Kelowna’s Yeti Farm Creative is using a ground-breaking method to get its original shows distribution deals. And it’s creating a lot of jobs in the process.
“We’re moving towards a ‘digital-first’ production and sales model,” says Ashley Ramsay, CEO and co-founder of Yeti Farm. “We fund, produce, package and distribute seasons of our own productions ourselves.”
The shows can be found on YouTube and other social media where they build up a following. From there, production companies, broadcasters and other platforms come in and acquire the rights to air it on their channels too. Their first production, Sweet Tweets, for preschoolers, co-created with animation icon Jon Izen will enter its second season this fall.
“So far, this has been working really well for us,” Ramsay says. “We’re just finishing up installing 50 more workstations. There’s a big pile of desks in our office right now waiting to be set up!”
She says that there is an abundance of highly-trained people coming into the industry because of the training centres set up in the Okanagan.
“We’re able to employ people right out of school,” Ramsay says. “We even encourage university art students to apply as we train them to do animation on the job. We’ve actually had a few people we’ve trained up this way that have been with us for a couple of years already. We also try to make sure that the talent we do have is trained in all three pipelines we work in, so they are upwardly mobile in a rapidly changing industry.”
Yeti Creative is going to be upping the ante a little with its next slate of digital-first productions. It plans to make the leap from 2D animation to computer animation for its next series.
“We’re really excited for that and we have a bunch of other announcements we’ll be making in the near future about our shows being aired by major Canadian broadcasters and distributed by a U.S. on-demand service, and we’ve added some new partners to the studio.”
Yeti Farm, which now has capacity for up to 110 artists, started out with one animator working in a basement. The company grew quickly to 50 people in 2013, when it signed a three-year contract with Atomic Cartoons.
“The animation community is very close knit and we take care of each other,” Ramsay says. “But this industry isn’t for the faint of heart. Especially when you go about it the way we do. There are a lot of sleepless nights because of the stress. But the rewards that come from the hard work to bring amazing stories to life for great kids are worth all the risks.”