10 Questions: Giant Ant – Jay Grandin

We’re starting a new feature called 10 Questions…we ask interesting folk from the world of animation 10 questions about what they do, how they do it and what inspires them. First to take the hot seat is Jay Grandin, Creative Director and founder of Giant Ant, an amazing studio from Vancouver. We were inspired by the wonderful animation they did for TOMS and knew that we wanted to find out more about them.

Before we jump into the questions and answers, we want to say a big thank you to Jay for his generosity and time. Now over to Jay at the studio 😉 :

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1. First up – for anyone who doesn’t already know you can you tell us a bit about Giant Ant? Who are you and what do you do?

JAY: Giant Ant is a creative studio in Vancouver that tells stories through animation and video.

2. Can you tell us about your job and what you do within Giant Ant and also how you got into animation?

JAY: I’m one of the founders of Giant Ant and act as Creative Director on the animation side. Since we’re a small studio, “Creative Director” can mean a lot of things… from script writing and storyboards, to designing and animating. But, the one thing that’s consistent is that I get to learn from my amazing team of art directors and animators every day. I got into animation by just doing it. Giant Ant started out as a live action studio that dabbled in stop motion. As time went on, we began to dip a toe in motion graphics and then slowly built a team dedicated to it. I had the great fortune of hiring talented people that could teach me what they know.

3. What’s the best thing about your job?

JAY: The best part of my job is working with such a talented team that are constantly pushing themselves to make better work. We always say that the best idea wins, so there’s a tremendous amount of pride and empowerment that we all have to make the work the best we can make it.

4. What’s the most frustrating thing?

JAY: The most frustrating part of my job can be fighting for ideas that are uncomfortable because they’re fresh. Or fighting against the desire of some clients to do the same old thing over and over again. It’s also an exciting challenge that’s worth the effort!

5. Do you have any words of wisdom for any visitors to the site starting to take an interest or study animation?

JAY: Animate! Observe! Ask questions! Learn to do by doing. Learn by watching. Learn by surrounding yourself with people who are more experienced and ask questions. Learning is just being curious.

6. Can you take us through your process how you go from an idea all the way through to the final animation?

JAY: We start any process by asking a ton of questions. It’s the most important for us to know what the story is that we’re telling before making any stylistic decisions. We also want to know how the video is meant to affect people. For example, what do we want them to believe, understand and feel… and what do we want them to do with that information. Once we have a grasp on that stuff, we begin crafting a story that’s told in a way that connects with the audience on the level that we intend. Then we get to start the fun stuff: storyboards, style frames in photoshop, complete illustrations for each scene, and then we dive into the animation process. Much of our work combines different techniques and styles, so it becomes a very collaborative process between animators working on different aspects of a project.

7. What piece of work are you most proud of?

JAY: We’re proud of different work for different reasons. I really like our recent work for Target in that it tells an interesting story without “characters” or words. I love the recent work for TOMS because it was a new foray for us into character-driven animation. I also really like the piece we did about us for Pause Fest recently. It’s always hard to tell your own story, and I feel that the script really nails who we are and why we do what we do!

8. If you could pick another animators work that you wished you’d made what would it be?

JAY: Well, I’ve been pretty smitten with a lot of work that Buck has produced in the past couple of years. In particular, their work for Good Books and Child line are really really nice. They both take a lot of risks and have an exquisite attention to detail.

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9. How do you think animation will change in the next 10 years?

JAY: I was hoping you’d know! The past couple of years have given us this incredible collision between motion graphics, traditional animation, 3D animation and VFX. I don’t think that collision has been even close to explored yet, and that there are opportunities for entirely new sub-genres to start popping up that we haven’t even considered yet. I only know for sure that it’s going to keep changing more and more quickly… and that’s pretty exciting.

10. Who or what inspires you? Tell us about specific directors, shorts or animations that you love.

JAY: We all try to be inspired by different things, and I think that helps to keep things fresh. Some of our favourite “artists” are jewelry designers, puppeteers, architects, photographers and writers. But, no matter what, I always visit Wine After Coffee — a channel started by Jorge, one of our Art Directors — for my daily dose of motion inspiration goodness!