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How Beat Bugs helped Atomic Cartoons find its rhythm

Atomic president Jennifer McCarron opens up about the studio's new Vancouver digs and the global success of its original Beatles-themed co-pro.
March 22, 2018

With Canada’s Atomic Cartoons announcing this week that it’s relocating its Vancouver headquarters to a new 35,000-square-foot facility, president Jennifer McCarron says the animation producer is now poised to expand its focus on both original productions and service gigs.

Rapid growth over the past 20 monthsfrom around 250 to 400 employeesnecessitated the move, as did the momentum for Atomic’s Beatles-themed series Beat Bugs (produced alongside Australia’s Grace: A Storytelling Company and Beyond Screen Production. McCarron also says the prodco has seen an explosion in demand for animated content originating from L.A.

Since the 2008 end of Atomic’s first original series, Atomic Betty, McCarron says the animation studio had struggled to find sustained traction with an in-house toon. That is, until Beat Bugs garnered a global Netflix pickup. “What it did was shift the perception of Atomic as a straight service provider to being a trusted content provider,” says McCarron, who also serves as co-president of Atomic parent company Thunderbird.

On the heels of Beat Bugs‘ success (it was recently renewed for a second season and a special by Netflix), Atomic has since sold another series to Netflix, entitled The Last Kids on Earth. Based on Max Brallier’s book series, the property was developed internally by Atomic and follows 13-year-old Jack and his gang of suburban middle-school friends as they battle zombies in the aftermath of a monster apocalypse. The show is expected to launch on Netflix next year.

With a growing reputation as an original content producer, Atomic has been increasing its focus on owned IP over the past three years, with the company now dedicating around 40% of its resources and investment to original projects (versus 60% toward service). By 2020, the goal is to achieve a 50/50 split between the two.

Once this ratio has been reached, McCarron says the goal is to maintain this ratio to ensure the company’s cashflow remains consistent. “Too much original IP can get a bit lumpy with the cash flow, because we get paid when we deliver everything, since we own it,” she says. “Having that combination of high-end service and originals helps to make sure we have an evenly based flow.”

While Atomic has been increasing its focus on originals, it has also been expanding its service-based business, too. With an influx of L.A. business heading north to capitalize on strong infrastructure, high-quality animation, incentives and a low Canadian dollar against the greenback, the company’s client list has been growing as digital platforms and studios look to expand their animated offerings. Atomic’s recent service projects have included Netflix original Cupcake and Dinosaur and Nickelodeon’s Max & Ruby, as well as projects for Lego, Mindcraft and Marvel.

From Playback. 

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