbal did work for a company of Jakarta as an operational manager. In Pakistan, TMT Ventures-venture capital fund-was agreed to fund a brainchild post production company of Asif Iqbal. It was quite a bold step forwarded by TMT during a time when this industry was not much flourishing, he appreciated. The idea was to primary embark on a post production house and then to inject earned profits onto diversification of the business. Therefore, they started with a range of activities viz. non-linear editing, promo designing, and computer graphics applied on to adding values to produced documentaries, sitcoms, brand profiling, etc. The purpose was to develop an alma mater to cherish character animation sector in years to come. It took two years to explore the idea that ultimately culminated in setting up of Post Amazers in 2002. The reason of delay, he told, was shortage of skilled people with knowledge of animation. This led us to utilise our company as a nursery to hone skills of raw talents. It is duly recognized and conceded within the circle of animation sector that ninety percent of character animators were actually trained under the umbrella of Post Amazers. It hires talented artists and pays them while they learn intricacies of character animation. In couple of years, they get able to possess a significant knowledge to produce their exclusive works. This has been a common input-output process in practice since the inception of Post Amazers. Character Animation is not a popular field in Pakistan. Most of the animation works limit to products and brands. Asif Iqbal has trailed a blaze to disciples to follow since he is passionate about promoting character animation works in Pakistan, which he certainly did. Commander Safeguard, the first animated superhero of Pakistan and the mascot of P&G's brand has shuddered into international animation industry all along. Developed by Post Amazers, the famed-ubiquitous flick started to impress quickly alike Pakistani kids and elderly households who have not yet exposed this kind of sophisticated indigenous messaging. Following a success in Pakistan, the concept was well emulated in Mexico.

Named as 'EI XXXXX', the commander succeeded in breaking all records to date, outperformed 'Sponge Bob SquarePants', currently the most popular character worldwide. Additionally, animators of Post Amazers have done works for two Hollywood movies: Exorcist the beginning; and Sun of the mask.

Generally, post production industry of Pakistan is not growing at a high pace as compared to other countries. It is a very small industry. Pakistan has no standing in global arena. India has 7,000 to 8,000 character animators in a wide contrast to Pakistan, which has around 100.

Asif Iqbal urged government to invest in setting up of exclusive training institutes for animation. Without government's support or subsidy, character animations would not be prospered. This sector is right now at infant stage. The job opportunities created in electronic media have now lowered down. Revenue of our companies is too scant to afford to pay high salary to animators causing their detraction, he told. Therefore, people hailing from low-income segment of society are more inclined to join post production houses. Character animated feature films can generate substantial turnovers. Right now, total post production industry stands at revenue of Rs. 100 million per annum, Asif lamented.

Talking about advertising industry of Pakistan, he said, there is no originality. Halt in creativity occurs due to non-supportive cultural context. As a nation, we don't value art. Basically, we are aesthetically poor people with no sense of artistic piece.

Post Amazers has strength of 80 employees involved in post production works. But, speciality of it is to do character animations. Produced remarkable character animated magnum opus for multi national companies and foreign clients, it is now expanding its horizon of working to long-duration feature films. Post Amazers is presently working on designing animated series on Dubai-based character: Hajaj.