WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF ANIMATION AND WHERE WILL IT TAKE US?
TOM BRANCROFT of PENCILISH
In this episode of the Press Play Podcast, Derek Gerber talks with someone who played a significant role in shaping the childhood of Derek’s generation. Tom Bancroft spent over a decade with Disney as a Supervising Character Animator before founding multiple production companies, including Pencilish Animation Studios, where he currently acts as the Chief Executive Officer.
“That’s what we’re talking about is cutting out middlemen nowadays and going direct to our audience. And we can do that now because guess what. We all have a distribution system in our hands, and it’s in our pockets all day long.”
EPISODE 25 HIGHLIGHTS
Whether you realize it or not, you are likely already familiar with Tom’s work. His time at Disney later became known as the Second Golden Era for Disney animation. He animated characters for several well-known Disney movies, including The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Tarzan, Mulan, Atlantis, Brother Bear, and Pocahontas. He also created Mushu, a dragon character in Mulan.
“How many movies can you think of from when you were a kid that are still around today and people know about them? It’s a very rare occurrence, and so for me to say I have five or six movies that people still really remember is kind of amazing at my age.” (4:26)
In his latest venture, Tom is changing the game by crowdfunding Pencilish Animation Studios. He wanted to push the boundaries of what was possible in the animation industry, and he’s already made a dent. He raised $2.3 million over the course of eight months, eventually finalizing the campaign last Halloween with 4,500 investors.
Not only has he raised capital through tradition-bucking avenues, but he’s also created a built-in fanbase. By crowdfunding, Tom added 4,500 individuals that are personally – and financially – invested in the success of Pencilish.
“We also now have an army. We not only got them to invest and help us get going, but we have this army of shareholders that hopefully are not only fans of me or animation, but of this company that they now co-own with us, and so they want it to succeed.” (14:27)
With the studio’s deep-seated fanbase, Tom feels the confidence to continue zigging while larger production companies zag. While Disney, Netflix, Cartoon Network, and many other large studios hold all of their cards close to the chest, Tom and Pencilish want to bring their fans along for the ride. They regularly share teasers, conversations with their artists, and other behind-the-scenes content to market their shows.
“That’s what we’re talking about is cutting out middlemen nowadays and going direct to our audience. And we can do that now because guess what. We all have a distribution system in our hands, and it’s in our pockets all day long.” (30:50)
As a forward-thinker, Tom is always following trends and attempting to predict what will stick. At the moment, he is fascinated by NFTs, and he thinks the trend could change the world for artists. The implications that blockchain technology and NFTs have for artists’ monetization are significant, and Tom sees this trend as the future.
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(0:38) Introducing Tom Bancroft
(8:37) Crowdfunding in animation
(16:48) Bjorn the Last Unicorn and Mind Over Murphy (21:38) What sets Pencilish apart?
(32:05) Closing thoughts
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