Page 22 - BusinessWest May 12, 2021
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  computer animation class, but was rejected by the instructor, Chris Perry, because he had no experience.
But after Colón excelled at an introductory course in the field, Perry — a Pixar veteran who served as a technical director on A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo — accepted him into the advanced course.
“As I moved from the basics to more advanced stuff, I didn’t know how much I would love it, that I’d lose myself in the work, forget about time, and really enjoy the process more than the results,” Colón recalled. “I knew this was something I could go into.”
After college, he returned to the Boston area and worked at special-effects company Zero VFX, but desired a move back into animation, and landed a job at Anzovin Studio in Florence in 2013.
Webb, who had attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and worked for a time in Los Angeles and San Diego, eventually moved to Western Mass. to work at Perry’s independent studio, Bit Films — and later started working at Anzovin Studio, where she met Colón.
Their company took shape after Anzovin decided to shift his business model into anima- tion tools, while the production team, where
Clockwise from top left: a project for Amherst College’s bicentennial, animated messaging advocating for changes in tobacco laws, and characters created for a piece on Behavioral Health Network’s Crisis Healthline.
   “When we do the animation, we hire voice-over artists, we do music and sound effects — again, depending on the client’s needs, but all serving the purpose of matching the tone and style and direction to the story we’re trying to tell.”
sage,” she explained. “We take this from the initial script phase — whether we write it ourselves or the client provides it — and bring it into an audio-visual script, which allows us all to be on the same page with what will happen with the story.”
This all happens before visuals are actually created, she added. In other words, clear communication is key — not just with the target audience, but between all the players in creating the animation, and at every stage.
“We make a choice at the concept stage whether or not something should be represented through iconography,
Pixel’s work in their employee training videos
and modules as well as marketing, a particularly feel-good part of the team’s mission is working with nonprofits on messaging that will draw more attention and support. Nonprofit leaders aren’t always natural salespeople, Colón noted, and he and his team can help them hone their message and educate the public.
“They’re trying to make the world a better place; that’s their mission,” he said. “We’re help- ing them close the gap between the audience and their mission. We use animation to explain what they’re doing.”
In the end, Taccone said, even the most eye- catching animation isn’t a success if it doesn’t meet the client’s needs. “In a way, the communi- cation is sometimes more important than the art. We’re trying to make sure everyone is on the same page.”
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Speaking of journeys, hearing Taccone describe the process of moving a concept to a fin- ished product, it’s striking how much work hap- pens before the actual animation begins.
“A client will come to us with an idea of the message they’re trying to send; typically they’ll have a call to action associated with that mes-
      Colón and Webb worked, was spun off into a sep- arate entity. The pair then decided to go in a dif- ferent direction, by launching their own studio.
Taccone’s passion for animation was sparked by a high-school trip to Pixar Animation Stu-
dios in California. She later studied animation at UMass Amherst and met Colón while taking class at Hampshire, where he was the teaching assis- tant. After a stint at HitPoint Studios, she worked at Anzovin from 2014 to 2016, then moved to Cali- fornia to work in the games industry, for EA and Toys for Bob. But in 2017, she returned to Western Mass. to help Colón and Webb launch Open Pixel.
“We decided to go into a different realm, build- ing something new that was going to be ours,” Colón said. “Kathryn came back from California, and that was the beginning of our journey.”
text, characters, or just backgrounds,” she added, noting that just using animated words can often be as powerful as talking characters. “Often we’ll use a blend of those things.”
Once the concepts are established, next comes discussion of style, tone, and other elements. Then storyboards are created, laying out the con- tent from start to finish — again, so everyone involved can envision the final piece and make changes before the actual animation begins.
“When we do the animation,” Taccone said, “we hire voice-over artists, we do music and sound effects — again, depending on the client’s needs, but all serving the purpose of matching the tone and style and direction to the story we’re trying to tell.”
While many corporate clients rely on Open
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