Interview with Thai Animation & Computer Graphic Association's Lak Taechawanchai

By AMRITA VALECHA | 11 May, 2010 - 14:58

What is TACGA?
Thai Animation and Computer Graphics association (TACGA) was formed in 2006 after gathering all the companies in the industry having forums in TAM (Thailand Animation and Multimedia Exhibition) conducted by SIPA (Software Industry Promotion Agency) for 3 years. Although the organization has been strongly backed by SIPA, the association is supported by several government organizations related to the field including Ministry of ICT, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Industry, etc.

SIPA has focused on one of the four main national policies, called National ICT Flagship Projects, on building Thailand as a Digital Content Center in the region. As Thailand also has a solid history in terms of artistic ability and creativity, plus a workforce for both the local and the international market, Thailand might find a way to help put its digital content industry on the world map of this lucrative market.

Once we formed the TACGA, we had SIPA to conduct TAM, so it was like a forum and once we knew each other we started to think how to move forward the animation industry in Thailand, not governmentally, but we as a private had to lead them and that is why we tried to make TAM more focused. I am the Chairman of this TACGA and we have more than 50 members and a few hundred more individual members. It's very fortunate that this year the government announced a strong stimulus plan for creative Thailand. The prime minister announced in front of all countries and all the agencies a five year plan starting this year to support creative industries including animation, because animation is one of 7 or 9 creative industries like design, multimedia, architecture etc.

The TACGA has proposed a $25 million government fund for co-productions with international firms in five countries to gain global recognition in order to promote animation as a creative industry. The Thai delegation has also visited the United States to discuss the possibility of developing world class features with US producers.

What have been the recent activities of TACGA?

The SIPA has launched three projects under the Digital Media Asia (DMA) 2010 scheme with the initial budget of Bt50 million. They include Co-production 2010, the Toy and Comic Expo Asia 2010 and the Asia Animation Awards 2010, costing Bt 25 million, Bt 15 million and Bt 10 million respectively. The three projects will be managed by the TACGA. The DMA 2010 scheme is part of the government's creative economy policy. It is regarded as a vital effort to drive Thai digital content into overseas markets, to attract foreign investment to the country and to make Thailand the hub of the digital-content industry in the Asia Pacific region with the next three years.

Co-production 2010 aims to help local animation companies to find sources of investment. The project is designed to serve both long film animation developments and the production of animated series. SIPA's coproduction model directs investment to companies with approval from Sipa's judging or assessment committee. The Asia Animation Awards 2010 will be a combined effort between SIPA and TACGA. Animators from all parts of Asia will be encouraged to enter the competition. Whether they win or not, they will have a chance to meet judging panels comprising representatives of important stakeholders from around Asia, including television broadcasters such as Thailand's Channel 7, Modernine TV and TV Thai, Japanese NHK and Chinese CCTV.

This contact is expected to give participants a chance to develop commercial products out of their work, as well as the opportunity to win awards and recognition. The organizers expect to attract about 200 entries in categories for animated series. There are expected to be 10 winners in each category for animated series, ranging from professionals to students. The Toy and Comic Expo Asia 2010 aims to encourage the development of animated characters design for Asian companies. By exhibiting animated designs, business matching and content development, it offers to direct these animated characters towards the merchandising business.

Other projects under DMA 2010 that are expected to be launched later this year include Cyber Games Asia 2010, the Animation Youth Festival Asia, Asia Business Matching for a Creative Economy, Film Expo Asia, The Asia Music Festival, the Asia Game Awards, The Asia Music Awards, Venture-Capital Forum Asia, the Animation and Computer Graphics Asia Expo, Professional Game Training Asia and Professional Animation Training Asia.

In what ways does the TACGA support and nurture the local players and Industry?
TACGA has proposed its main missions:

· To develop a standard of animation and gaming human resources and organization.
· To develop animation and software game products and content up to the international standard
· To collaborate with international partners and develop a marketing network for co-production, joint venture, and knowledge transfer for the Thai animation and game industry
· To promote the strength and capability of Thai animation entrepreneurs in the international market arena

We are still young and as a contributing association, we cannot provide funding right now. That may change since what we have is the leading role of the industry so we managed to convince policy makers such as government agencies and other funds to look at us. One of our missions is to have our own fund expected next year.

What is your role at TACGA?
I am acting as the President of TACGA for the second round. The first round during establishment 2007-2008 was to gather all key players in animation industry and we managed to get almost all companies in the country to become TACGA members. This second round I plan on establishing TACGA as a dependent association for Thai animation industry.

We started at 19 founding registered companies and now we have about 50 registered companies. Other types of members include 30 agencies and 25 institutes/universities and students. All famous animation companies are likely to be members of TACGA including Kantana, Vithita, Imagimax, Imagine, Anya, Appreciate, The Monk, BBoyed, Surreal, etc.

What is the current size of the animation industry in Thailand?
Thailand entered this industry since Payut Ngaokrachang developed a 12 min animation in 1955 called 'Haed Mahasajan' while 'The legend of White Snake' was Japan's first full length color animated feature released in 1958. However the industry lacks support from the government compared with neighboring countries like Malaysia, Singapore as well as Vietnam and Cambodia which aggressively promote animation by attracting big studios to invest in the country as well as staging animation exhibitions. As part of the policy entailing a Creative Economy, animation is one creative industry which involves both art and technology.

Many government agencies and other private stakeholders recently gathered to brainstorm with 3D agencies to build six strategic plans to develop a creative industry in animation aiming to make Thailand a centre of creative and animation production within the next four years.

TACGA focuses on animation eco-system. Our members comprise of 4 areas:
1-Animated TV series
2-Animated Feature Film
3-Visual Effects and Commercials
4-Characters and Licensing
We have about 50 registered companies and its growing fast due to recent support from the government.

What would you say about the ratio of Intellectual Property V/S outsourcing work in Thailand
In terms of companies in the industry, we have more IP companies than outsourcing companies. But I would say that market value of outsourcing work surpasses IP based work. TACGA has developed a plan to propose to the government of subsidizing co production between five countries- China, USA, India, France and Thailand. The co-production model will lift the kingdom to have joint Intellectual Property beyond its own existing outsourcing service that can boost the visibility of Thai Brands. Moreover, the fund can help to subsidize TV airtime costs for animation companies because the domestic animation has less than 10 percent of the market with most animated features coming from Korea and Japan due to import cost which are lower than domestic animation. In 2009, airtime for Thailand animation on TV channels was reduced by 20-30% because of the economic crisis and most animation companies are SMEs that cannot afford airtime costs. If the Govt can subsidize 50% of airtime cost with the remaining 50% coming from advertising, we can get revenue sharing from animation companies. This will boost new animation by least 10 stories each year.

Which are the most successful Intellectual Properties and original shows coming out of the Thailand?
Definitely Kan Kluay 1 & 2 (The Blue Elephant). Currently there are at least 5 companies developing full animated feature films in Thailand. Among others, they are Kantana, Workpoint's Ban Itirit, Sahamongkol's Surreal, True's BBoyd, and Imagine.

The first 3 formers are using their own fund which is quite challenging and rare in this global industry. For some, TACGA has approached the new strategy with SIPA. For its part, TACGA is committed to render active support for strategic co-operation and partnerships between members and related companies. TACGA requested SIPA to give support and also seek opportunity to work with other Asean companies for co-production. A recent example was a joint-development for a 2D animated series from Korea and Thailand plus another new co-Production project under DMA (Digital Media Asia)

Do you have any flagship events?
SIPA has launched the first three projects under the Digital Media Asia (DMA) 2010scheme, with initial budgets totaling Bt50 million. They include Co-Production 2010, the Toy and Comic Expo Asia 2010 and the Asia Animation Awards 2010, costing Bt25million, Bt15 million and Bt10 million respectively. The three projects will be managed by TACGA.

The ministry of commerce just launched the Character Licensing Expo (CLEA 2010). It's going to be from 6th May to 9th May. TAGCA is one of the committee. Also TACGA is responsible for another 4 projects from SIPA including Asia Animation Award (AAA), Co-Production Asia (CPA), Animation & Computer Graphics Expo Asia (ACGA), and Toy&Comic Expo Asia (TCA). All events and projects are being launched in concert to grow the industry and these projects are under the umbrella of SIPA's DMA (Digital Media Asia) which all projects will be collaborated with other key partners in Asia. We believe that no country is an island so if we grow, we'll grow together as we always mention the phrase 'Asia as One'.

What are the plans of TACGA in 2010 ?
Our mission is to go international. With our integration and collaboration among Asean countries, TACGA is confident that Asean digital contents are set to ride along with the world's best studios in expanding global digital content and the animation industry in the very near future. We are quite strong in terms of industry leads and when it comes to speaking to the government. We try to educate the government that we should have done this earlier as the animation industry in Asia has tremendous scope in terms of creativity, in the artistic field, especially Thai crafts, handicrafts and things like that. They will grow very fast and this will create revenue for the country. The government has just woken up, they listen to us and this is just the beginning.