Saturn Animation Studios of Kelowna, in association with Colombian animation Signos Studio SAS, is starting work on an animated series for children about the fun adventures of a Colombian condor and a Canadian beaver.
“The Condor is passionate and emotional in his Latin American way, while the Canadian beaver is kind and brave. Combined into one person, they would make a splendid character, but perhaps not a very engaging animation. But two characters with such different personalities make an explosive combination—just what’s needed to make a good story,” says Nazim Ragimov, the head of the Canadian studio.
The Canada Media Fund has announced it will support the project under its funding program for international projects.
This is not the first time that Canada’s largest fund has supported animation and digital media projects created by the BC based studios, but there has never been a project quite like this one in the Okanagan.
“This will be a transmedia project. It will be published as an animated web series and as an interactive app for mobile devices at the same time,” continues the head of Saturn Studios.
“Imagine you’re watching a series, then you want to read the story it is based on, and then to meet the main characters online, receive a postcard from them or send a message to them. That gives you much more of an all-round experience of the story than if you just watch an episode or read a script.”
Saturn Animation Studios was founded four years ago in Kelowna by producer Nazim Ragimov, who is from Russia. Since then, the studio has produced ten interactive apps based on classic children’s fairy tales with original illustrations, animation and games.
“When I took our fairy tales to international exhibitions and showed them to professionals who could appreciate not just the artistic side, but also how they were put together technically, they were all amazed that a small studio had managed to publish ten stories of such a standard within the first few years of our existence. With no outside support.”
There had, in fact, been support, just not of the material kind. Straight after moving to Canada, the studio joined the startup community Accelerate Okanagan. The studio’s first mentor there was Raghwa Gopal, who last year was appointed CEO of the incubator.
“The quality of the products created (graphics and animation) was absolutely superb,” says Raghwa Gopal, “ and the studio was able to create these very high-quality storybooks in a very timely manner and in a very cost-effective way. Though it was hard to monetize. I believe a much larger marketing budget was needed – to get the product in front of the right people”.
In the nearly four years that the studio has existed, several times Nazim Ragimov felt like giving it all up and starting another project. Creating and – especially – distributing apps for children is just too complicated. But, every time, he decided to keep going, even though the problems often snowballed, and friends kept asking him the same question: why invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in projects that aren’t profitable? But he carried on.
“I felt I was doing the right thing,” says Nazim. “And it doesn’t really matter how much money I put into it. What matters is that the fairy tales made by the studio are probably the best work I’ve done in my life. And another thing. I’m more convinced than ever that there are some simple rules in life that really do work. If you want to win, cut off your line of retreat, put yourself in a do-or-die situation so you can either fall into the abyss, or you can win.”
“The continued hard work is paying off, creating a growing industry in our region,” Jon Summerland, Okanagan Film Commissioner comments. “We are very pleased that these kinds of international connections are happening here in our region on productions we are bringing here. 2017 is turning out to be another incredible year for the Okanagan film and animation industry.”
The Condor project gets underway in September. The first two episodes are due to appear online and in app stores this December.