The secret to 20 years of success in a competitive industry? Staying true to your artistic roots.
Though they might have an explosive name, Atomic Cartoons is no flash in the pan. Founded 20 years ago by four artists, this animation studio has remained a pillar of Vancouver’s entertainment industry by relentlessly prioritizing creativity. They produce children’s content for household names like Teletoon, Family Channel, Disney, Warner Brothers and Nickelodeon—and as new players like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have started creating original content, Atomic Cartoons is busier than ever.
“We evolved riding shotgun with the entertainment industry in Vancouver,” explains Trevor Bentley, co-founder and Director of Sales. “We started out doing service work for other studios, but as the industry grew, the studio grew and changed with the times. As the industry got bigger and bigger, the studio also got bigger and bigger.”
It’s well-known internationally that Vancouver is an animation hub. According to Trevor, the city is full of major players producing blockbuster content. “There’s multiple thousands of people in the industry here and there are lots of opportunities for artists. If you’re starting out and looking to make your way or if you’re more senior and looking to find a great project, you have a dozen different studios to choose from,” he says. And because it’s such a great place to be an artist, studios need to be competitive to attract and retain the best people.
Today, Atomic Cartoons has satellite offices in LA and Ottawa, with a team of more than 500—but their growth has always been guided by their original vision. “Everything we do here is about creating art. We’re creative and passionate—and 90% of the people that work here today are artists,” explains Trevor. “We built a studio that puts the art first and we put a lot of time into making sure this is a great place to work. It’s a cool vibe and we listen to the team.”
One of the keys to their success has been their ability to channel all that creativity. Because animation requires artists to work as a team, across large and sometimes complicated projects, it can be a challenge to be creative. There are deadlines, schedules, notes and critiques on your work—sometimes down to a frame of film or the thickness of a line. Trevor explains that, to excel in this field, you need to keep an eye on the big picture and the larger team effort.
Because the leadership are artists themselves, they know how much space can affect creativity, collaboration and workflow. Their offices at 123 West 7th Avenue are designed to draw out the best from their talent. With the exception of a few boardrooms, the headquarters has a spacious open concept. “We’re trying to keep the pressure low and help everybody focus and enjoy the ride. It’s bright and open, it has good airflow—it’s a very alive place,” explains Trevor. “Lots of folks have worked in places that are dark, where the ceilings are too low, or there’s no fresh air. That just makes it that much more difficult to be creative.” Atomic Cartoons goes the extra mile to give their employees flexibility—accommodating pets, music and even different lighting preferences to ensure the creativity flows.
Their offices in Mount Pleasant have them right in the heart of Vancouver’s animation and tech hub. “It’s a great area. There are a lot of animation and production studios in the neighbourhood, so there are lots of friendly faces on the street,” says Trevor. Reflecting on their 20 years of success, he plans to continue doing what got them here in the first place—producing a high-quality product. “The work that’s coming out of the studios is the thing that we’re most proud of. We’re growing, and we’re continuing to produce great content.”