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Animator Steamroller Studios expands to Vancouver

Steamroller's CEO Aaron Gilman has lived in Vancouver for the past eight years
Spice Frontier is a show that Steamroller Studios is independently producing

Vancouver's animation sector just got bigger, with news that Steamroller Studios has registered in the province, is hiring and may open an office in the city. 

The move was prompted in part because Steamroller, which also has studios in Florida and in Mauritius, has a CEO who attended the University of British Columbia and has lived in Vancouver for the past eight years: Aaron Gilman.

He told BIV that he registered his company in B.C. late last year and that the company has 18 employees currently in Metro Vancouver who are working out of their homes. He is considering opening an office but when asked how big that office might be, he said he has not yet determined the size.

"Renting out a large space when I've got people all over B.C. didn't make initial sense," he said. "We're sort of seeing how things go, and then we'll make a decision if we want to set up just a meeting space or a place where we can have client meetings in the city. I'm not sure yet."

His plan is to have 35 employees in Vancouver by June and about 45 by this time next year. 

“We are beyond excited to be expanding to my hometown of Vancouver," he said. "There is an incredible source of talent in Canada. We are also continuing to grow our relationships with our Canadian clients, and look forward to supporting them in VFX [visual effects], feature animation and games.”

The company has expanded its services beyond animation over the last few years. Through the growth of its intellectual-property development division, Steamroller provides clients with storyboard, concept and character design, layout as well as rigging services.

Gilman said his company has been aggressively funding its own storytelling initiatives since inception and has nearly a dozen unique projects in different stages of development. Its most imminent production is the animated pilot episode of Spice Frontier.

Steamroller Studios has 260 staff, with more than 130 full-time animators. With artists, technicians and support staff located in 36 countries, the studio has built a unique operational infrastructure that prioritizes studio culture and relationship-building for both remote and in-house workers, it said in a press release.

Gilman said his company, unlike some others, is continuing to grow.

Some large companies have expanded to Vancouver.

Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq:NFLX) in 2022 bought Animal Logic for an undisclosed amount not long after that company announced plans to double its Vancouver team to 600 workers. It is not clear how many staff now work in that division of Netflix. 

Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) revealed plans in 2021 to launch an animation studio in the city. So did British VFX giant Double Negative Ltd. (DNEG). Both did that in 2022.

Those ventures are competing for talent with companies such as Sony Pictures Imageworks (Vancouver), which produced 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse feature, and WildBrain Ltd. (TSX:WILD), known for The Snoopy Show and Ninjago.

Vancouver's Bardel Entertainment late last year announced plans to expand to Montreal in 2024, but the company still calls its Vancouver studio its "central studio."

Animation studios dot the rest of the province.

Kelowna's Yeti Farm Creative Animation Studio this month announced that veteran animation producer and studio executive Rick Mischel bought the company and plans to rename it Artist Animation Studio.

The business will remain in Kelowna. Yeti Farm was best known for its work on Hotel Transylvania: The Series and Pete the Cat.

- with files from Tyler Orton

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