July 12, 2013 5:00am PT by Carolyn Giardina
VFX Company Tippett Studio Entering App World
As the visual effects industry in California continues to struggle, Berkeley-headquartered Tippett Studio -- the company that has created characters from the chipmunk Pip in Enchanted to the wolves in The Twilight Saga and even Seth MacFarlane's Ted -- is broadening it business via its neighbors in Silicon Valley.
“We are not going to move to Vancouver,” said president and CEO Jules Roman, referring to the generous production incentives being offered in the Canadian city. “We asked, ‘What can we do in California?’ … We are still in the film industry, but we are looking to diversify and broaden our horizons.”
While maintaining feature and commercial work, Tippett is also bringing its expertise in character creation to new areas including apps and even original content.
Its first project in this effort is the Tippett Creature Shop, which launches Friday for the Efexio app.
Efexio is a free iOS or MacOS-supported app (with Windows coming soon) that includes a marketplace for animation, and the Tippett Creature Shop is a store within the app that at launch will provide roughly 65 original animations. One animation per month will be available free of charge, and the rest can be purchased for $1.99.
Users can download the Tippett-created animation(s) of their choice -- including penguins and dinosaurs -- and put multiple characters in their personal videos or photos. "You can change the lighting, move the camera around. … [A character] could be running toward you, away from you, side to side. It can be used in different ways," Roman said.
This opportunity seemed particularly appropriate for the company. “We’re right next to Silicon Valley and here we are in the world of apps, so when this opportunity came up, we said, let grab this,” Roman said.
“[VFX] companies that are California-centric are really in bad shape,” she added. “You have to find other opportunities. We love working on movies, but we can’t compete with tax credits being offered elsewhere. ... I hope that somehow there is some resolution that we get some balance, but meanwhile we are going to rally on."
The entire visual effects industry has been in a turbulent period. Tippett Studio in particular made news earlier this year when it reduced its head back by about 40 percent when its largest project, Sony's After Earth, wrapping with a follow-up project not confirmed.
The company is now leaner, with less than 100, and is working on features including A Million Way to Die and Horns.
The animation work for the Creature Shop is being treated as another project, with the company's Oscar-winning founder Phil Tippett at the helm as creative animation producer.
The company is also launching a Tippett FX YouTube Channel and an Instagram page to connect with Creature Shop users, possibly host contests and generate ideas for additional animation.