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Ex-DreamWorkers Aim to Make Animation Production Easier Than Ever With Nimble Collective

A new company aims to give small animation teams something that has previously been available only to mega-studios like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks: a seamless and integrated pipeline for animation production.

Three former DreamWorks animators have teamed up to form the Nimble Collective and together create a first-of-its-kind cloud-based platform and community designed to help frustrated animated filmmakers everywhere.

The brainchild of animators Rex Grignon, Scott LaFleur, and Jason Schleifer, plus tech industry exec and entrepreneur Michael Howse, and announced at today’s Citrix Synergy 2015 Conference in Orlando, Florida, the Nimble Platform is an end-to-end solution for artists who want to create, collaborate, and ultimately distribute their work.

Watch a demo short made entirely within the cloud-enabled Nimble Platform:

“There are a lot of costs involved in making animation,” Grignon, former head of character animation on DreamWorks’s Madagascar series, told Cartoon Brew yesterday. “We just want to make it very easy for artists to start creating and start collaborating.

“I’ve worked on big productions that have made hundreds of millions of dollars, and while I’ve got a very nice salary in my career, the artists working on those films really don’t benefit proportionally to the success of what they create.”

Nimble founders (l. to r.) Michael Howse, Jason Schleifer, Scott LaFleur, Bruce Wilson, and Rex Grignon.
Nimble founders (l. to r.) Michael Howse, Jason Schleifer, Scott LaFleur, Bruce Wilson, and Rex Grignon.

Though currently in its pre-alpha stage, the Nimble Platform will allow the user to access the best professional software tools available—as long as they already have the appropriate user’s licenses—in a single, integrated and intuitive interface within a secure cloud environment. Utilizing low-latency streaming technology, the platform will allow users to work with graphically intense applications like Photoshop and Maya within the cloud enjoying all the responsiveness of a local-running application.

“You don’t require a high performance workstation; you don’t require all the networking and collaboration technology,” said Howse. “We’re providing all of that as part of a personal facility that resides in the cloud.”

From there, the platform will allow the user to easily share work with others, allowing a project to pass smoothly through the various stages of a pipeline, including rendering (which now takes place in a cloud), right through to revenue-generating online distribution channels—which themselves only take a couple of clicks.

A subscription to the platform will be “moderately priced”—$60-$100 a month per user license—with a free version to be made available for limited use.

Nimble will help would-be animated filmmakers everywhere overcome the otherwise insurmountable hardware and software costs that don’t trouble the big studios, Grignon says.

“DreamWorks and Pixar and Disney—we love them—but they’ve all invested millions in infrastructure and pipeline and the things that we’re talking about,” said Grignon. “We’d love to help people get together and launch a studio tomorrow, for example, for the price of a subscription. I see so many amazing ideas that never end up getting made. I know personally from my very large circle of friends that there are a lot of frustrated animated filmmakers out there. And there’s a real demand for it.”

Nimble has already raised $1 million in seed funding, with additional funding rounds in the works.

Other key figures within the young company include CTO Bruce Wilson, who was a software engineer at both DreamWorks Animation and Google, and v-p of engineering George Bruder, who has worked on streaming technologies at Ooyala, YouTube, and Netflix.

  • Chad Townsend

    Sounds interesting…. I might be up for it. I work for the studios but haven’t had an opportunity to work on something of my own. We’re not all like Rob Pratt making Flash Gordon cartoons all the time. amiright ? *crash* ;)

  • Mister Twister

    Cool, even less reasons to leave the house or turn away from the monitor!

  • TStevens

    I think the advantage is with the remote computing and storage. The theory is that they should be able to have super fast processing power on their end so you can work on their systems and then all you need is a decent graphics card and a relatively fast connection. They would also, theoretically, have redundant storage and backup that the average artist wouldn’t be able to afford. Also, if they are going to allow unlimited rendering on their end then it starts looking pretty good. The ultimate advantage has more to do with hardware, storage and raw computing power than with access to software.
    However, the big scare is if they go under without warning and you are left without access to your files. My bet is that they will recommend that users back-up locally or to a third party to avoid legal issues in a case like that. I am also betting that they are going to be running the whole thing through another company like Amazon or Rackspace.

  • The logo looks good in cardboard but rather tragic digitally.

  • Unapologetic Canadian

    At first I thought it was a basecamp service of some kind. Collaborative cloud sharing for animation production and review on a VPN, but the hardware comment confuses me…

    Is this partly a render service as well? Daily render turnovers is something no indie company or independent filmmaker would have access to. If they’re going to address that problem and give us all access to the pixar pipeline- then AWESOME!

  • popyea

    I think the benefit to an individual is being able to work from any computer, but experience the responsiveness and timely rendering that’s normally exclusive to very powerful hardware.