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HOT HOUSE: Reel FX Creative Studios Ramps Up for Animated Fare

With its recent move to a 74,000-square-foot building in the hip Deep Ellum district of Dallas, the veteran spot shop Reel FX Creative Studios is gearing up for a major expansion into children’s entertainment programming.
"We began as a work-for-hire service company, but over the years we’ve also been working on a strategy to develop our own content," says Reel FX executive vice president Dale Carman, who co-founded the firm in 1993 with David Needham.
Reel FX has launched a joint venture with Robots creator William Joyce, to produce feature films, videogames and even good-old-fashioned books, with their first title now in development. Joyce’s previous creations include the animated series Rolie Polie Olie for the Disney Channel and George Shrinks for PBS-which Joyce adapted from his children’s book about the diminutive George.
The motion-graphics firm is staffing up with kiddie-content mavens like Barney and Friends creatives Dennis DeShazer and Jon Green, who are developing properties for the pre-school set. Also on board is Disney veteran and Shark Tale animator Ken Duncan, who has launched the firm’s West Coast office, a four-person shop in Pasadena, CA.
"The core of our business is people and talent," says Carman. "I met Ken and there was great synergy, so we decided to open a Pasadena office. I like to find the right people and then move ahead with what we want to do."
Effects-intensive spots have long been the mainstay at Reel FX, which works regularly with branding powerhouse TracyLocke and its youth-oriented marketing firm, Uproar.
Once a two-person venture, the Dallas operation has grown to about a hundred staffers. The new facility in Deep Ellum boasts seven Discreet finishing suites, four Digidesign ProTools audio suites, and dozens of graphics, animation and effects workstations. "But every job still begins with pencil and paper," says Carman.
Dallas -based TracyLocke calls on Reel FX to animate commercials for a wide range of Playskool and Hasbro toys, including My Little Pony, Mr. Potato Head and G.I. Joe. Reel FX also tested the waters of long-form animation by providing turnkey production services on G.I Joe: Valor Vs. Venom and Action Man X Missions: The Movie, a pair of direct-to-DVD/video children’s titles from Hasbro.
Director Robert Rodriquez tapped Reel FX to create effects shots for the amusement park sequence at the beginning of Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, which were crafted with 2d3 Boujou, Alias Maya and Discreet Inferno. The company has also developed effects shots for the Disney Channel movies Now You See It, Pixel Perfect and Halloween Town 3.
Gigabit Ethernet is standard throughout the facility, whose climate-controlled data center houses a 400-processor render farm and an SGI InfiniteStorage SAN with CXFS file-sharing. Reel FX is a longtime alpha- and beta-tester for Discreet products, but prefers home-grown software: A staff of seven in-house developers is at work on an array of proprietary apps, "from project management to rendering to custom tools for rigging and skinning," says Carman.
The fast-growing Dallas shop creates effects-intensive spots for the likes of Pepsi, Habro and Gatorade. Reel FX has also produced two animated DVD titles for Hasbro-and inked a co-production deal to develop feature films, videogames and books with Robots creator William Joyce.
Dale Carman, David Needham, Jon Greene and Dennis DeShazer, executive vice presidents; Steve O’Brien, chief executive; Ken Duncan, creative director.
Discreet Flame, Discreet Inferno, Discreet Smoke, Discreet Fire, Alias Maya, 2d3 Boujou, D2 Nuke, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Painter, SGI SAN w/ CXFS, Digidesign ProTools
Reel FX Creative Studios
301 N. Crowdus St.
Dallas, TX 75226
ph. 214.979.0961
Reel FX West
95 N. Marengo Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91103
ph. 626.529.1600

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