Star Tech

“Squeeze dreamed of animating all styles of characters, from very cartoonish to very realistic. We wanted to offer our know-how to elite global partners,” recounts Denis Doré, President and cofounder of Squeeze. “We were in a position to present an exceptional solution because we not only have incredible talent in Quebec, but also great incentives because of the quality of our work.”

Denis, along with Patrick Beaulier, Squeeze’s Creative Director, founded the company in 2011 with the intention of creating a 3D animation studio that would spawn larger-than-life stories and characters. “We wanted to create a product made in Quebec City [j1] that would hold it’s own against the biggest players in the industry,” explains Denis. “Just because we’re small, doesn’t mean we can’t succeed around the world.”

Squeeze cracks through 

Succeed is exactly what they did, particularly with Cracké, their first original creation and their most significant in terms of growth. Produced in collaboration with Teletoon Canada, the 3D series was financed in Canada and distributed internationally by Squeeze, enabling these geniuses of animated projects to deepen their understanding of the sector.

With 52 one-minute episodes featuring an anxious ostrich and its brood of eight cherished eggs, Cracké is presented in more than 200 countries and territories. “We continue to sell it in regions that remain to be conquered and we’re working on a second series of the same brand with a bunch of new characters,” indicates Denis. “I can’t wait to be able to officially launch it!”

Squeeze develops two other brands, as well as various film projects. The company also has a video game and mobile application to its credit. “We plan on additionally targeting the lucrative market of spinoff products, in order to be able to reinvest in our creativity,” asserts Denis.

The Quebec City start-up offers its services to creators of trailers, films, TV series and commercials, in a variety of sectors ranging from video games to ad agencies. The majority of their activities occur with key international players such as Sony, Microsoft, Disney, Marvel, Samsung and Mattel. The studio also collaborates with local producers, as is the case for the animated film, Troll – The Tale of a Tail, produced in Montreal with Norwegian, American and Chinese partners.

Stronger together

Conscious of their complementary backgrounds and skills, the Squeeze cofounders quickly realized that their alliance would be fruitful. “We had about 30 coffees in 10 days,” laughs Denis. “We had worked together at Ubisoft and I knew that animation was lacking in the market. We put together our business plan and it was actually Ubisoft who gave us our first project, allowing us to start up immediately.”

The partners are careful to surround themselves with people who strive to maintain the WOW factor for every creation, preferring to grow the team as gently as possible, even if that means doing less. However, they do have 65 team members and that number should reach 100 over the coming months. Denis also underlines the value of creating virtual workstations around the world. “Who knows, the best storyboard artist might be in Germany or in Brazil…,” he says.

By working with studios who share their vision of excellence, Squeeze is able to take on some projects that they could not produce alone. “We just finished two projects with a studio in London,” mentions Denis. “We learn from our partners. Plus, with the shortage of workforce and the increasing demand of quality content coming from studios like Netflix and Amazon, this way of working is all the more interesting.”

In addition to collaborating with their international counterparts, Squeeze counts on the support of various business partners: IRAP (NRC), the BDC, Canada Economic Development, Export Québec, Québec International and the Ville de Québec, Desjardins, trade commissioners and others. Thanks to their financing, Squeeze can better adapt to the rapid technological evolution that is synonymous with the field of 3D animation.

From Quebec to Cannes

Denis and Patrick had been told that the place to make contact with the moguls of the TV and film world was in Cannes, at MIPCOM – the world’s entertainment content market. “We sauntered into the Palais des Festivals with no meeting scheduled, in bermudas and flipflops,” recalls Denis, laughing. “Needless to say, when we saw everyone in suits, we decided to come back later with a slightly more serious look. We had no answers prepared for when people asked us questions. We learned a lot and promised ourselves to go back only when we had something interesting to say, which is what we did the next year with Cracké!”

As I write this article, the guys are no doubt getting ready to set out for a certain famous French destination to participate in the same event, a trek they now make twice a year… I bet they have lots to say now.

Source: Mélanie Pilon, Writer for the Star Tech Vitrine 

Translated:  Jenn Mierau

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