Passion Pictures: 30+ years of animation and production experience.
In the animation world, Passion Pictures is both trailblazer and stalwart. With over thirty years of animation production and filmmaking experience, a raft of awards (including several Oscars) and a portfolio of work which includes some truly iconic and memorable TV commercials and films, they have carved out an indelible niche in world-class character animation and storytelling.
History, artists, and projects.
Established in 1987 by Andrew Ruhemann, the company has offices globally and works across all mediums; from commercials, digital shorts, feature documentaries, broadcast programming, music videos and computer games, to websites and live events. Featuring directors of the highest calibre, such as Darren Walsh, Kyra & Constantin, againstallodds, Mark Waring, Mads Broni, Jon Saunders, Robert Valley, Sam Fell, McBess and Russell Brooke, Passion Pictures animation studios have elevated the craft and helmed such iconic projects as the universe of the Gorillaz, diving into and mastering the VR space long before augmented and virtual reality were widely used.
We chatted to executive producer, Belle Palmer, to get inside the fantastic creativity machine that is Passion Pictures.
What sets Passion Pictures apart from other animation studios?
It’s a cliché but it really is the people; the directors, production team, CG crew and artists, every single person wants to tell great stories and be part of stand-out projects. It’s an extremely supportive and strong team and even through corona-fuelled expansion we’ve worked hard to retain that closeness. Within the different divisions we also have such a variety of styles, techniques and storytelling mediums, and are working more closely together than ever, which is a really exciting prospect; having access to the brains behind Oscar-winning documentary filmmaking is something we don’t take for granted too.
What is the biggest misconception about animation production?
There is a lot of smoke and mirrors around animation production in general and we try our best to dispel any concerns. There is no shame in asking questions about the process and we make that very clear with all of our clients. There are so many aspects that have real synergy with live action production, so we often point clients to how the two processes overlap. Character design is a form of ‘casting’ for example, where you breathe life into the characters, and in CG and Stopframe you light the ‘set’ using either physical or CG light sources. You don’t need to be an expert in animation to appreciate the various stages, which definitely makes for a smoother process.
Passion Pictures is part of a very elite group of animation studios who have won an Academy Award. How has winning an Oscar changed your company?
Our roots are firmly set within the world of film, with Passion being founded off the back of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’, the double academy award-winning feature. To this day, we often pool artists from ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit? ’and again, that’s testament to how we build and maintain relationships; talent is so key at every level, from the seasoned feature calibre artists to the fresh grads. Being an Oscar-winning studio helps attract such talent for sure, but we get just as excited about an artist starting out in the industry as we do with animators who have feature credentials, it really is all about the talent.
What is the biggest change you've seen in the industry over the years?
The need for speed!! There’s been a definite shift in advertising from the standard TV commercial to social media platforms, with clients wanting to have more immediate content. Passion have pioneered ways of creating such content, using Realtime rendering systems and live puppeteering, where we can turn around animation content in a matter of minutes versus weeks! However, quality will always be king in terms of consumption; if you lean into telling interesting stories, breathing life into real characters, or creating beautiful art the viewer is much less likely to fast forward your work, which is of course an occupational hazard when it comes to the advertising industry in general! Brands will always want to sell, and consumers will always want to be entertained, even if it’s for a thirty second ad break while they make a brew, and that will never change.
What is the future of animation production?
Covid has of course sparked a huge growth for the animation industry in general, and the process is really one of the most ‘work from home’ friendly processes there can be. Much like many sectors, the working week will never be the same again. The extreme reliance in technology and new ways of communicating were a learning curve for all, but luckily Passion were ahead of the game in many respects as a lot of our productions were taking place with part or all remote crew across our studios in Barcelona and Paris. We work with crew, artists and producers all over the world and build the team around the needs of that specific project.