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14 Spring/Summer 2008
Through an inconspicuous set of doors, just inside the entrance of Sheridan Colleges Sheldon Levy Centre, theres a world of creativity where copy becomes dialogue, drawings transform into characters and television stars are born.Inside the 4,000-square-foot studio, sixty talented young animators
are busy developing storyboards, painting characters, and adding special effects to The Backyardigans, a popular 3D CGI animation program appearing on Treehouse TV.
Pipeline Studios, a partner of Nelvana International, a leading producer and distributor of childrens programs and products, opened its doors in January 2007. Mac Holyoke, Pipelines executive producer and a 25-year employee of Nelvana, says the idea to create a studio in Oakville was purcolating for a couple of years before the opportunity to lease space at Sheridan College came about. I always wondered why there wasnt a studio here, says Holyoke. With one of the best animation schools in the world, it seemed logical and would have saved him the two hour commute to Toronto every day.
Currently in its third season, each episode of The Backyardigans details the backyard adventures of five pre-school friends: Pablo, a penguin; Austin, a kangaroo; Tyrone, a moose; Tasha, a hippo and Uniqua, her own unique species. Created by Janice Burgess, each episode features colourful settings, new songs and eye-catching dancing, winning a Parent Choice
award two years in a row. With the decision to create a local studio, a number of animators
from Nelvanas Toronto office agreed to make the commute to Oakville, Sheridan graduates were hired and artists from as far away as Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver and Halifax were brought into the mix. Since Pipleine began producing The Backyardigans, production that was previously split up between various studios across the country or around the world is being done at Pipeline and Holyoke says creative directors at Nickolodeon couldnt be happier. Animation is now feasible to be produced domestically,
using more Canadian animators, and more Halton residents, he adds.
How do they do it? Much like a factory assembly line, the studio has fine tuned the production process, developing a pipeline, linking artists, resources, assets
and production tools, explains Juan Lopez, co-founder and Executive Director. We have proven we can produce top results in-house, with a smaller number of talented artists. Sheridan College is world renowed for its animation program - 55 percent of Nelvanas staff are Sheridan graduates says Luis Lopez, Director of Studio Operations at Nelvana. Students need to learn the basics, strengthen their artistic abilities and develop strong technical skills to compete in the industry. Sheridan goes beyond that and prepares students for real production work, notes Lopez. You find students that are able to join a team and hit the ground running.
World Famous Animation in our own
by Deborah Everest-Hill Photography by Peter McCusker
we have proven we can produce top results in house with a smaller
number of talented artists
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15 Spring/Summer 2008
In Lopezs opinion, Pipelines access to skilled talent, use of cutting-edge technology (Autodesk 3D and Toonboom Harmony 2D Digital, two of the leading animation software companies in the world) and its proximity to Nelvanas Toronto office positions it as a world class production studio. In the past year Pipleine Studios has doubled its employees from 28 to 60 and recently interviewed 120 individuals for the production of Grossology, a 2D animated series featuring brother-sister team Ty and Abby Archer. Now in its second season, appearing on YTV and the Discovery Channel, Grossology features science facts, bad guys and humour.
While animation is designed to entertain children, Holyoke says
considerable research goes into the planning of animated projects to ensure the content is suitable for the intended audience. Within the field of animation there are eight or nine specialties including story board, animation, art direction, matte painting and technical artistry. Back at Nickolodeon in California there are directors, choreographers and even dancers who model dance steps that will be replicated by their 3D counterparts. Evidence also suggests that animation does a lot more than mesmerize and entertain kids for 30 minutes. Visual communication, cognition, observation, concentration and problem-solving are skills generally believed to be enhanced as a result of viewing programs like The Backyardigans.
As a 25-year veteran of the Canadian animation industry, Holyoke has had an opportunity to witness changing technology and the comings and goings of many childrens programs. While he says studios still produce 60 to 75 episodes each year, the process is not as time-consuming and labour intensive. Creativity is still a prominent factor but computers now do the grunt work. When he began his career working on Inspector Gadget, the program was designed and directed at Nelvana but the animation, which involved inking and painting the many animated drawings, was done in a large studio in Asia.
In addition to producing The Backyardigans and Grossology, Pipeline provides 2D and 3D animation services for feature films, the entertainment industry and makes time for the development of in-house projects whenever possible. Headin West and Moo Thai Lamb Chob are two projects currently in the works. We have an open-door policy with our staff, adds Lopez.
We encourage staff to offer input and share ideas.
Photography by Peter C. McCuskerCorporate Events, Weddings, Portraiture
Left: Juan Lopez, co-founder and Executive Director with the Backyardigans. Above: Mac Holyoke, Executive Producer at Pipeline Studios shows off Pipeline talent and technology with illustrator James OConnor .
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