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Nashville’s Tom Bancroft enjoys the best of both worlds

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

One might say that Tom Bancroft has the best of both worlds. He started and teaches animation at one of the best collegiate programs in the world, and he’s also launched a new start-up focused on the growing consumer demand for short form television.

The 30-year veteran of the animation industry worked for much of his career at the entity now known as Walt Disney Animation Studios where he was involved in a number of well-known films including Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, (animator for Young Simba), and Mulan (designer of the character of Mushu, the dragon).

Seventeen years ago, he moved to the Nashville area where he co-owned an illustration and animation development studio named Funnypages Productions that was based in Franklin. One might say that lightning struck six years ago when Bancroft was approached about launching the animation program at Lipscomb University as part of the school’s George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts.

In an article from 2019, Lipscomb described the new degree offering as a “very specialized program that approaches animation education with an infusion of fundamental art techniques such as perspective, figure drawing, film elements and movement.” The undergraduate program has grown quickly with the Lipscomb describing it as “surely the happiest place on earth for budding animators.”

“It (starting the program) was not something I was looking for,” Bancroft told us during a recent interview. That said, he has jumped into the opportunity in a big way, engaging former Disney colleagues as part of the faculty or as guest lecturers to bring real world knowledge and understanding to the students.

Because his Lipscomb role involves only a half-time teaching load, Bancroft has been able to continue his outside work in animation that recently led to launching a new company called Pencilish Animation Studios.

“I was building an Army, and I did not know why,” he said in reference to the students being prepared for animation careers. “Now, I can direct them toward working for that company as an option.”

While Bancroft calls it an animation studio, he says it’s really an entertainment company focused initially on short form television like you would see on YouTube. The target audience for Pencilish Animation Studios is high school to college age students, the very ones who are the animators he is training.

“We are in the day of streamers,” Bancroft says. “They are going to make their own playlist and watch it when they want to do so.”

What does short form really mean?

He described the evolution of television series that used to run 22 minutes, but now are frequently 11 minutes or even shorter in duration, perhaps three to five minutes. “That’s what I’m targeting . . . 10 episodes of a series with each episode running three to five minutes,” Bancroft explained.

He’s using the Wefunder platform (see recent teknovation.biz article here) to raise capital for Pencilish Animation Studios. As of our last checked, the start-up has exceeded its initial goal, raising more than $650,000 from more than 1,400 investors.

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