Something has been brewing for a couple of years now. What started as a friendly challenge among peers built up momentum over four years and grew into the AnimChallenge, an animation contest that inspires hundreds of animators to compete with each other on a monthly basis.
Last year, its success led to the creation of the 24 Hour Ultimate AnimChallenge, an animation marathon that attracted 300 enthusiastic animators eager to animate through the night as the team behind this initiative streamed lectures, demo, reviews, and interviews for the entire duration of the competition. Following last year’s success, the second edition is scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 26.
Here’s the story of where it all started, how it evolved over time, and what led to the organization of this event.
It all started four years ago when Maxime Pilon, a character animator from Montreal, participated in the well-established 11 Second Club — or attempted to. He couldn’t find the time to finish his animation, struggling to remain inspired and motivated. After looking around for other challenges to participate in, he couldn’t find any, which sparked the idea of creating his own.
The goal was to create an accessible and inspiring challenge for animators of all levels. After pitching the idea to a couple of other animators and witnessing their excitement for it, he decided to give it a shot. He created a logo in five minutes and started to promote the new challenge however he could: Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Discord, etc. Existing pages such as Animation Corner also shared the news, which helped it reach a broader audience. The Facebook page was created and the first announcement video was released shortly after, in October 2018.
The first month presented a dance animation challenge. Pilon was fairly confident it would attract at least 20 animators, but 72 ended up participating! He then knew this first challenge wouldn’t be the last.
A chance encounter with Agora.Studio
Five months after the first AnimChallenge contest, Agora.Studio contacted Pilon about potential employment as a character animator. After a few email exchanges, Pilon shared his new endeavor and Agora’s team got really excited at the opportunity to contribute, having flirted with the idea of organizing a similar event in the past. Pilon needed support and Agora was excited to be involved.
One thing led to another and Agora.Studio became AnimChallenge’s main sponsor, providing support to grow the team while investing in advertising, coordination support, monthly reviewer compensation, goodies for the champions, and the creation of new character rigs, periodically provided for free to all participants. This support fueled AnimChallenge’s rapid growth, but it was only the beginning.
Although AnimChallenge started strong in the fall of 2018 and Agora’s sponsorship soon followed, it’s in August 2019 that it really took off with Spiderman’s challenge. The number of participants grew dramatically, to more than 200 per challenge. The team then realized the recipe for a successful challenge: a theme and characters animators always wanted to animate. And boy did they!
The first 24 Hour Ultimate AnimChallenge
With new inspiring character rigs offered monthly, more than 25 monthly challenges under their belt, and 60,000-plus followers on multiple platforms combined, the team wanted to create something new — something special and maybe a little crazy. How about a 24-hour challenge, supported by a nonstop live stream and a lineup of special guests to keep participants awake and entertained during their animation marathon? It sounded crazy enough for the AnimChallenge team to put things in motion, with no prior experience of live streaming nor coordination of such an event.
This challenge coincided with the birth, a few months prior, of Agora.Community and the ambition to start organizing streamed events. It was then decided that the event would be hosted on Agora.Community, with both teams joining forces to pull it off. The event gathered momentum with many guests filling the streaming schedule rapidly: Jean-Denis Haas, Sir Wade Neistadt, the Pratt Brothers, Andrew Gordon, Chris Pearn, and Ed Hooks, to name a few. Recordings of many of their presentations remain accessible on Agora.Community’s content library here.
Three hundred participants from all over the world ended up participating. To the organizers’ pleasant surprise, it was smooth sailing: no technical issues prevented a nonstop streaming session that lasted 25 hours, with more than 20 hosts and guests involved.
Let’s do this again!
Following the first edition’s success, the organization team unanimously decided to make this a yearly event, adjusting the formula to do more of what worked well and improve where possible. Among those improvements this year: more guests, a greater variety of presentations, more interactions with the participants during the event, a larger team working behind the scenes, and bigger prizes.
The event is sponsored by Agora.Studio, Animawarriors, fRigging Awesome Studios, Wonderwell Studios, P2design, animBot, CG Boost, and AnimProps. The lineup of hosts and guests this year includes, among many others:
- Dave Mullins (director, Pixar’s Lou)
- Mike Jungbluth (creator, The Animation Exchange)
- Samantha Youssef (founder, Studio Technique)
- Jason Schleifer (principal creative director, Amazon Web Services)
- Jorge Vigara (founder and director, Animawarriors)
- Dan Root (founder, Video Game Animation Study)
- Ilse Zamarripa (founder, The Worldspace)
- Ted Ty (head of character animation, DNEG)
- Alan Camilo (owner and developer, animBot)
- David Rosen (co-founder, Humble Bundle)
- Brent George, David Hubert, and Jacob Gardner (co-founders, Agora.Community)
- Mylène Dinh-Robic (actress)
- Marco Foglia (animation supervisor, Agora.Studio)
The second edition of the 24 Hour Ultimate AnimChallenge is open to animators of all levels and will take place on Saturday, February 26, starting at 12 p.m. EST. Participants can face this challenge alone or with friends (up to three per team). Those interested in participating will find the link to enroll HERE.