Thomas Jefferson once famously quipped, "I’m a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it."
One needs look no further than Imira Entertainment to see an example of this bit of folksy wisdom in action. The studio starts at the top with the assiduous CEO Sergi Reitg and Creative Director Myriam Ballesteros who each have more than 20 years of experience in the animation industry.
Perseverance and diligence shine through in the production team, which includes some of the industry’s most prestigious scriptwriters. You don’t get to be the wordsmith behind shows like Futurama, Phineas & Ferb, Penguins of Madagascar, or Jimmy Neutron without an indefatigable determination to be the best in the business, and Imira’s scribes are all at the top of their game.
So where does all this hard work leave Imira Entertainment? With a bit of luck, of course, and it comes in the form being handed a €5.5M budget to produce 52 twelve-minute episodes of the remarkably appropriately named, Lucky Fred!
Utilizing the Toon Boom pipeline with the implementation of Storyboard Pro and Harmony, Imira combined advanced cutout techniques with frame-by-frame animation to produce this hilarious and engaging children’s cartoon.
The development and production have been aided by a partnership with Disney, and Nickelodeon picked up broadcast rights in several of the 150 countries where it is shown.
As outrageous as it is hilarious, the series follows the comic adventures of Fred, just another 13-year-old boy with a super-powered, shape-shifting robot that is capable of becoming anything Fred wishes it to be with a simple voice command. And while Fred is quite happy to be the owner of something that far too few 13-year-old boys get to have as a possession, Fred’s next-door neighbour Braianna was the intended recipient of the robot delivery, leaving her with no choice but to attach herself to Fred.
Fred’s new friend Braianna is actually Agent Brains, a highly skilled member of an intergalactic security force tasked with protecting Earth. Loyalty, friendship, intergalactic adventure, and the everyday tasks inherent in navigating middle school find a way to combine into some uproariously funny escapades, all of which make for some spectacularly entertaining television.
The fun and frivolous series is produced as a partnership between Imira at their Vitoria, Spain facility and Oasis Animation in Montreal. It’s not a small production by any stretch of the imagination with 50 full-time and freelance artists working on the series in Spain alone. There are also 44 animators, five background artists, five riggers, and four production staff in Montreal.
With this many people involved in a production of this type, the logistics can become a nightmare without the right set of tools to ensure that everyone is working together, and not at cross purposes.
The granular details on production come from Patxi Santamaria, Head of Production at Imira and, incidentally, a Flash power user. He explained how challenging and complex it had become when using Flash to work on projects that require a high level of quality and a sleek, traditional look. The studio had created three series in Flash, but by the time the last one was finished, they’d hit the wall hard enough to begin looking for an option that could help them achieve the quality they desired within the necessary allotment of time.
"That was our opportunity to adopt the Toon Boom pipeline, and we have not looked back since then," said Santamaria.
For Imira, working in Harmony is much simpler, and the adoption of the software has done much to reduce production time and costs. "With a well run pre-production process, we can maximize Harmony’s integrated pipeline," he adds. All of which allows the team to work much faster and with a much higher quality finished product.
With Disney actively involved in the production of the series, animatics produced in Storyboard Pro are converted to QuickTime and sent to Disney UK for notes and final approval.
Santamaria explained the production process in more detail: "The storyboards are very complete, they almost look like layouts. Storyboard Pro is convenient for the Animation Director to make comments and corrections. All action notes and dialogue are also entered so that when they export each project as a CSV file, they can recover the production information into their in-house database system, showing which character in which scene."
Once the boards are approved, everything is exported directly into Harmony, where file structure, timing, and camera information are recovered. From here, Oasis in Montreal takes over and begins the task of production in earnest.
"The team begins with the posing, some models, and specific backgrounds. Once all items are approved, they start building the asset library and rigging. Oasis sends the source files to Imira for comments. We simply add a layer on top of the scenes to put our comments and generate a template that we send back to Oasis for reference. Then, the team is able to implement all the requested changes and deliver the final version via FTP. The process works really well," stated Santamaria.
The hard work is paying off in spades for Imira Entertainment and Oasis as they have already gotten the green light for a second season.
Santamaria is excited about the extensive asset library built throughout the production of the first season, and with their proficiency with rigging techniques, feels that the next round will be even more efficient.
Imira Entertainment has all of the ingredients in place to see Lucky Fred continue to be successful, and combined with their dedication and experience, it’s certain that there will be many more great productions from this exemplary studio. With a high degree of passion, dedication, and an aspiration to set the highest standards, the future is sure to be full of good fortune and prosperity for Imira and all of their partners.
From left to right, back row to front row: Alexander Lorena, Javier Galdos, Richard Cretenze, Javier Cuesta, Patxi Santamaria, Julian Larrauri, Marcos Gonzalvez, Tathiana Schorr, Inaki Amurrio, Myriam Ballesteros, Ramir Medina, Ferdinand Lorena.
Barcelona-based production and distribution company, Imira Entertainment is one of Spain’s leading companies specializing in youth programming. Imira’ projects have universal appeal due to their innovative content for kids with strong designs and editorial lines. Keeping up with the latest technology, its productions are developed for cross-media exposure such as TV, video, licensing, mobile, smart phone, online, merchandising and publishing. Imira Entertainment has a worldwide distribution catalogue of over 4000 half hour premium kids programming, including animated feature films.