This Fun Studio Is the Country's Best-Kept Secret in the Animation Industry
Here's how the magic happens at Top Draw Animation Studios.
(SPOT.ph) Tucked inside two floors of the old Philippine Stock Exchange building in Ortigas lies some of the best animators in the Philippines, not to mention some of the industry’s pioneers. Who would have guessed that these animators, some producing cartoons for the biggest names in the world—Disney, Nickelodeon, Netflix, to name a few—would be gathered all under one seriously fun roof?
Twenty years is a long time for an animation company to exist, and founders Wayne Dearing and Stella Dearing are proud that yes, they work with media giants and have won awards, but they’re especially proud that they have employees that have been with them since day one. As one of their pioneers mentioned, they get paid to play, so who would want to leave such a company?
While their office flows with the changes of the time—from the huge tables used when cartoons were still hand-drawn, to sleek desktop computers for computer animation—it can’t be denied that the company’s mantra, “Seriously Fun,” is the general vibe of the entire space, from the rows of animators, to their own Club and Animation Café.
The Dearings' offices are found in a corner of the office, just beside the reception area. In it you’ll find several framed pieces of memorabilia collected throughout the years, with some that could sell for hundreds of dollars, and in the case of a particular Hanna-Barbera piece, it contains the actual DNA of its creators, shares Stella. According to a plaque on the walls of their office, Hanna-Barbera's decision to open their Philippine office, called Fil-Cartoons, led to more American cartoons getting produced locally. Fil-Cartoons was also where the Dearings, and some of their employees, got their start.
The floor where all the animators work is where all the magic happens. Rows upon rows of animators work in their own spaces with no walls but enough elbow room to help them stay in the zone.
The Top Draw office also has its own movie theater, built to accommodate 50 people. Framed posters showcase the studio's more current finished projects—mostly cartoons that belong to the biggest media outfits in the world.
The studio also has a "club" area that's designed to help animators unwind: a games lounge—where you can chat, snack, or play—can be found right by the entrance.
A sizable exercise studio is housed on the club floor too, and comes with its own shower and changing room. If an employee wants to exercise on their own, there are core balls available, plus a few weights and handheld exercise equipment.
The Animation Café is Top Draw’s recreational take on the usual office cafeteria. Apart from the standard tables and chairs, there are also seats that look like swings and spacious booths. There are vending machines available, but the experience of getting food from your own “jollijeep” is something else!
“250 half hours of 2D animation, 2,300 half hours of television produced, for some of the biggest titles out there," says Wayne, rattling off Top Draw's track record so far. "What made me comfortable to be here is because the people are creative—Filipinos have a very, very good reputation in the industry. The Philippines is rich in talent, and it becomes richer when it’s managed well. You’ve seen the facilities, and we’re really proud of it. I get the opportunity to visit studios around the world, and there’s really nothing like this—nobody takes the amount of trouble that we go to try and make this environment, this quality studio. We provide quality work, and everything has to fit into that, including our office.”
Photos by Vincent Coscolluela