Blankspace: Learning From an Animation Studio That Thrives Through Collaboration

  • Teresa N. Lubano University of Nairobi
  • Samuel M. Maina University of Nairobi
Keywords: : Blankspace Animation Studio, animation, collaboration


Amy Ratelle (2014) poignantly wrote, ‘Studio animation is excluded from discussions of modern and contemporary fine art (and design) for a variety of reasons, including the large, complex collaborative process. This paradox is perhaps best explained by the impossibility of crediting an individual artist with the final film of an animation studio’. Indeed, it takes a team of hard-working individuals to make a great piece of motion graphics. This paper takes on an educational approach to understand the merits of animation enabled by collaboration. I spotlight Blankspace Animation Studios, a key proponent of animation collaboration and an industry leader in East Africa. Problem: Great motion design looks right when we experience it, but it takes a well-oiled team working in tandem behind the scenes to pull it off. This paper will interrogate what it takes to successfully collaborate and create compelling animated works. Through the lens of Kenya’s most visionary animation studio, we unpack the ingredients that make this animation studio stay ahead of the curve Objective: Most animators go solo, but this agency has cut a niche for themselves through partnerships. The main objective of the study is to define the collaborative animation process. The paper then takes on a deep dive exploring strategies, tools, and techniques that Blankspace Animation Studio employs that make them have synergy across their teams and continuously create inspiring and entertaining content. The paper also investigates mechanisms in place that have aided them to thrive through collaborations. Merits and demerits of going it solo in animation or working as a collaborative entity shall be reflected upon. Design: Using qualitative methods, the study uses an exploratory, single case study design. Still, illustrations, video formats of Blankspace’s work were solicited to inform on principles and techniques that animation studios required today. Data was primarily collected from an interview with the founder. A questionnaire was administered for the interview. Other sources were; Blankspace website, essays, journals, and original shorts from celebrated animation studios. Setting: The study was carried out in Kiambu, Kenya. Subjects: The subject of this study was Blankspace Animation Studio. Results: The research results revealed that there is a myriad Blankspace: Learning from an animation studio that thrives through collaboration of characteristics that animation houses must have. But what stood out was a simple design thinking approach to working on projects which rests in what has been coined, ‘Michael Njau’s Animation Creation Hierarchy’. Conclusion: Many solo-animators are multiskilled and can tackle most areas of production (Draper, 2021). However, to truly thrive in this tough economy, one has to work collaboratively, tap into the multi-diverse expertise siloed in creative teams, interdisciplinary artistic, scientific, and business associations, wider job opportunities, and networks, as a guarantee for long-term success.