We recently had the chance to catch up with Dave Ansari, the CEO of Canadian animation house Dream Farm Studios. The Toronto- and Poland-based company, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, creates animation and gaming art for broadcast and web applications and works with many advertising agencies, indie and branding agencies around the world. Here is what Ansari told us about his studio:
Can you tell us a little bit about the origins and background of Dream Farm Studios?
Ansari: Let me start with a little bit of backstory from our animation studio. Back when I was a young boy, there used to be a cafe full of life and energy just outside our home. I used to sit down in front of the window and draw the scenes from that cafe, making sure I could seize every emotion with my pen and paper.
As time went by, I got better at drawing and storytelling through shapes, but soon after, I realized expressing feelings and stories was limited when It came to drawing a scene. Intrigued by creating more immersive stories, I got familiar with the world of animation. With the help of my brother, who was into 3D software, we founded Dream Farm Studios, hoping we could create better, more captivating stories than the one from the window of my childhood.
How many people are currently working at the studio?
Excited to enter the world of animation production, we had our first animation project in 2011 with only five artists, most of which were friends we knew. Fortunately, our commitment to quality made more clients keep coming, so we saw the need to increase our in-house staff to accept more significant projects. We currently have a permanent team of 110. Still, that number fluctuates according to our productions, sometimes peaking around 200 depending on the project.
Where is your company’s headquarters and which animation tools do you use?
Our animation studio now has operational headquarters in Poland and Canada (Toronto). Our global team of artists creates exceptional 2D and 3D animations to help our audience grow their dreams and achieve new heights.
We consistently use standard and globally acclaimed software and plugins such as Autodesk Maya, Pixologic ZBrush, SideFX Houdini, The Foundry Mari, Allegorithmic Substance Designer and Painter, Adobe Photoshop, Solid Angle (Autodesk) Arnold, Peregrine Labs Yeti and Maxon Redshift.
What would you say makes Dream Farm stand out in the competitive animation field?
I think what makes our animation studio different is our mentality of exploring uncharted and undiscovered stories that haven’t found their way into animation. We see animation not only as a medium of entertainment but one that can further the understanding of humans and the mysterious universe we live in. One thing that I want to see more in animation are projects that help debunk stereotypical cultural biases about the Black community. In one of our recent projects, we had the idea to empower the Black community on different ways and perspectives of communication while capturing the layers of how lives are affected personally and collectively by the decisions a person or community may make. As a result, we partnered with McBath Media and Tri Destined Studios on a family-friendly 3D animated TV series centered on an African-American family.
The creators of this show, CJ McBath and C Wright, were intentional about showing the diverse perspectives of an African-American family and how they are similar yet different in many views of life using the platform’s animated world. The journey of Black images in animation has been a storied one. This project honors that journey while bringing honesty and complexity to the characters, storylines, and art.
Can you talk about some of your other big projects?
In the case of 2D animation, we have partnered with great clients, too. It was late July 2020 when Austin Ranson Khemraj, the author and owner of Austin Art Productions, approached us for creating 2D animated short films. Austin, who has published several books, most of which are kids-oriented, had the idea to turn the books into short CGI 2D animated films and the first book to have the plan executed on was Toucan’s Tears.
For the animation method, Austin had provided some animation references that were in line with his vision for the project. Taking the references into account and studying the appropriate styles, we chose the frame-by-frame hand-drawn animation method. Fortunately, the animation is going to have its chance in international animation festivals, and Toucan’s Tears is going to be a beginning for this cooperation.
Our list of other clients includes Firefox, Cambridge University Press, DISH Network, Flare Games and Macbeth Media.
Do you receive any governmental support for your projects?
Our studio has not ever used nor requested any funding from the government. However, Canada is taking immediate, significant and decisive action to support Canadians and businesses facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. I think it’d be helpful for us to use any of the support from the government in the future.
What is your take on the global animation scene today?
The past decade saw a drastic rise in the growth and market value of the animation industry. I believe the more weight the animation industry obtains, the more critical it becomes to define IPs to maximize copyrighting profit. We are currently planning to develop and own our IPs for various services, such as characters and stories, to emphasize IPs in 2021 and beyond. Besides, our R&D team is currently working on interactive game media to lead and inspire animation and game studios worldwide.
How did you studio adapt to the challenging conditions of the pandemic, stay-at-home era?
I believe this pandemic proved to all of us that it’s unnecessary to share physical space for projects to progress in the realm of animation production, but in a profoundly collaborative animation production genre, making a project move at the average pace proved challenging in a COVID-19 reality. Currently, the majority of our staff work at the comfort of their home to make sure their health and well-being is our top priority even in times when there’s a tight deadline. Eventually, it took us some time to get accustomed to handling the projects remotely, but most of our projects have been going without noticeable delay ever since.
To learn more about the studio, visit dreamfarmstudios.com.