Blue Zoo Celebrates 15 Years in Animation
15 years ago three lads from Bournemouth sat in their student
union bar and debated the merit of a selection of compound names for what would
be their brave new venture – a creative animation production company. It was a
simple process of shouting out two words and seeing what sounded good,
"Box 32...No… Green Monkey... No… Blue Egg... No… Blue Zoo...? Yeah! That
sounds cool, let’s get another round in and see if its URL is taken!"
What followed for Adam Shaw, Tom Box and Oli Hyatt was a three hour argument over the use of a hyphen in the web address. Nonetheless, Blue Zoo in name and personnel was born and whilst that wretched hyphen is still debated to this day, the name is known across the globe as a benchmark for high-quality character animation.
Since the day Blue Zoo opened in 2000, from a shed in Southend to the 150-strong crew it now calls part of its family in their studio in Fitzrovia, Blue Zoo have grown to become one of the most prolific independent animation production companies in the UK. In addition to their multi BAFTA winning children’s TV animation, Blue Zoo’s commercial arm has racked up an impressive roster of clients, creating much-loved playful character animation for brands including the BBC, LEGO, Kellogg's, Microsoft & DHL.
One of the many talents that remain close to the heart of Blue Zoo is that their animation is always completed in-house. The dedicated team are able to service projects from start to finish - from conceptual design to Clearcast - applying the highest quality throughout. Much like when the company was named that fateful night in Bournemouth, there have been no half measures since.
'Stor Eiglass' is a trippy and bold VR experience and 360 video that the team worked on for pioneering recording artist, Squarepusher.
“In recent years, some of our most exciting projects within our Creative Services team, have been our more explorative work. We’ve been both creatively and technically delving into VR to create immersive worlds and a series of fun mobile apps.” Explains Co-Founder, Tom Box, “and of course, standing in a muddy field watching our very own cheeky animated gorilla roaming the stage screens for the Rolling Stones at Glastonbury - that was pretty humbling!”
Pixels hit the rugby pitch in Blue Zoo's adrenaline-packed titles for BBC Sport's Rugby League coverage.But most of all, being independent has been at the root of everything which is good about this friendly and talented team. For them animation is a journey, a passion and ultimately a lifestyle. The ambition to sell to opportunistic investors in search of a quick buck and bigger profits has never been part of Blue Zoo’s agenda and they continue to dedicate their time to creating and protecting opportunities in the animation industry.
So much so, that when it became apparent the industry was in danger of dying out due to overseas tax reliefs, Blue Zoo became a loud-voice in the lobby to level the playing field. Believing that the strength of the UK’s animation industry is maintained by championing the home grown talent, Oli Hyatt established the organisation AnimationUK. As a result of the organization's successful campaign, the UK animation sector has since grown by 300 percent after the tax reliefs were granted in 2013.
Co-founder Oli Hyatt comments: “Blue Zoo has for some years now been the sole financier of AnimationUK. Whilst small, we can be quite noisy. We feel in a strong position to help protect the Children's TV industry that we love, as well as continuing to support the flourishing UK animation industry.”
When it comes down to the nuts and bolts (and the metal), in 15 years Blue Zoo have been recognised by many award bodies including winning multiple BAFTAs and they continue to be one of the most admired animation companies in the UK.
Reflecting on the company timeline Co-Founder, Adam Shaw, says: “The changes and development of the studio have been incredible over the years. When I think back to where we started - with our production pipeline at ground zero, right up to now where we concurrently run multiple ground-breaking longform animated series – it’s mind boggling. It's all testament to the amazing talent that has formed the backbone of the studio. We are so fortunate that everyone shares the same passion and ambition. With further great opportunities on the horizon, it looks to be an even more exciting future.”
Founders Adam, Oli and Tom