Many animation productions are international efforts, though the creative control often comes from studios in the US or Europe, while the studios in Asia end up performing the actual animation work. I will explore how the creative control in animation productions resides within the studios or license holder, while the technical labor is done elsewhere. This model has been upheld for years. As an example, this article will look into two Moomin TV productions, one from the 1990s and one only recently aired and produced in 2019.

Still from Moomin TV show

Work in animation can be categorized by two major labor divisions; creative and technical. Creative labor is exclusively conducted in the main studio or in the company acting as the main license holding entity, while technical labor is often outsourced (Yoon, Malecki 242). Even the knowledge to exercise creative tasks can be something heavily guarded by the studios. Character designs, for example, are often used for merchandising and thus are crafted to perfection and expected to remain uniform for the recognition power among the viewers (Yoon, Malecki 242). Common occurrence is licensing the characters or properties to the animation production studio with attached clauses regarding how they can be utilized.

In animation production, the more time-consuming and laborious tasks are often outsourced to international providers, especially in Asia. Due to the uncertainty of offsetting what was spent on the production, the studios are always on the lookout for cutting labor costs while also considering the risk of delivering low-quality products. It must be noted that animation labor lacks the docile and monotonous nature of factory work. The labor in animation studios is both skilled and artistic and not easily replaced (Yoon, Malecki 243). Thus the labor force used for technical work often have some form of animation degree from a university or similar educational institution (Tschang, Goldstein 18).

During the late 1990s, and especially after the rise of feature-length CGI films in the 2000s, the modus operandi shifted from outsourcing workforce to include more co-production between international companies (Yoon, Malecki 243). This was often due to the government funding that the studios would receive if instead of outsourcing they formed partnerships with the local studios. As Yoon and Malecki explain, “[C]o-production has become nearly as common as outsourcing animation production, in large part to exploit talent pools with varying levels of cost, creativity, and quality” (243). I will explore how these co-production and outsourcing models work in practice through the Finnish cartoon series Moomin and Moominvalley.

Moomins are world-famous Finnish cartoon characters created by Swedish-Finn illustrator and writer Tove Jansson in the 1940s. The popular hand-drawn animation series derived from these characters is called Moomin and was first aired in 1990, broadcasting 104 episodes overall. The series was produced as a Dutch-Japanese-Finnish co-effort by Telecable, a Netherlands based company (, accessed through Wayback Machine). In practice, this meant that the production company was located in the Netherlands, the creative control and ownership over Moomin were in Finland, and the animation work was done in Japan by Studio Telescreen Japan. This production structure can be filed under previously defined co-production, since the studio in Japan was a branch of Telescreen company. However, it must be noted that the creative control came from outside both Telescreen and Telescreen Japan. This can be demonstrated by looking at the episode end credits, where it can be seen that the story supervisors are those working for the Moomin Characters Oy Ltd (“The Moominvalley In Spring”). Using the Japanese branch of the studio worked also as a form of advertising for the Asian audiences. Telescreen Japan did its own Japanese dubbing and was in charge of directing, producing and scriptwriting the episodes, giving them some form of creative control over the final product (“The Moominvalley In Spring”).

On the other hand, the new 3D-animated Moomin series called Moominvalley was produced by Gutsy Animations and first aired in 2019. The series has released three seasons, with the fourth one in production. Gutsy Animations is a Finnish-British animation production company that has offices in both countries ( The animation labor itself was outsourced to a company called Anima Vitae. Anima Vitae was originally established in Finland, and later expanded by setting up a studio in Malaysia ( Based on the job listings on the company’s website, most of the actual animation labor seems to be done in Kuala Lumpur. At the time of this paper, the company is looking for a lot of FX, artists, and rigging artists ( These all certainly fit within the requirements of the technical labor the animation artists in Asia are historically outsourced to do.

Despite there being almost a 30-year gap between the two Moomin TV-series, the mode of production and organization of labor internationally seems to be similar. The work was originally produced by European studios in collaboration with the Moomin Characters Oy Ltd. The technical animation labor was then done by branches of these European studios in Asia with creative control coming from the rights holders. It must be noted that the Studio Telescreen Japan had more authority over the animation in the 1990s than the Malaysian branch of Anima Vitae. Telescreen Japan had Japanese directors overseeing the production and was allowed to make the initial voiceover production for Moomin series, aiding it to gain its overwhelming popularity. On the other hand, the original voice acting to Moominvalley was done by Gutsy Animations in English to aim the production for international audiences. There is still a persisting divide between creative labor and technical labor, the former often residing in Europe while the latter is outsourced from Asia.

Works Cited

Anima Vitae,, Accessed 5 December.

“Moomin Official Site: Discover the Wonders of Moominvalley,” Moomin Characters Oy Ltd,

Accessed 5 December 2023,

“The Moominvalley In Spring.” Moomin, written by Akira Miyazaki, directed by Shiro Murata,

based on a book by Tove Jansson, Telescreen, 1990.

“Telescreen: About Us,”, Accessed through Wayback Machine, Accessed 5

December 2023,

Tschang, Feichin, Ted, Goldstein, Andrea. “Production and Political Economy in the Animation

Industry: Why Insourcing and Outsourcing Occur.” (2004). DRUID Summer Conference, Elsinore, Denmark, 14-16 June 2004. 1-21.

Yoon, Hyejin. “Globalization of the Animation Industry: Multi-Scalar Linkages of Six

Animation Production Centers.” International journal of cultural policy: CP 23.5 (2017): 634–651. Web.

Yoon, Hyejin, Malecki, Edward J. “Cartoon Planet: Worlds of Production and Global Production

Networks in the Animation Industry.” Industrial and corporate change 19.1 (2010): 239–271. Web.

Roosa Hirvela is a MA Television, Film, and Media Studies student in California State University Los Angeles. Originally from Finland, they are especially interested in researching international media productions, new media, and fandoms. They hope to continue research efforts into transnational animation production and labor in the future.