Local studio, Listen Mi Caribbean, recently landed a deal with Sesame Workshop (best known for Sesame Street) to produce a live action short film to be aired as part of Sesame Street’s Season 50. The linkage was made at the KingstOOn Animation Festival held earlier this year, where local film producers were invited to submit concepts and pitch to Sesame Street Producer, Kimberly Wright at the event. The Sesame Workshop’ s New York production team selected Listen Mi Caribbean’s concept “D is for Dress Up” from the submissions received. Kenia Mattis, CEO of Listen Mi, commented “This is an amazing opportunity for ListenMi and for Jamaica because it demonstrates we can develop global creative concepts locally. Many of us grew up with Sesame Street. I’m so excited that our Jamaican animation and design studio will contribute to its 50th season.”
“Kenia and her team really made quite an impression during the pitch session. Their idea and musical approach to the concept was fun, unique and something we really feel our young viewers will find engaging and fun to watch! We are excited about working with Listen Mi as they bring their “D is for Dress Up” pitch to life as one of our Season 50 letter films” explained Kimberly Wright.
Sesame Workshop was one of a number of international companies invited to share their experience and expertise at the April event, hosted by the Office of The Prime Minister (Youth Employment in the Digital and Animation Industries Project) in its effort to continue to build momentum for the development of the local animation industry.
The Project Manager, Mrs. Margery Newland, explained that “through KingstOOn and other YEDAIP initiatives, we have established relationships with important industry players such as Sesame Workshop, Bento Box, Mattel, Mercury Film works, Pipsqueak Animation, Toon Boom, TV Paint, Wacom, as well as with US and Canadian universities such as Full Sail, Capilano, Sheridan, and Algonquin. The nurturing and maintenance of these relationships and the establishment of new ones, is critical to the success of our efforts on two fronts (i) continued improvement in the quality of training programmes and opportunities for professional animators and (ii) raising the visibility of Jamaica in the international arena.”
Over the years KingstOOn has demonstrated significant impact in terms of showcasing young talent and making inroads in bridging the intangible gap between the business community and the tech community of animators and entrepreneurs. Many were able to meet with representatives from local private sector businesses/potential investors over three iterations of KingstOOn (2013, 2016 and 2019) and an estimated 5000 people have participated in workshops, conferences, and competitions.
In the most recent staging, KingstOOn saw a daily average attendance of 800, the live competitions drawing the biggest audiences. The competitions netted over 1800 submissions (compared to 300 in the first year). Tangible results have materialised from KingstOOn including new contracts, training opportunities, international collaborations , and new jobs for youth.
KingstOOn received positive reviews from the local and international animation community, and from the IBRD/ World Bank during a review the YEDAI Project conducted in May 2019. The YEDAI Project, funded by a loan from the World Bank, is the first of its kind in the Bank’s portfolio.
On a visit to Jamaica in late 2018, World Bank Vice President for the Caribbean and Latin America, Mr Jorge Familiar accompanied by a delegation, visited the Digital Animation Lab at UTech, Jamaica, and interacted with members of faculty and animation students who are pursuing the Bachelor of Science in Animation Production and Development. He commented that this was “the coolest World Bank Project that I have ever seen,” further quipping that “I want to stay here and take classes with you … to learn to do some of these spectacular things that I see you doing.” During his visit he reviewed first-hand, the results of the YEDAI Project implementation at the Campus
As we continue to build the KingstOOn brand, planning has already started for the 2020 event.