When the original King Kong was first brought to life on the silver screen by Ruth Rose and James Ashmore Creelman in 1933, it was ground-breaking. Mind-boggling. Innovative. There weren't many people who had heard of stop-motion, let alone seen it in action. Animator Willis O'Brien perfected the craft. The giant ape moved across the screen and climbed to the top of the Empire State Building (even if it wasn't in one smooth motion). He was a pioneer of his time.
That's why Paolo Conti and Arthur Nunes, co-founders and directors of Brazilian stop-motion animation studio Animaking, borrowed the royal gorilla's name for their company when they created it 10 years ago in São Paulo, South America's most populated city, and one with a business centre that everyone has their eye on.
But now they're based in Florianopolis, in the state of Santa Catarina, a city better known for its beaches rather than its affinity for business. The duo was convinced to make the move after visiting Sapiens Parque, an innovation incubator focused on industries that are already part of the island city's makeup, such as technology, tourism and special services. Animaking is now part of an innovation, technology and arts cluster, and the park has shown Mr. Conti and Mr. Nunes an approach they had never seen before. Its purpose is not to exchange funds, but to exchange ideas, knowledge and expertise.
"It's funny, because when I first visited Sapiens Parque, I thought, 'These guys are completely crazy.' I didn't understand anything," says Mr. Conti of the idea that he and his team of artists could borrow engineers from another company within their cluster in order to develop new stop-motion technology, and all just by lending that company an artist. "When we were in São Paulo I tried to find the technology we needed, and I found it, but it was very expensive. And people didn't have time to listen to me, didn't have time to work together on development. They tried to sell you something that was ready to work. But to do something like stop-motion you have very specific technology that you need to develop together."
And Animaking's need to develop more technology for stop-motion was rapidly growing. After creating a 15-minute short film called Worms ( Minhocas, in Portuguese), the team of 10 received numerous awards and accolades, and decided to turn it into their first feature film in 2005. The studio had a budget equivalent to just over $6-million, through both private and public funding, but required better technology and more staff to make its dream a reality. Two years into working on the project, they made the move to Sapiens Parque.
That not only gave them partnerships with companies already working within their cluster, but it also gave them the opportunity to hire staff straight out of the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), another partner of Sapiens Parque, so that they could train them to work specifically in the field of stop-motion animation. And with UFSC housing one of the best engineering schools in the country, Mr. Conti and his team were able to build the robot they needed to move their cameras smoothly and seamlessly along with the movements of their characters.
But this exchange of ideas isn't a one way street, where all the companies gain and Sapiens Parque only gives. The people at the park first got in touch with Animaking because Mr. Conti and Mr. Nunes had the expertise to create animation for multi-touch tables Sapiens Parque wanted to use for corporate training games they had been hired to create for some of the largest companies in the country, such as oil giant Petrobras. Through research at UFSC, they had learned that knowledge gained through fun and interactive games was more likely to stick than knowledge gained from sitting through a less-than-stimulating seminar.
"This knowledge [that we exchange]has to produce something for the citizens outside of the park and the companies in it. We have to make money with this knowledge. The park needs to survive," says Mr. Conti. "They use the word sustainability: economic sustainability, environmental sustainability and social sustainability. These are the three main points of the park and we have to work within them."
And they work on sustaining the park, as well. With a planned launch date of October, 2012, for Worms through Fox Film do Brasil and their continuous work on games for multi-touch tables, Animaking still finds time to search for other animation studios with the same innovation mentality so they can create a specific animation and films cluster. They like to keep their company vertical, and this cluster will help them continue to do all work in-house.
"We believe this is the difference. We control the whole process," explains Mr. Conti. "If we have something different to create, a process or an innovation, we can work with other companies in our cluster. This new technology, this new know-how, is now part of Animaking."
Special to The Globe and Mail
With technology, tourism and special services as its main points of focus, Sapiens Parque operates in four areas:
Focused on giving people memorable experiences through technology centred on being human, Experientia develops and conceives concepts and solutions in areas such as education, urban life and health. It brings to life science museums, theme parks, labs and showrooms through new technology.
This setting for research, development and testing of new technologies and solutions promotes a creative environment, and brings together experts in cognitive sciences and humanities, exact sciences and engineering, economics and social sciences, and life and health sciences.
Artis is designed to foster the training and development of those focused on arts and culture through film, music, visual arts and design. It provides space for things like exhibits, art and culture schools, museums and cultural centres. Artis not only promotes creativity, but also the integration of society and knowledge.
Gens promotes sustainable development through environmental conservation, community participation and the promotion of wellness. It's the place for implementation of projects such as the Natural Park and Botanic Garden, recycling initiatives, and building sustainable social and environmental practices.