By Sheila Watson
“In 2014, there were 752 live action films and only 13 animated films,” said Bryan Ransom, CEO and producer at Moondog Animation Studio in Mount Pleasant. “So, statistically speaking, the animation arena is a much smaller playing field. And that can make a difference when you’re trying to get something produced.”
That statistic is the very reason he, along with co-founders Jean-Marc Khayat and Ben Davis, work in animation rather than live-action films and why they moved Moondog from France two years ago.
After earning a degree in engineering from North Carolina State University, Ransom went to Paris and worked as a producer on various projects for several years. Finally, he and his co-founders decided to make the move back to America.
“Here in the United States, there are far more companies and individuals who might be interested in funding our work,” he said.
Ransom noted that whereas it’s easier to capitalize on a smaller field, there are still challenges, especially when it comes to finding talent.
“We need crews on our projects who have the experience and equipment and the know-how,” he said.
They have been able to find candidates from schools such as Clemson, the College of Charleston, Trident Technical College, Savannah College of Arts and Design, Full Sail, Texas A&M, among others. And Ransom noted that the company is always looking for individuals with remarkable skills.
Although Ransom and the other founders looked at several locations – including Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Toronto – they settled on Charleston.
“Actually, we looked at several places in the state,” Ransom said. “We looked at Fort Mill, Greenville and Charleston, but in the end, Charleston was what felt right. Plus, it helps when we’re recruiting. Everyone wants to come to this area to live.”
The mission of the CGI animation studio is to create content that influences our culture, not only in the United States, but also around the world.
“Through the stories, with the characters and animation, we want to tell stories that have the power to change the world around us,” said Ransom. “We want to do something that means something and does something. We want it to change a person when they watch it.”
The studio creates, fabricates and distributes top-quality computer-generated animation through a proprietary technology.
In 2014, the South Carolina Research Authority’s SC Launch program invested in Moondog Animation at a Big Check ceremony at a Silicon Harbor Shindig networking event. The ceremony formally honors and congratulates companies on their investment closings.
“Being part of the SC Launch! program has raised awareness for us,” Ransom said. “It’s a rigorous process, so we’re taken more seriously in the investment pool. And it helps get information out about us.”
The company’s projects include feature films, short films, virtual reality films, TV series, architectural visualizations and commercial/marketing campaigns.
Moondog has been working on a feature film, while maintaining a busy schedule with its commercial and industrial projects – among them virtual reality pieces for Patriots Point using Oculus Rift technology as well as two new animated characters for the South Carolina Aquarium.
Among the company’s recent projects is a series of animated short films that Patriots Point commissioned to help teach the history of the aircraft carrier Yorktown and its service in World War II.
The series features two 3D main characters, Scrappy the dog and his sidekick seagull, Stewart. Together they take the audience through various scenarios of the war.
According to Ransom, Scrappy was a real dog who lived on the aircraft carrier in 1943, providing companionship to those serving in World War II on the historic ship.
The series, targeted to fifth graders, combines artistic and technical direction, concept art, storyboards, animatics, designs, modeling, texturing, and rigging.
The crew created secondary characters, music, sound designs and voice-overs, as well as three sets with backgrounds, 2D & 3D visual effects, lighting, rendering and compositing.
“It’s a lot of work,” Ransom admits, “but it’s worth it. Every minute, every frame is worth it.”