A+C are specialists in stop-motion and animation for advertising and social content that can produce anything from paper-craft to motion design.
For over 15 years, they’ve been creating award-winning work for some of the world’s best-known brands, including The LEGO Group, British Airways and Cadbury.
To learn more, we spoke to Dan Richards, Founder & Animation Director.
How was your company born and where are you based?
A+C is a stop-motion animation studio which was originally set up from my dad’s shed. I was working at Aardman on Wallace and Gromit and then when the film finished, lots of the freelancers like me at the time were jumping into temping in sorting offices and the like and I couldn’t stomach the thought of papercuts.
Ironically we now produce a lot of paper animation, so I’m no stranger to papercut. But back then I went home to Kent and set up A+C. Fifteen years later, we’re based across two beautiful Victorian buildings in happening Margate by the seaside.
What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?
I think the business side of running a production company and the business development element has always been challenging. I come from a working class background where my Dad was a carpenter and my Mum worked in a laundry, so I had no idea about business. It's tough needing to know both Plasticine and PAYE.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
I think working on our first ever LEGO production back in 2016 was a personal success. LEGO was probably the first model I made when I was two and the first thing I animated when I was twelve.
Being approached by the brand would have blown my 12-year-old self's head. Being paid to animate LEGO? Having a LEGO master builder fly over from Denmark and work with us was a dream. I think working with brands who you admire, as well as share your values, is the definition of success.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
From a commercial point of view, the ever increasing appetite for short-form content continues apace. Making sub-10 second content for TikTok and Insta-stories represent great value. We’ve been developing processes for creating quick-turnaround content without the traditional baggy costs.
Outside of our work for AdLand, we’re putting in place the business plan and logistical foundations as we go about creating IP for long form animation. We’re keen to move into Children’s TV series and animated films in the future too.
Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?
I think we’re quite unique for an animation production company in the sense we’re all full-time and have our own space. We offer full production services under one roof, with our own crew and fully equipped studio and post facilities.
I think with stop-motion, most production agencies in London hire freelancers or sub out the work, but the synergy of our team working together daily and knowing the set up gives a real agile approach which creates better results.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
Every job we partner on is utterly unique in its own way, so this means that the team is constantly being challenged in the ways that they come up with creative animation solutions.
On top of that, whenever we are in between projects, we swiftly pivot to pushing ourselves in one of three directions - our own IP, compelling marketing content for the studio, and designing and testing new animation techniques. Hopefully, this provides the team with a really diverse range of stimuli from which to be inspired.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
Can we talk about the damage Brexit has done to the talent pool in the UK instead?
Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
Blue Zoo is the animation company who inspires me and who I look up to. From an animation POV they don’t create stop-motion animation, but the quality of their commercial work, TV and films has strong character design, storytelling which I desire from the team at A+C.
The company was started by a group from University and has grown tremendously to be one of the best exporters of animation worldwide.
What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?
Be braver. Regrets eat me up. Sometimes I feel I should have been a lot braver along the road. Even this morning I could have been braver with decisions, but the weight of making the wrong choice sometimes leads to making the safe choice. I think it comes from a working class upbringing of not spending what you don't have and not indulging.
How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)
We try to ensure that we have a really strong blend of wide coverage amongst our target audiences with our marketing efforts, as well as a direct contact and focus on the people and companies we really want to partner with. We’re playing in a really competitive and highly skilled niche market, so we have to make sure that we are always providing potential partners with compelling reasons to work with us.
Sometimes that’s by showcasing new work, at others by demonstrating understanding of their brands and industries, or equally by highlighting our skill and craft as animators - whatever we put out has to be of both high quality and of value in some way to our audience.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
To have a more transparent pitching process. The idea of X amount of production companies spending a week/s on treatments for free and then, on occasions, the production doesn’t even go ahead has got to stop.
You hear a lot of agencies complaining, and with good reason, about the bidding process but all of them expect production companies to spend thousands on resources and do exactly the same thing that they themselves are trying to find a better solution to.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
There’s some shameless self-promotion here, but I genuinely believe that some of the work done by our marketing team in providing valuable resources definitely deserves a mention!