D.M. Galloway’s career is a childhood dream come true: he brings toys to life for a living. Having started out creating fan films with his figures, the animator and director now creates stop-motion ads for major toy companies, playfully bringing the likes of Popeye and Spider-Man to life in bitesize online shorts.
Although he attended the filmmaking program at New York’s School of Visual Arts (SVA), Galloway is a self-taught animator. He animates all his figurines at home on his mattress, sometimes pixilating his dog in a supporting role. He has been known to create an entire ad in a matter of days, from commission to delivery.
His productions are small-scale but his clients are big-league. Brands and companies he has worked with include Nickelodeon, Warner Bros., Marvel, Transformers, Mortal Kombat, Halo, Bill & Ted, Star Wars, and Heavy Metal. He has more than 30 million Youtube and Instagram views to his name. And he’s only 26.
We spoke to Galloway by email to find out how he carved out his niche, what his clients require of him, and why he left SVA disillusioned …
Galloway’s first ambition was to be an actor. He changed his mind aged 14 after seeing G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009), a live-action film based on the namesake toyline. “As a toy and cartoon fan I was angered,” he says. “Hollywood has access to fun and successful IPs, yet again and again they make bad and bland content based on these iconic IPs.” From that point, he knew he wanted to direct.
Browsing Youtube, Galloway discovered animators who created stop motion with action figures. As a toy collector himself, he was drawn to this kind of animation. He started experimenting with stop motion, and in 2010 he launched the Youtube channel DGDXanimation.
Galloway enrolled at SVA, where he studied live action. He was disappointed by the course: he says teachers fostered a close-minded atmosphere, dismissing his love of popular films like Robocop. The mood in the film department was “disgusting and toxic,” with competitiveness encouraged over collaboration.
In his senior year, Galloway took a class in animation history taught by Howard Beckerman (who directed the first episode of Doug). It opened his eyes. “The animation department was so calm, loving, educational, and collaborative,” he recalls. “[Beckerman’s lessons were] the only time I was genuinely happy in college.”
Building a following
In any case, Galloway had by then notched up 15 million views online — and he was starting to draw the attention of companies. In 2015, while still at SVA, he was approached to animate a few shorts featuring Star Ace Toys’ Harry Potter figures. Two years later, he pitched and directed an 11-minute stop-motion film, The Smackdown Before Christmas, for DDP Yoga, the company of ex-wrestler Diamond Dallas Page.
A turning point came in 2019, when Galloway netted online retailer Big Bad Toy Store as a client. After that, “clients kept coming into my life like an assembly line.” He found himself animating full-time for toy companies.
Animating at speed
When Galloway receives a commission, he often has to move fast. He describes one job in which he was contacted on a Thursday. He accepted the offer and received the figure on Friday, then animated throughout the weekend. Everything was finalized and approved by the license owners on Monday afternoon, and the ad launched on Tuesday.
“Whenever I have a small amount of time to complete gigs, I think of the past,” he says. “Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were able to make 166 episodes of The Flintstones within six years. They opened the doors for others to figure out the balance between entertainment, quality, and quantity. So being that I’m in a situation where last-minute gigs may happen more than I’d like, I’ve trained myself to be ready for them through just animating weekly regularly.”
Galloway is often given a lot of freedom in developing the storylines of his ads, although he sometimes has to work from a script. His figures’ poses are true to how the actual toys move. “The only modification I ever do is drilling the back for the rig/winder for flying, jumping, etc. We are in a golden age of action figures in terms of articulation, paint, and sculpt.”
In 2019, Galloway took some time off Youtube to develop his Instagram presence (@dgdxofficial). His experience across the two platforms have thrown Youtube’s shortcomings into relief. “I go back to Youtube to try uploading shorts (that have got 50,000 views in one day on Instagram) and Youtube punishes me for being away.” The platform’s “BS algorithm and ad revenue” have put him off posting regularly to the site.
This has implications for the kind of work Galloway produces. He has directed works that are longer than ads — The Smackdown Before Christmas being an example — but the algorithms of sites like Youtube don’t encourage this.
“I have animations on my Youtube channel [that are] around nine minutes with over three million views,” he says. “The thing is, they were easier to produce back then, as I was just a kid doing it for fun. I didn’t know what ones and twos were, and I worked at 12 fps. Now I do 24 fps, so it takes longer to produce content, but the quality is much better. Youtube doesn’t care about quality. They want consistent uploads. Weekly or daily.”
The shift in focus from Youtube to Instagram proved emotionally challenging: “I was in a really dark place between some things that happened around graduating college as well as transitioning from Youtube (with over 100,000 subscribers) to Instagram (where I was basically starting over).” Yet he has managed to rebuild his following, accumulating over 26,000 Instagram followers to date. He says his videos on the site help him find work.
More recently, Galloway has started creating independent work, not least with his character Burgman the Burger Monster, and has secured his first gig for a tv client (about which he can’t yet speak). Working with big movie and tv brands remains a goal. “Hopefully someday D.M. Galloway will have the same validity in the animation/film world as Tim Burton or Brad Bird,” he says. “I’ve gotten millions of views on my own. I know I can reach a larger audience eventually. I have to.”