Animation more than a hobby
By Natasha Beckles | Sun, October 07, 2012 - 10:30 AM
If you're a fan of anime, video game creation, voice acting or any other non-traditional creative outlet, you’ve probably heard about the local pop culture convention Animekon.
But if you’re unfamiliar with the annual event which was staged for the third time this year, executive directors Omar Kennedy and Melissa Young will be eager to tell you how they think these creative pursuits can help to give young people a voice.
As 28-year-old Melissa explained to the SUNDAY SUN recently, while she initially wanted to stage an anime (cartoons and computer animation) film festival, Omar had a bigger vision.
“Growing up I, along with many of my friends, really enjoyed this incredibly artistic form of story-telling and we spent hours watching the many series and movies that were created using the style of animation.
“Normally, they were viewed on our computers so while it was amazing to watch, I always thought it would be even more amazing to watch it on a cinema-sized screen,” she said.
In an effort to push the idea further, Omar said they brainstormed and did research over a period of months.
“We did some research on the pop culture conventions internationally – the Wizard cons, the San Diego Comic cons, the Blizzard cons, the Dragon cons – and we realized there was nothing like that in this part of the Caribbean. So we decided that it was a very positive thing that we could do.
“It allows people to focus on an often-forgotten part of the artistic skills which a lot of our young people do have, which really does not get mainstream attention from persons who have art shows and whatever have you,” he said.
The convention focuses on a range of creative pursuits, including fine arts, graphic arts, special effects, martial arts and gaming.
To many people, these may seem like mere hobbies and the two initially had a difficult time convincing people to take them seriously.
However, support for the event continues to grow each year as people see that pop culture is not just about entertainment, but development and even job creation.
“There’s a limitless amount of inspiration out there that can really engage young people and encourage them to dedicate their time on something that is positive and uplifting,” Melissa noted.
And while people often “raise an eyebrow” at gaming, Omar said the global gaming industry was several times larger than Hollywood.
“It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry and there are people down here in Barbados who are unsung heroes who actually make games and they get very little recognition,” he pointed out.
“There are a few people in Barbados who, when you put them behind a computer and you give them the software, they create special effects which can be seen in a Hollywood movie.
“These are the sort of people who we wanted to highlight and showcase and also give the appropriate recognition and networking ability so that they could push their skills beyond Barbados,” the 34-year-old said.
Over the years the duo has invited well known guests from all over the world to Barbados to speak to emerging local talent.
These have included actor/director LeVar Burton who starred as Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Kunta Kinte in Roots; internationally acclaimed sci-fi writer Tobias Buckell and representatives of DC Entertainment, which owns characters such as Superman, Batman and Green Lantern.
“They came down and they were very impressed with what we have done down here with our artists and our writers,” Omar said.
“Another large name that we had brought down was Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and they are the special effects bosses of the world.
“All of these people, when they come to Barbados and they see what we have done and what we are accomplishing with so little, they are very impressed,” he related.
Omar noted that competitions are staged during the event and participants are rewarded in areas such as art and “cosplay”.
“When you’re “cosplaying” you create a costume similar to what you may have seen one of your favourite characters wearing in a movie or a game or just something that you created yourself that you believe is very cool and different.
“It is one of the big attractions for Animekon,” he said.
Proving that Animekon invites all forms of creativity, Omar said this year there was a fashion show at which a young woman created swimwear that was a fusion of West Indian, Greek and Japanese cultures.
Although noting there was no shortage of talent in Barbados, he said the biggest challenge was keeping the event “fresh”.
“We are dealing primarily with the Internet generation and . . . you cannot keep their attention for a very long time by doing the same thing, so we often have to be doing new things every year . . . .”
• Positive Youth is a series highlighting the efforts of some of the youth in our nation who are engaging in positive pursuits.
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