Based in Cardiff’s CultVR Labs, Hollowpixel Studio is led by talented duo Chris McFall and Jonathan Lloyd James. Their specialism is animation and FX, and they focus on creating character-driven, high-quality shows, appealing to all age groups.
Chris and Jonathan met over a decade ago when they were both studying for their master’s degrees. At that time, they were working on separate projects, but always knew that they wanted to work together in the future. Creative Wales development funding gave Chris and Jonathan their first opportunity to do so and they collaborated on “Ungameland” along with Jon Ball from Poked Studio. Their partnership worked so well they decided to make it permanent thus the beginning of ‘Hollowpixel’ Studios.
The relationship between Hollowpixel and the Creative Wales team has continued, with Hollowpixel accessing further support which enabled ‘The Codelings’ project. Using Creative Wales development funding they created a trailer for Codelings, an action -packed story full of emotion, comedy and drama, designed for kids but with adult appeal too. Hollowpixel was able to create its own original IP through the project, with the aim of creating an animated series with potential for large commercial success. The company was recently supported by the Welsh Government to attend the Kids Screen summit in Miami to showcase Codelings internationally.
Whilst working on Ungameland and Codelings, they found there was a real lack of animators trained in the software that they were using called Blender 3D. Following discussions with other companies in Wales, the UK and worldwide they found that they were all facing the same issue. By this time, Chris had turned into one of the best Blender trainers in the country working with NextGen Skills Academy and Blue Zoo and they set out to fill this skills gap and create opportunities for others.
Hollowpixel successfully secured support through the Creative Wales Skills fund which saw them launch the Hollowpixel Academy - a collaboration with Gower College which has trained 6 fresh creatives in the art of Blender 3D. These 12 month, fully paid apprenticeships are the first of their kind in Wales and the first Blender-centric apprenticeships in the world.
The company wanted to create an opportunity for individuals who wanted to study animation but may not have the ability to access university, to create a genuinely diverse workforce that specialise in Blender and that’s exactly what they now have.
It is impressive how far their academy students have come in such a short space of time, a source of great pride to Chris and Jonathan. The Academy graduates are currently working on their first joint project called, “Gastronauts” and once it’s completed they’re looking forward to showing it at Cardiff Animation Nights in the future.
Chris and Jonathan are quick to thank their fellow Welsh animation companies Cloth Cat, Bomper Studios and Jammy Custard who have ‘supported them no end’ along the way. They feel that the Welsh animation industry is very much a family.
It’s shaping up to be another amazing year for Hollowpixel with lots of exciting things in the pipeline. ‘Order of the Dragon’ received best short Film’ at the Marina del Rey Film Festival, Los Angeles. Future projects include; teaming up with Poked Studios again, a possible project around a series of books written by Ndidi Spencer, plus they are hoping that early discussions with the BBC around Codelings and Ungameland will lead to more exciting things. Watch this space.