Pinoy animator’s viral post on alleged exploitation triggers calls for industry overhaul

September 23, 2019 - 9:54 PM
Filipino animation industry
A Filipino artist alleged that he was fired from an animator studio involved in working with Netflix's "Carmen Sandiego" after he asked for better pay. (Artwork by Interaksyon/Uela Altar-Badayos)

A Filipino’s experience with a Manila-based animation company contracted to work on Netflix’s “Carmen Sandiego” triggered accounts from other animators about the alleged exploitation they encountered in the industry.

Facebook user Raf Dla, an animation graduate at De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, shared that he was fired from Top Draw Animation because he was “asking for proper compensation” following his work for the series’ second season.

“I really put up with a lot of crap so I could work on this show,” Raf began on his Facebook post.

“Long story short, Top Draw paid me below minimum wage and used an ‘extended training’ as an excuse to get work out of me. Then, they fired me with no warning for asking for proper compensation and calling it ‘disrupting the positive atmosphere of our company,'” he claimed.

“Mind you, the only person I ever made my grievances known to was the prod-manager/corporate bootlicker. I never made a scene in spite of all they did, because I really wanted to work on this show,” Raf added.

“I really liked animating it, it’s something I was passionate about, but I couldn’t ignore the wrongs they were doing either,” he wrote.

lol the season I worked on, coming out in October.Now for some of my own history.I really put up with a lot of crap…

Posted by Raf Dla on Friday, September 20, 2019


Top Draw Animation is one of the creative studios behind “Carmen Sandiego,” an animated action-adventure series about a master thief who uses her skills and abilities for the good.

It features the voices of Gina Rodriguez from “Jane the Virgin” and Finn Wolfhard from “Stranger Things.”

Top Draw was commissioned to work on some of the series’ episodes through its animation and production management department.

The studio has also produced works for “My Little Pony: The Movie,” “The Tom and Jerry Show,” “Little Astro Boy” and “Transformers: Rescue Bots,” among others.

The other side of the story

When Raf shared his experience with the company, many Filipinos expressed their support for him. But there were those who presented the other side of the story.

A Facebook user shared a screenshot of a post by a certain “Keeshan,” an animation artist in the company.

Posted by Kim Gumana on Saturday, September 21, 2019


Keeshan, who claimed that she encountered Raf during her on-the-job training, alleged that his works did not pass the standards of the supervisors.

According to her, Raf was given several chances to improve his work but he seemed unenthusiastic about them.

“Kaunting commitment lang ang hinihingi sa kanya pero kitang-kita na mo sa kanya na wala siyang passion sa ginagawa niya. Sobra ‘yung pag-demand niya na wala sa lugar,” Keeshan wrote.

A Twitter user claiming to have gotten contact with Raf himself shared the latter’s supposed response to the Facebook post.

Raf argued that he was not lacking “passion” since he reportedly “looked forward to getting new scenes” and “was always willing to listen to feedback,” among others.

“I even kept a highly organized list on a Notepad file that included every note, even down to the date it was issued,” he wrote.

And all these boil down to problems in the animation industry

Raf’s post triggered some Filipinos to share their own experiences about working in the animation industry, highlighting some of its alleged exploitative practices.

A Facebook user encouraged other creatives who have worked with Top Draw to share their stories so that it could be compiled and then forwarded to the management.

Doon sa mga nag top draw at may complains!! Please speak up!! My friend at the studio where carmen sandiego is produced…

Posted by Joma Cueto on Saturday, September 21, 2019


A Twitter user also started a thread that compiles local animators and artists’ accounts on the industry, particularly experiences from Top Draw itself.

The thread included tweets from someone who claimed to be Raf’s girlfriend. She shared details from his experience which he wasn’t able to include in his Facebook post.

“He was there for eight months. The training was supposed to be two months long but they extended it to five months for no reason during which time he had started actually animating on the show, but being paid at the abysmal trainee rate of 120 PHP/second [of animation],” she alleged.

Another Twitter user, seeing the post calling for animators’ experiences, shared that the matter reopened “a lot of old wounds” for her. She also claimed that she was “diagnosed with depression” following her stint in an animation studio.

A Canada-based artist who claimed to have worked in the Philippine animation industry shared that it “needs” more people like Raf who calls out alleged exploitative practices.

“We need a revolution in order to change the way the industry works. We need more ‘entitled brats’ to speak out against how this just IS NOT right. We can’t keep being complacent,” she wrote.

I'm Stefanie de Leoz/Stefi Delly, I worked on some Disney shows such as 7D and Star vs the Forces of Evil.There's been…

Posted by Stefi Delly on Sunday, September 22, 2019


“Is it Netflix’s fault that OP (original poster) wasn’t paid fairly? Not exactly. The Canadian studio that delegates work to the Philippine studio — is it their fault? Not exactly either. Is it the fault of the management of the Philippine studio? Not entirely either,” De Leoz said.

“Is it Netflix’s fault that OP (original poster) wasn’t paid fairly? Not exactly. The Canadian studio that delegates work to the Philippine studio — is it their fault? Not exactly either. Is it the fault of the management of the Philippine studio? Not entirely either.”

“It’s an industry-wide problem that didn’t start with Carmen Sandiego and Netflix. It’s been happening for a very long time and I’m honestly glad that more light is being shown on how the industry needs to work together to be better,” she added.

An article by The Guardian in 2015 bared that the practice of paying artists low rates has been “the norm,” even in countries that have “well-developed fee and pay systems.”

It cited that artists from the United Kingdom, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Australia and South Korea also experience issues about their income when it comes to being compensated.

The article concluded that if “good practices in the arts are to be sustained over the long-term, the responsibility of placing a value on artists’ contribution to society should be shared more widely still.” — Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos