Monday, July 06, 2009

Ubisoft Opening in Toronto

(Updated. Here's an interview with Yannis Mallat, who will be in charge of the Ubisoft Toronto facility. Thanks to Alan Cook for the link.)

This will only be of interest to those working in animation in Toronto, but Ubisoft, the French videogame company, will be opening a studio in Toronto.

I personally don't have much interest in games, but I do have a strong interest in the Toronto industry. For years, it has been anchored by Nelvana, which not only employed people but also subcontracted work to smaller studios in the city. More recently Starz has been working on features and has managed to keep a steady stream of work for its crew.

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with several industry people and they asked me how I saw Toronto's future for animation. I wasn't optimistic. The TV industry is shrinking and budgets are being pushed lower as a result. While there is also visual effects work for features being done locally, that business has notoriously low margins and studios are quick to underbid each other for work.

My thinking was that Vancouver was better positioned than Toronto for several reasons. It has a big geographic advantage in that it's in the same timezone as California and is a shorter flight for executives and directors than the flight to Toronto. Most importantly, though, it has video game company Electronic Arts in addition to TV, feature and VFX work. Vancouver's greater diversity of work made it stronger than Toronto.

Now, Toronto will be at least as diverse as Vancouver. Should Nelvana, Starz and Ubisoft remain strong anchors for employment, it will keep talent in the area rather than have it wander off to greener pastures. While this announcement may not have the public relations value of Pixar opening in Vancouver, it is as important in stabilizing the local industry.

Unfortunately, two of the three anchor companies are not Canadian. What would really solidify things would be for Toronto-owned studios to create intellectual property that's sold around the world. Should that happen, the industry would be much better positioned for growth.

(Thanks to Paul Teolis for the link.)


J Caswell said...

Ontario also increased production tax credits to equal Quebec's on June 30th. I guess GM not the only one lobbying for our tax dollars.

Mark Mayerson said...

If I'm going to be stuck paying higher taxes (which I think is inevitable once this downturn is over), I'm glad to know that some of those dollars will be going to help animation thrive. Given a choice between animation and GM, I know where I'd rather spend my money.

jriggity said...

Ubisoft makes some good games and has a history of some nice artwork too.

definitely a good thing.


Desiree said...

Woo! More animation in Canada is always a good thing! Lets hope this growth will keep going!