“What if we started a stop motion animation studio?” That is a question that most entertainment professionals will never ask themselves. But Story Lab Studios raised the question and said “Hell Yeah!” Is it nutty? Yes. Are we crazy? Probably. Here’s what we have gotten ourselves into: long isolated hours of tedious, body aching, bank breaking, mind tangling work in a limited market. But the up side, you get to play with toys and get paid for it!
When I met my husband, Jais, he had his sights set on becoming a live action director. He was working on his own independent feature and had a day job in post production at Polygram Films. Life was pretty sweet and we were having a blast! In the few years that followed he was involved in many small film/video projects until he felt he had enough knowledge to open his own video production company. “Goodbye steady paycheck. Hello, Story Lab Studios!” Mercifully, everything fell into place- business was thriving, we were starting a family… everything was working out. But something under the surface was brewing. I would hear him talk about dabbling in stop motion animation from time to time and I started seeing books around like “The Advanced Art of Stop Motion Animation” and little figures carrying out daring and benign acts all over his office. I knew he loved the medium and that he was longing to dip his toes but it was a risk and he had a family to take care of. So, the idea was put on the back burner.
In 2015, our family of four went to Gumby Fest in Glendora, CA. I think that was the moment when everything changed. Of coarse, thanks to Jais, we were all huge fans of SMA, my daughter’s favorite film was (and still is) “Coraline”. We were like Jack Skellington in Christmas Town, “What’s this?”. We went to screenings, we did sculpting, and we even sat through to several discussion panels. At the end of the three days, the vibe in our house was electric! There was sculpting, prop making, script writing, and building going on in every available space. Jais probably thought, “This is it! I will write and direct, my son will sculpt, my daughter will animate and my wife will do something really important!” Wouldn’t that have been lovely. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. The excitement wore off and we went back to business as usual. But, for Jais a switch had been flipped.
Over the next couple years, he was burning the midnight oil and honing his skills. Things in our business and personal lives were transitioning as well. The production company was in need of a reboot, the kids were changing schools and we were thinking of leaving California. Enter the plan to take Story Lab Studios across the country and start our stop motion lab in Cincinnati, Ohio! Long story, a bit less long – we did it. Seven months ago we packed up our lives and our business and moved 2000 miles from home to start a new dream. We bought a 3 unit building to live and work in 10 minutes from the city center. It was insane in the beginning but we are now set up with a 3 stage studio! We brought out a professional animator from Portland, (shout out to the amazing Adam Taylor) to help us get things rolling and we were fortunate to find local talent here in Cincy to do freelance work. In the short time that we have been operating, the studio has already produced 2 short content SMA spots and we are now able to say, “We do stop motion!”.
It was a long time in the making, which I guess you call “life”, but SLS has found it’s niche. We still offer the same video services that have built our company but we are incredibly proud to be adding the beautiful art of Stop Motion to our menu! Life is full of surprises and we can’t wait to see what it looks like in another 15 years.
“This is all something he dreamed up.”
“Well, maybe it started that way, as a dream, but doesn’t everything?”
-James and the Giant Peach
Check out our first paid gig!!! Jais created this for a canning company. Also, watch Facebook for our SMA ad coming out soon.