By Meelad Sadat
If your kids liked the quirky, comedic cut scenes in the original Skylanders, you should know Brain Zoo Studios is behind them. The studio has a knack for creating memorable pieces of animation, whether it’s cinematics for a game, a trailer or an opening sequence. A few years ago it nabbed an Emmy for work on the TV show Sport Science, where it created CG animation sequences showing athletes in motion. Now after building its pedigree on projects for other properties, Brain Zoo is ready to birth one of its own.
The studio turned to Kickstarter earlier this month, hoping to get backing for an original series called Pepe & Lucas. The series is based on an animated short that Brain Zoo says was considered for an Academy Award, making last year's long list.
The IP mixes old and new, using silent movie presentation and a visual style reminiscent of old cartoons to tell the story of two down on their luck street performers. The storyline, while modern in setting and based on how the fallout from a failing economy can affect anyone, is influenced by the Great Depression era. The characters hark from the same period. A quick look and it’s apparent exactly who the bumbling Pepe the clown mimics. He's Charlie Chaplin. Even in brief glimpses the property comes across as thoughtful and funny, qualities that mirror the personality of Brain Zoo founder Mo Davoudian.
We spoke with Davoudian on the inspiration behind Pepe & Lucas and why he chose Kickstarter.
[a]list: What made you decide to move into IP creation, is it a new development or a longtime passion now taking shape?
Davoudian: We are very passionate about our work and providing our clients with high quality content. Producing our own IP allows us to push the technology and expand our pipeline allowing us to better serve our current and future clients.
[a]list: Why did you decide on doing this as a Kickstarter?
Davoudian: We produced the eight minute Pepe & Lucas CG animated short film out of our own pocket internally here at Brain Zoo last year. After it made the long list for Academy Award consideration, we decided to give Kickstarter a try in hopes of growing the franchise, funded by like minded people. We felt that this would allow us to maintain control of the property rather than using outside investors. We understand that the film animation category might be a tougher nut to crack, but we also feel that people might love the opportunity to be part of developing a property for a wider audience, enjoyable for both kids and their parents.
[a]list: Games and music Kickstarters rely on using the product to get backers. Do you think that’s a challenge with getting backing for an animated series, and if so, how are you getting around it to entice backers?
Davoudian: We see the eight minute Pepe & Lucas short film as our product which we want to develop into a 22 minute television pilot. We feel that [payoff] is good wholesome entertainment for the entire family. The message of the story is based on good values and working together for a common goal.
[a]list: Do you have any plans to reveal stretch goals?
Davoudian: Our stretch goal for the campaign is to consider developing Pepe & Lucas into a mobile game which would also be included as a reward to potential Kickstarter backers.
[a]list: What sort of updates can backers look forward to?
Davoudian: Our backers can expect added concept drawings and designs in the coming days. We will also post updates on features, personal messages from our creative team and status updates.
[a]list: Outside of the Kickstarter, what has Brain Zoo been working on?
Davoudian: In addition to Pepe & Lucas, we have also been producing our second IP short film which will be unveiled later this year. So it’s been a very busy and productive year for us.
Another passion of ours is our goal to try to keep animation jobs here in the US. Pepe & Lucas… as well as all of our projects during the past 17 years have all been produced in our studio… here in Los Angeles. We feel very strongly about supporting local talent rather than outsourcing our work. As we are watching US based animation studios and visual effects companies closing their doors, we hope to rally the support of our clients, studios, networks and publishers to hire US talent rather than outsourcing to help strengthen our economy. We also need to offer better US tax incentives to boost our industry’s health.