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The Art of Storytelling: A Glimpse into Fred & Eric Animation Studio

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Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

The Art of Storytelling: A Glimpse into Fred & Eric Animation Studio

In the ever-evolving world of animation, few agencies have managed to carve out a niche as distinct and memorable as Fred & Eric (F&E). Founded by a trio of passionate creatives, F&E has been at the forefront of animation, blending traditional techniques with modern technology to tell compelling stories. In this candid interview, we delve deep into the origins, challenges, and future aspirations of F&E, offering a unique glimpse into the minds behind some of the most innovative animations of the past decade.

Inspiration Behind the Business

SBS – What inspired the creation of Fred & Eric?

Sarah – Maggie, Jamie, and I met whilst working at the design and animation agency Mr & Mrs Smith and soon realised we had a shared creative vision and aspirations to one day start our own company. We immediately gravitated towards each other and loved working together as a team, so in 2011, we decided to take the leap and go out on our own.

Initial Funding

SBS – How did you initially fund F&E?

Sarah – We all took out loans to cover the initial set-up cost and the first few months of office costs. Fortunately for us, previous experience in the industry and close client contacts paid off, and we were awarded two jobs straight away, which meant we were profitable almost immediately.

Setting Fred & Eric Apart

SBS – How do you differentiate F&E from other animation agencies?

Sarah – Collaboration is at the heart of what we do. We pride ourselves in creating close relationships with our clients, knowing the best project comes from two-way creative partnerships. Our in-house style has evolved over the years, focusing on differing techniques at times, but throughout, we have held true to our passion for great storytelling, thoughtful design, and expressive animation full of character.

Overcoming Challenges

SBS – Can you share a challenge you faced and how you overcame it?

Sarah – As with the majority of companies, large and small, COVID posed a particular challenge for us. Rather than feeling defeated, we decided to put our heads down and use the quieter times to rebrand and create a new website with a distinct new look. We celebrated our 10-year anniversary by launching the new site. It reflected how we’d grown and developed as a company whilst staying loyal to our core creative ethos.

Tools and Software

SBS – What tools or software do you use?

Sarah – The majority of our design and animation work is created using Adobe Creative Suite, specifically Illustrator, Photoshop, and After Effects. However, as each of our jobs can vary creatively, we adapt our tools to the brief, whether that is using more specialist animation software or getting out the paper, scalpels, and stop-motion kit!

A Journey Through the Years

SBS – How has F&E’s style evolved over the years?

Sarah – When we first started, our house style was focused on tactile, handmade design and stop-motion animation. Although we still really value and champion this hand-crafted style, in the last few years, our work has evolved to produce more 2D animation and character design. Whether this is because the fashions have changed, or we have just embraced this as a more inclusive house style — who knows. One consistent thing, though, is we love telling compelling stories and making sure each brief is answered in the most creative way possible.

The Creative Process

SBS – What’s the process for crafting animations with a distinct voice?

Sarah – Our business model involves having a small core in-house team and then expanding to a pool of trusted freelancers when new jobs come in. This way of working means we can pick the best team who are the right fit for each creative brief. So, in turn, this means each job will have its own distinctive look and voice due to the bespoke nature of how we produce each project.

Ensuring Project Authenticity

SBS – How do you ensure a project stays true to F&E’s passion for storytelling?

Sarah – We’ve been so lucky to work with a variety of clients over the years who have chosen us based on our portfolio of work and distinctive house style. Our passion for storytelling is something that clients approach us for, so we are lucky to be able to develop and evolve that skill for each project we work on. The clients come to us for our storytelling abilities, so we are able to use that skill we’ve honed over the years and apply it to each new production.

Essential Skills for Aspiring Animation Business Owners

SBS – What skills are essential for someone starting this business?

Sarah – Working commercially is hard sometimes, especially when you’re creative. A skill that’s needed in the commercial field (whether you’re a designer, creative, or production-side) is being able to know when to push your idea creatively when you know it’s right for a brief vs when your idea might be right for you but isn’t necessarily the best route for your client and their audience. Sometimes, it’s hard when all of the decisions don’t go your way, but ultimately, maintaining mutual respect for your client’s brief is really important to nurturing a great working relationship and getting the best from each other.

Practically, if you’re a designer or animator, a good knowledge of Illustrator, Photoshop, and After Effects would be a must. Immersing yourself in popular culture, new technology, and animation trends is invaluable. Being able to express yourself is also really important, whether verbally when selling in a creative pitch, writing when devising script ideas, or applying animation direction. And for anyone on the management side of things, a knowledge of all of these creative skills, as well as a great eye for detail and time-keeping, is a must!

Marketing Strategies

SBS – How do you approach marketing for F&E, and what strategies have been most effective?

Sarah – We have been very lucky over the years that a lot of our work has come to us through word of mouth. In quieter periods, we have used a variety of marketing strategies, connecting with new clients and industries on Linked In and subsequently directly. We are always very happy to make new connections and talk through our work and processes, whether that’s remotely or in person. Social media and PR releases on suitable projects have also encouraged attention from potential future clients.

Managing the Full Spectrum of Animation Production

SBS – How do you manage the diverse aspects of animation production, from concept to sound design?

Sarah – Each project we take on is unique and comes with its own set of challenges — whether that’s budgetary, timelines, scale, or sign-off process. We have a hugely experienced and well-run production team, and we believe that is key to managing the diverse and complex aspects of animation production. Here is an article on our website explaining each stage of creating an animation in more detail.

Building Strong Client Relationships

SBS – How do you foster close relationships with clients?

Sarah – Collaboration and trust are key when working with clients on animation projects. We realise how important it is for everyone to feel heard, and we ensure we include clients at every stage of our production process so there are no “surprises.”

Memorable Projects and Collaborations

SBS – Can you share a memorable project or collaboration?

Sarah – A job we found particularly memorable was a promo for Channel 4.

Our clients at Channel 4 left the brief open for us to work out a creative we’ve always wanted to do: a live-action shoot featuring a cast of handmade objects and a gang of human controllers with impeccable timing! It was shot in one take (albeit number 38!), with creative features — a near-seamless flow of handmade cardboard and paper gadgets appearing in time to the voice-over — all made possible by lots of helping hands, a sliding set, strategically placed magnets, fishing wire, and a hairdryer (take a look at our behind the scenes video to see the making of).

The project was made in 2012, but it still feels fresh and fun, and we’re incredibly proud of it. We even scooped two creative awards for it and have produced a number of spin-offs in the same style since.

Future Trends in the Animation Industry

SBS – What future trends do you foresee in the animation industry?

Sarah – AI is the obvious new tool that is becoming more and more integrated into our work process. Our challenge is to keep up with all the new tools that will keep our workflow efficient and ideas fresh. However, once the novelty of the AI-generated imagery begins to wear off, perhaps there will be a resurgence of work that is grounded in our company’s heritage: handmade projects complete with all the unexpected quirks and imperfections you’d expect from a human hand. Whatever happens, we’ll find new ways to showcase our style and hopefully integrate some of the new tech in our own way. Ultimately, keeping engaging characters, great storytelling, and collaborative (human) client connections are at the heart of what we create and produce.


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The Art of Storytelling: A Glimpse into Fred & Eric Animation Studio