Grace Dimaranan: Championing Excellence in the Animation Sector
Grace Dimaranan, president of the Animation Council of the Philippines, Inc., and leading local animation firm Top Peg Animation and Creative Studio, proves that Filipino animators can make it big in their own homeland.
(Manila, Philippines)—Top executive and animator Grace Dimaranan recalls the days when her sketches got her into trouble at school. She was a typical grade school student, except that she often found herself in the principal’s office because of her passion for drawing and doodling.
“When I was young, I would draw comic sketches in my notebooks. The next thing I knew, the other class was already reading my notebook-turned-comic-book. I ended up without any notebook to write on during class. Of course, it was not an excuse my teachers would accept, so off I would go to the principal’s office,” Dimaranan recalled. Nevertheless, her artistic inclination has been her springboard to success. Her sketches and scribbles have made their way to the storyboards of many animation projects here and abroad.
Today, Grace Dimaranan is president of the Animation Council of the Philippines, Inc. (ACPI), the country’s premier animation association. She also owns and runs Top Peg Animation and Creative Studio, a pioneer animation company that provides services to both local and international clients.
Talent and passion
Despite those frequent trips to the principal’s office, Dimaranan never lost her passion for the arts. As a child, she would always watch cartoons and then draw her favorite characters. “I drew a lot of princesses and women. There was also a lot of Disney stuff: Mickey Mouse and Cinderella. I also drew Scooby Doo,” Dimaranan said.
In high school, Dimaranan served as the head coordinator of the school’s visual arts group. She was also a favorite among teachers who asked her to draw their projects on the blackboard. In college, she pursued fine arts despite her parents’ wishes for her to take a different course.
“It was a struggle back then. I worked in the morning and attended the evening classes in the University of Santo Tomas. If we had homework, I had to work on my sketches through the night, even up to dawn. I had to do that no matter how tired I was because every day I had to go to Makati first to work and then go to school in España and then go home to Las Piñas,” Dimaranan said. “And when I did my (art) plates, I had to make sure I did it in one go to save on costs.”
Paying it forward
Before graduation, Dimaranan had her on-the-job training in an animators’ production center in Manila. It was there that she discovered her penchant for animation. She eventually found herself doing animation full-time for commercials, TV, and various projects.
In just a short period of time, Dimaranan’s career blossomed. And so did her paycheck. With her career in full throttle and her paycheck in overload, Dimaranan decided to give back to the industry by accepting trainees and developing their skills for free.
“We conducted the training in our living room and I would teach them the basics of animation. I did this for 9 years,” Dimaranan said.
Soon, Dimaranan decided to establish her own animation studio with her husband and business partners. The company, which has four branches and employs around 50 people, provides free training for animation students under the Training-for-Work Program of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). They also conduct short workshops for kids and professionals during summer.
Here for good
The animation sector currently faces a talent shortage as more and more Filipino artists opt to work abroad. But despite the growing number of artists leaving the country, Dimaranan remains committed to strengthening the animation sector. Together with the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), ACPI has established partnerships with the government and academe.
Currently, the local animation sector needs more support to produce the Philippines’ own animation series and content. “Our own animation series will help a lot in encouraging more clients to buy Philippine-made content,” she said.
To this day, Dimaranan continues to educate young students and artists. She also conducts project management workshops for animation and graphic art in different parts of the country to teach art students how to sell their artwork in the right way, with the right price.
As the animation sector continues to evolve, advocates like Dimaranan continue to work on putting the Philippines on the global animation map. She is also looking forward for the whole Philippine creative sector—graphic arts, animation, gaming—to get together, prosper, and be a significant contributor to the economy. With her passion for the arts and animation, Grace Dimaranan is not far from realizing this dream.
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