In the first of a new series which looks at creative businesses in the North East, we chat to Marc De Launay, Executive Producer at Arcus Animation Studios. The 2D animation studio based in Gateshead creates broadcast animation, promotional videos, video installations, in house content and develops new IP. Arcus have just launched a new website and are in the throes of many exciting projects.
How big is the team at Arcus?
Six in the office, but it can expand considerably depending upon the projects we have in! But we always have enough cake and biscuits, we set these priorities at board level.
Who have you worked with?
We've enjoyed producing work with CBBC, Channel Four. E4; we've also partnered with local and national agencies alike and brought outdoor events to life with spectacular animation based art installations.
Arcus Animation Studios have five years of experience in developing, producing and delivering nearly a hundred high quality marketing videos for an array of products and services, both direct to client and through collaboration with regional and national advertising agencies.
Which have been your favourite projects to work on?
I think each of the core team would have different favourites...mine personally was our largest installation work ‘End of the Line’ (2013) was commissioned by Arts Council England and NewcastleGateshead Initiative and was created for the Festival of the North East. We projected an animated journey of important ‘stops’ in the history of the railway on to the windows of a 100 year old railway carriage while performers guided the audience on their journey through time. This 50 minute animation installation was created with a team of fifteen practitioners. In addition, we workshopped with Bridgewater Primary School to produce some additional lovely animation from the children with whom we had run summer workshops the two previous summers.
What's next for Arcus?
Arcus have recently been successful in attracting substantial investment from North Star Ventures in order to increase our staff base and capital assets. This allows us to service a growing demand for our services, both in the creation and development of original content (including in-house IP) and in advertising and exhibition contracts.
As-well as seeking investment in the company to maximise our operations there has also been interest from private investors, well known voice talent and European broadcasters in one of our in-house works ‘Hoot Boots’. Arcus are looking for finance to produce a high quality pilot through the SEIS scheme currently.
Hoot Boots’ is an upcoming animated Children's comedy series for 7-11 years old that also holds an appeal to preschool/reception class aged children. It follows Flo, an academically minded but lonely young girl and her bizarre adventures with a friendly gang of animals that, after putting on various forms of ‘super-hi-tech’ footwear that have fallen from the skies and landed in their wood, gained the ability to talk and have fun!
Animation with Character- this is exactly what we do.
How do you feel about the development of the animation industry within the North East?
Any development I personally feel is based on three main things: indigenous talent, it's identification at grass roots and support and its retention within the region; fit for purpose higher education and degree courses (All the North East Universities and some excellent colleges like Newcastle); and a proper environment that attracts not only government funding/support/tax breaks but also commercial investment in great products from the professional the talent.
Do you think the North East animation industry can compete on a national stage?
Indubitably, but not only nationally but internationally in my view. The North East has some incredible creative studios that work for companies globally. There are some location economies that come into play when comparing like for like say to London, but in essence the work is on par if not better than other parts of the country.
On the other hand I think there is a camaraderie between animation studios that allows us to rise above the competitiveness often found among some regional creative individuals or organisations. Creative alliances are can spring up anywhere – for example we have collaborations and creative alliances in Scotland, London, Bristol, China, Italy and many other places.
So you recently attended the Children’s Media Conference, how it it go?
It was fab. Really well organised and run and just too much to go and see! I wanted to clone myself so I could attend so much more. There’s a far more informal vibe than other media conferences which meant it was easy to start up conversations and get many new contacts and renew old ones.
I personally met with some Chinese delegates from the 'Focus on China' session (who are looking for partnerships to develop original IP for the Chinese market, people like Xin Yu the President of Left Pocket Media and Trevor Lai, Creative Director and CEO of Up Studios. Both were incredibly informative, generous and interesting to talk to and with whom we hope to collaborate in the near future.
What were the highlights of the conference?
One of the highlights for me was the key opening speech by Michael Stevens the Creator of VSauce, a Youtube channel which I love so much! His talk was just so funny and inspiring with the added addition of a lovely introduction from Sue Nott (Executive Producer CBBC Indies).
There were so many great talks but I have to say that the Platypus Research's Jo Cliff, with the MD of Childwise James Davies and Dr Maya Gotz was a brilliant insight into children's consumption and attitudes towards content over the past decade.
Obviously, the social things were all fun! The launch of the Children's Media Network Scotland organised by Mick Cooke (Too Many Cookes Music), Joanne Carmicheal (writer of Beach Fragments), and Steve Scott (Bigmouth Audio) was great. It made us realise that our colleagues from across the border in Scotland (where I worked for many years before coming to the North East) hold dear many similar values, standards and attitudes that we do, so the potential for collaboration is just as strong looking further north for us as well as to the south.