It’s hard to believe that leading Finnish animation studio Anima Vitae was founded in Helsinki a full 20 years ago by Antti Haikala, Jani Kuronen and Olli Rajala. The studio has made a splash on the global animation scene with movies such as Niko and the Way to the Stars (2008) and the hit TV series Moominvalley )(produced with Gutsy Animation). We had the chance to catch up with studio CEO, co-founder and head of animation Antti Haikala, to find out what’s new and exciting at the shop these days:
Animation Magazine: Congrats on your big anniversary. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of your studio?
Antti Haikala: Anima Vitae was founded in 2000 in Helsinki, Finland. We were three classmates from an art school from Tampere with a passion for animation. We (I, Jani Kuronen & Olli Rajala) kind of figured out that no one would hire us because the animation industry was close to non-existent at that point of time in Finland. But we had won some awards and also some projects were starting to look promising … so we three fresh graduates decided to take a leap into the unknown and run a business. And we are still all working for the company.
What would you say are the secrets to your company’s success?
I’d say three things: First of them would be understanding the limited resources we had, especially when we started. We have been trying to find out smarter ways to work since. This requires people who are talented both in artistic and technical sense. If you separate those into two different things you cannot find the best shortcuts or something totally new.
Secondly, I’d say patience. In animation everything happens super slowly from financing to actual work. You just need to be doing the right things and at some point you get successful — also it’s important to understand that there will always be ups and downs after your first success.
The last but most important thing to mention is the people and companies we work with. For us, animation is teamwork and we couldn’t achieve anything without all the wonderful people around us. When I was giving a keynote speech session at Aalto University’s animation master class, the moderator asked me why I always say “we” when I talk about the projects or decisions I’ve been involved with. It was funny to notice that I actually do, and it’s really because of this teamwork aspect of animation.
How many people work at your facilities in Helsinki and Kuala Lumpur?
Currently we have 20 people working in Finland and 70 in Malaysia. We have also some smaller remote teams, so the total amount is 100-plus.
Which animation tools do you use to produce the animation?
Currently Maya, Houdini and Nuke. We have done quite a lot of pipeline development ourselves. We are also testing Unreal Engine and looking into using Blender more in our pipeline.
What would you say are your biggest challenges in 2021?
Financing and marketing. Closing financing is always difficult and marketing small European projects is always a challenge, but it’s totally doable.
What do you love about working in animation?
I love the impressionistic nature of animation. All the animation that gives an artistic impression and someone’s interpretation of movement and other things we see is great. Many of the big productions I actually find a bit boring as their animation style, rendering technique and level of detail bring them so close to live action. I also love when inanimate objects turn into living things.
What would you like the global animation community know about Anima Vitae?
Haha, I guess that we exist! We haven’t ever been very good in promoting ourselves.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about Finnish animation?
Maybe the biggest one that I have repeatedly heard is that Rovio’s animation studio somehow gave birth to the Finnish animation industry. It was a great thing to happen, but prior to that there have been many great companies and people that have been building their path to international success for a long time.
What are some of the projects you are currently working on?
We have two films in development: Fleak and Niko 3. Also there are a couple of films in early development. We are also working on the third season of Moominvalley series and a couple of other smaller projects.
Check out the studio’s work:
Fleak (watch the teaser short)
Niko 2 – Little Brother, Big Trouble (watch the trailer)
Moominvalley Season 2 (watch the official music videofor “Made of Stone” – Jesse Markin)
You can find out more about Anima Vitae at anima.fi.