“How did you create Frederator?”
I often get emails asking about starting an independent animation studio, and this writer gave me permission to post my answers with you all. They’re naturally abbreviated (anyone who’s seen me speak in person can tell you that I’m pretty long winded on this –or any– subject) but since it’s a topic of continuing curiosity, I thought I’d share.
“I’m a character designer and I am a fan of many of the cartoons that Frederator has produced. My dream is to one day own my own studio and I wanted to ask you how you did it?
“What inspired you to create Frederator? Did you get investors first? Was it your dream to make cartoons from the get go? How’d you find the equipment and staff to support you? How do I start my own animation/production studio?
“I know it would probably be a long story that might cripple your fingers, but I don’t a short version. I just want to know what to prepare for - I totally understand that the animation industry is difficult to break into and that failure is not an option because a good sum of money is at stake when creating cartoons.
“I am considering getting a masters in entrepreneurship so I can learn how to start a business. Just to get the fundamentals down. But I’m still undecided on whether or not it is a good idea or worth it. If you get a chance to read this I do hope to hear from you. Owning a studio is still a dream in the future, as for now I’d like to make cartoons and see how business works.”
What inspired you to create Frederator? Well, I ought to start by letting you know that I come from a small business family, with parents and grandparents that had retail businesses. Entrepreneurship is in my blood, and I’d had several businesses –some successful, many not– before Frederator.
But, to be specific… I had most recently worked for a corporation owned by Ted Turner, a wild man genius entrepreneur, for five years, who was selling to another corporation 10 times bigger. I’d had my own successful business for 10 years before Turner/Hanna-Barbera and was generally an independent guy.
So, I really didn’t want to work for the giant beast at that point in my life (I was almost 50 years old).
Did you get investors first? I did not. But there were special circumstances.
Remember, I’d been a TV executive, owned a branding agency, and worked for Ted for almost 15 years, and had a lot of established relationships with large media executives and companies. I fished for a partnership with one of them, and landed it with MTV and Nickelodeon (where I had hired some of their top execs). MTV Networks provided me with the resources I needed.
My advice is to avoid investors. Make your own films to get started, with the help of friends, to show what you can do. Work out of your apartment or home (I ran my first business in a back room at my college radio station) until you land some paying work.
In fact, Frederator didn’t take it’s first outside investment for 17 years. I had ambitions for our growth that made it necessary.
Was it your dream to make cartoons from the get go? Yes.
How’d you find the equipment and staff to support you? Initially, I was lucky. I worked out of the Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank, they gave me the basics.
How do I start my own animation/production studio? Like I said up above… Work out of your apartment or home (I ran my first business in a back room at my college radio station) until you land some paying work.
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