Vents Magazine Publishes an Interview with Anik
It was a great honor to be interviewed by Vents Magazine about my journey as an animator and commercial director.
Meet the founder of Animation Studio Dancing Line Productions, Anik Rosenblum – (ventsmagazine.com)
Here is the full text of the article:
Throughout his career, animation director Anik Rosenblum has operated under the belief that animation is a powerful tool that can be used to effectively communicate and connect with audiences. With projects ranging from commercials, branded content, short films, and television, Rosenblum has created relatable, lovable characters, using animation to get at the heart and humor of the subject matter. He is the founder of the Vancouver-based animation studio Dancing Line Productions, creating and directing numerous animated pieces for clients such as General Motors, Pfizer, and Ted-Ed.
We had the opportunity to speak with Rosenblum about his inspiration for animation, how he works with his collaborators to create effective messaging through animation, and some of his most memorable projects.
What inspired you to start your own animation studio, Dancing Line Productions, and how did you get started?
After working for a few years with various Canadian studios on animated TV series for Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, PBS, and Cartoon Network, I wanted to focus on smaller-scale productions with a higher level of creativity.
Although the TV series work was a great learning experience (including technical and team management skills), individual creative contribution to such massive productions is quite limited, and my interest was not so much in supervisory roles but rather diving into more imaginative hand-crafted animation.
Having some experience in the commercial department I was truly inspired by the variety, quality, and creativity potential in the advertising realm. Short format animation requiring a unique, fresh approach, where every second of screen time counts to emotionally connect with the viewer was exactly the type of work that energized me, and what I always found so charming about animation as a medium.
Independent animation directors like Michael Dudok de Wit (“Father and Daughter”), Frédéric Back (“Crac”), and Paul Fierlinger (“Still Life with Animated Dogs”) were my inspiration in producing touching relatable animation that can reach people’s hearts.
It was the 2008 recession. The commercial work at the company where I was working at that time was drying out. So I just registered my own company and sent out a bunch of reels on CD and printed materials (it was just before online reels became widely accepted).
This is how Dancing Line Productions started.
How do you collaborate with clients to ensure their vision is brought to life while maintaining the quality and integrity of the animation?
The initial conversation about the project is a crucial step. I listen to clients and ask questions about what they are trying to achieve with their animated commercial or video, and what they would like the viewer to understand and feel while watching it.
Then I try to come up with a concept (within the given parameters) that would take full advantage of animation as a medium to result in an engaging and memorable viewing experience. Every element, from design to music to expressive movement, is designed to work together in harmony to convey the desired spirit and effectively deliver the message.
Essentially the language of animation is movement, so I provide suggestions on how to express the point we are making through movement rather than just relying on the dialogue and the graphics. I advise clients to avoid static scenes and suggest ways to make the commercial flow organically and identify opportunities to make the animation shine.
Even if the script is already set I always try to add some extra touches to make the scenes more fluid, visually interesting, and heart-warming.
How do you manage the creative process when working on a short-format animation project, from concept to final delivery?
First, listen and ask questions. Second, do some research: about the brand, and the industry, and gather some visual references. Then provide a treatment proposal that includes a verbal description of our approach and a few design frames, sometimes with a few alternative options.
After the approach is defined, I create an animatic – a storyboard presented in video format and timed to audio (voice narration/music). If needed, I refer to my voice talent roster for VO casting and perform music search and licensing.
The animatic helps clients to visualize how the animation will unfold and gives them an opportunity to provide comments and ask for changes. Once it’s approved and the audio is finalized, we produce the animation. With regular work-in-progress updates, we ensure that the commercial is shaping up as per the client’s expectations to minimize the changes in the end. Depending on the project, we may do some audio post-production, add sound effects, and finally encode the video for broadcast or online streaming.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face as an animation director and studio owner, and how do you overcome them?
Animation production is a very time-consuming process, especially high-quality frame-by-frame animation. Advertising work is well known for its tight deadlines. Those two things together present a great challenge.
Despite being a small studio, Dancing Line offers competitive turnaround times. Sometimes that means working around the clock, sometimes employing additional animators, illustrators, or motion designers, depending on the specific project needs.
And sometimes, when two or more productions come at the same time, it means having to pass on some project opportunities to stay fully focused on the current project to be able to guarantee high-quality results.
You have worked on various projects including TV commercials, branded content, short films, and music videos. What are some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on, and why?
One of the most rewarding projects was our animated TV campaign for Canada Protection Plan. We were tasked to design a new mascot character for the brand – an appealing approachable character who would embody the company’s tagline “Simply, peace of mind”.
We produced 5 x 60 sec TV spots with this character in English and French aired nationwide for a number of years.
The commercials gained enormous popularity, especially among small kids. The YouTube versions were flooded with parents’ comments describing their children’s delight and fascination with the spots, many actively seeking out the commercials online to keep their kids happy. We got requests for stuffy toys and more episodes, and although kids were not necessarily our target audience, their engagement created positive vibes for their parents and grandparents.
The company reported a significant growth in brand awareness and engagement. They asked us to provide designs for the characters to be made into giant floats to participate in the Toronto Santa Claus parade for two consecutive years. It was a pleasure to work with the client and to experience such warm feedback from the audience.
What advice would you give aspiring animators and animation directors who want to start their own animation studio?
It’s hard to give general advice as people have different strengths and different objectives…
Creatively: do what comes naturally to you and what brings you the most joy-making. Keep working to get better at it and expand your skills. But stay true to your passion, the thing about animation is that makes you tick.
Business-wise: try to identify the need for the type of animation you want to do, learn more about that target market, and what you can do to offer great unique solutions for them.
What exciting upcoming projects are in the pipeline, and what can audiences expect from them?
I can’t really talk about yet-to-be-released work for clients, but we are at the early stages of development for our own content. One of our future projects will be a series of fun educational videos teaching kids some basic emotional intelligence.
Schools focus on academic subjects like math and language, but rarely cover such topics as conflict resolution, dealing with emotions, what makes a good friend, relationship with money, fairness, jealousy, social acceptance, procrastination, delayed gratification, ADHD, etc.
We would like to team up with child psychologists/clinical counselors/writers to create meaningful content that would give kids valuable tools to deal with life situations, presented in a fun and non-didactic way.