We are in a gold rush of content era. We have never seen such a craving for content in more than a hundred years. As a result, thousand of animation studios are answering the call and lining up to be chosen by content creators and producers.

Yet, the issue is not in the competition between animation studios; it is about studios clearly (or rather not clearly) standing out in the crowd to attract the projects that best fit them!

This post is for you if you are an animation studio owner or executive. And if you are not, keep reading; this post might also prove helpful.

As an animation studio owner or executive in this landscape, you may be tempted to grab any projects falling within your grasp. However, leaving the growth of your business to chance or randomness may not be the best strategy.

In the relationship between producers and studios, we usually fail to address two issues:

  • To categorize animation content as different products on the “producer-to-studio” marketplace. 
  • For studios to communicate (and focus on) which products they offer.

What is the “producer-to-studio” marketplace?

The “producer-to-studio” marketplace is an organic network that connects producers (and IP owners) to studios to bring their projects to life.

This marketplace has no HQ and no centralized or organized network. Instead, it lives parallel with the content seller/buyer business—no event focuses on this critical element of deal-making in the animation industry. Every independent animation studio owner or executive knows to hustle their way into the content-focused events for a chance to bump into their next potential client.

Allow me to quote any late-night infomercial:

“There must be a better way!’’

A fifteen-past midnight infomercial.

Yes, there is.

Categorize animation content as different products

Matter-of-factly, the industry is content-driven. The relationship the industry care for (rightfully so!) is the “producer-to-viewer” relationship. Which makes sense; we create animation, so it is seen and enjoyed by millions of people (not just kids)! 

For example, a producer is creating a “52*11 minutes CG animated gender-neutral action-driven series for pre-teens”. That is the product intended for this specific target audience. Simple.

It gets sticky because the audience will pay the same price to enjoy a series/film with a five million dollar animation budget and another with a fifty million dollar budget. Yet, from the viewers’ viewpoint, both are the same product providing a similar experience.

This logic from the “producer-to-viewer” relationship can not be transferred to the “producer-to-studio” marketplace!

For an animation studio, creating an animation product is akin to creating a consumer product, for which adding features and options will drive the cost. For example, is the series/film style realistic or stylized? Are we using motion capture animation or key-frame? Is there a strong focus on lighting and FX? Will the producer want a turn-key animation service provider, or are they looking for production services only? What is the budget?

Think of a ten thousand dollar car or a hundred thousand dollar car. Both vehicles, yes. But different options. Different experience. Different products.

The producer-to-studio dialogue has to be centered around identifying which product the producer is looking for and finding a studio offering the best-fitting product for its needs. For a more detailed look into this topic, check out our blog post on How to Define Quality in Animation Production.

This blur in how we make deals between animation studios and producers is a fantastic opportunity – for the studios!

Animation studios must clarify their product line (and should not be afraid to niche down!)

Admittedly, producers and studios have a knowledge gap on how animation is made. I mean no disrespect to any producers reading this post, and I thank you for doing so! However, the intricacies of animation production are hard to keep up with unless your specialty is working on an animation studio floor. It, therefore, falls upon animation studios to communicate what products they offer.

In short, an independent animation studio presenting their product as “we do great CG’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.

“We do great CG!”

CG ANIMATION IS NOT A PRODUCT, IT IS A MEDIUM

I propose studios to niche down and focus on a short list of perfectly curated products. And to identify that, proceed as follows:

First, analyze your strengths and weaknesses and what products you do best.

It is a two-step process:

  1. Ask your team; they know.
  2. Trust your team; THEY KNOW!

Write a vision statement.

A vision statement underlines how you want your studio to grow in the next five to ten years. Yes, five to ten years! You are in this game for the long run!

  • A strong vision will help you make the right strategic choices to lead you to success.
  • It will help you generate relevant new business opportunities. 
  • Your vision will be a guiding light for your team to know where the studio is heading, providing a motivation boost! 
  • It will help you attract the right talented humans to add to your team.

Think of what it is to be the best version of you and how this would impact the industry. Here are a few made-up examples:

“We craft imagery that defies reality.”

  • A studio with a solid creative and technical pipeline likes to push the visual boundaries.
  • Focus on bringing-in people and artists with cutting-edge skills and building a team of TDs capable of making a robust technical infrastructure.

“We bring the best animation to any project – regardless of where we are in the world.”

  • A remote-only studio that focuses on animation work.
  • Because of their clear vision and offering, they will connect the best project with the perfect animators. Knowing this, animators will line up to be part of the team.

“We amplify the voices of creators by helping them tell their stories visually.”

  • A pre-production and storyboarding studio
  • This studio will see projects lining up to its door by exploiting a fundamental need of the industry. With an increased volume of focused work, its team can rely on a steady job with the top production company.

Don’t aim for perfection; shoot for aspiration! You can always reword and tweak your vision as you go.

Streamlining your production pipeline to focus on a selection of very clear products.

Not only is this the only way to stand out in the crowd and attract the right partner and projects, but this is the only way a studio can hope to make better margins. This is not rocket science; this is business! An optimized production chain will increase productivity and profit.

There is enough to go around for everyone.

There is no need to be cutthroat and try to sabotage your neighborhood competing animation studio. Nor do producers have to create bidding wars when faced with making a difficult choice between several potential vendors. In the long run, these behaviors will not benefit anyone. Products will be crap, people will suffer, and we will hurt the industry we work so hard to build.

Let us shift the way we look at animation production, and let’s have a more precise terminology around what kind of products animation studios can offer to producers. 

Then and only then can all animation studios stand out in the crowd.

Are you an animation studio owner or executive wanting to figure out your vision and product line? Reach out! We have a workshop tailored for that!