Lucasfilm opens animation studio in S'pore

Lucasfilm Animation Singapore is expected to boost the talent pool of the island-state, as well as nurture fledging talents.

SINGAPORE--The local digital media industry has received a shot in the arm as Lucasfilm Animation Singapore (LAS), a division of Star Wars creator George Lucas' Lucasfilm, was officially opened today.

The presence of LAS in Singapore, which is trying to develop its digital animation and game sector, is expected to raise the profile of the island state's media industry, as well as increase its talent pool.

Said guest-of-honor Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's minister for community development, youth and sports: "As LAS ramps up its operations, ultimately reaching hundreds of people, I'm confident they will continue to harness creativity from other parts of the world as well as from Singapore, to produce original content and find that sweet spot between global appeal and local influence."

Located at Changi Business Park, the studio spans more than 40,000 square feet and features IT equipment and infrastructure from partners such as AMD, Network Appliance, Hewlett-Packard and SingTel. Investors of the company, which was formed a year ago, include Lucasfilm, Singapore's Economic Development Board and Creative Technology.

The studio is currently working on a 3D animated television show based on the iconic Star Wars series and has a team of 35 employees from 19 nationalities, including Singaporean. The number will increase, said Christian Kubsch, general manager of LAS, as the studio moves into developing a full-length 3D animated film, due to start production next year.

"As we work on our television show, we expect to grow to a staff of 50 by the end of 2005," said Kubsch. "And when we begin work on our movie, it will probably increase again to about 100."

In addition, Michelin Chau, president and chief operating officer of Lucasfilm, noted that the expertise of LAS lies mainly in the area of 3D animation, and it needs a skilled workforce familiar with the technology. These skills, she added, can be found in Singapore.

The country's young talents will also benefit from having the studio here, as it is currently in discussion with education institutes such as Nanyang Polytechnic and Nanyang Technological University, to develop academic courses on digital animation.

According to Kubsch, LAS is "close to finishing" on its plans to build a training academy, with its second training class due to start soon.