Sun | May 24, 2020

'Toon Twinz' rejecting traditional career paths

Published:Friday | May 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Williams/ Gleaner Writer
Animators Akeem (left) and Andre Roberts say they are living their dreams through animation.
Akeem Roberts demonstrates to The Gleaner how animation is done.
Imagines created by Akeem and Andre Roberts.

They are both 21 years old, look alike, attended Titchfield High School in Port Antonio, Portland, complete each other's sentences, speak with a slight stutter, in a somewhat animated way, and their eyes are full of fire, passion for animation. They are twins - twin animators from Anchovy in the parish.

Akeem and Andre Roberts, who call themselves the 'Toon Twinz', have analysed their own lives, looked at the prevailing state of affairs in the professional world, and have drawn themselves on to a non-traditional career path, endeavouring to be active in animation for the rest of their lives.


Did not like school


They revealed that they did not like school and all that came with it. They had no interest in the subjects they studied, but still left school with a few Caribbean Secondary Education Council distinctions. Akeem, who said he likes the arts, would abscond some classes to "paint and draw from life", which he also did not like very much.

"I like cartoons and animes," he said, but his art teacher would discourage those types of art, and since they were not getting lessons in them, he decided to learn on his own. And something happened that was to push them further into the world of creativity.

Their mother passed away when they were in grade nine, at a time when they said they wanted to tell stories. "It was at that time when we had started our creative path. It was a way to help us cope with her death," Andre said. "To take it off our mind, subconsciously," Akeem chimed in.

But while they both like drawing, Akeem started to draw long before Andre, whose literature teacher thought he could become a writer. They graduated from high school three years ago, and admitted that they did some amount of "drifting". Now they are animators, with Andre focusing also on scriptwriting.

They could have gone back to school at the behest of relatives and associates, but they said they know what they want to do with their lives, and it is not more formal education that could strangle their creativity, and waste their time. In four years, they could be developing their craft and business, and creating a fan base, "rather than learning and learning," they said. And then there is the Internet, from which much of what is taught in college can be accessed.


Help and encouragement


They are also wary of being told what to do and how to do it. "In the beginning when we started this journey, first we were doing comic and stuff, our family and friends didn't understand it. When they saw what we were capable of, they started buying into the idea of what we were doing," Andre explained." Now, they said they are getting help and encouragement from some of those who were not pleased initially.

Yet, at one point they were afraid to delve into what they like - animation - not knowing what was out there. They did some comics, but two years ago they went on YouTube, typed in 'how to animate', and the rest is now history, as they say. The self-taught brothers have their own YouTube platform, The Toon Twinz Show, which they hope will propel them into bigger things.

Their aim is to create and establish their own online brand, and not to seek employment from already established brands. The messages they want to convey, they said, must have an international appeal, and so people from different races will be represented. And though they want to imbue elements of the Jamaican culture in their work, they want to do so in a creative and engaging way.

For the twins, it is all about chasing their dreams and they are doing it now, they said, when they are young and have time on their side. They believe in speaking their own truth, conquering the fear of changes, and creating opportunities for themselves. They also want to inspire others in their communities to go against the grain, to pursue their passions.

And about their legacy? "I want to just sit and say I have done something that impacted the world," is how Andre started the response, and Akeem ended it with, "And created value for people of the world.

"When we look back, the next generation of kids can see themselves in our stories from all over the world," Andre also said.