TeamTO at 10: New Horizons and Partnerships

Company produces animation for ‘Pacman,’ ‘Rabbids Invasion,’ ‘Calimero,’ teams with Inria for 3D R & D

Courtesy of TeamTo

The growth of TeamTO over the past decade, especially following the opening of its dedicated animation studio at La Cartoucherie in 2008,has meant that the company has been able to offer its production and animation expertise to other third party partners as well as drive technical developments and innovation by working with other companies.

TeamTO animated a number of episodes of “Pacman” on behalf of 41 Entertainment, Arad Productions and Namco Bandai Games for Disney X. The series has been broadcast on Nickelodeon since 2013 and in 2014 was launched on France 3.

In 2012, TeamTO produced all 78 episodes of  “Rabbids Invasion” (“Les Lapins cretins”) for Ubisoft Motion Pictures to screen on Nickelodeon and France 3. A second series went into production in 2014.

The company produced one third of the 104 episodes of “Calimero” for Gaumont Animation, and in 2013 all 52 episodes of “Pyjamasques” for Olivier Dumont’s Frog Box for France 5 and Disney Junior.

TeamTO was also responsible for animating the CGI segments of Philippe Geluck’s “La Minute du Chat.” The 24 minutes of animation were part of a hybrid show mixing 2D, CGI animation, stop-motion and live images.

One of the reasons that TeamTO has been able to offer its services as work-for-hire has been its continual investment in R&D that has not only improved the quality of the animation, but also the costs involved and the speed in which projects can be delivered. The TeamTO’s R&D team is overseen by Jean-Baptiste Spieser.

For TeamTO’s latest feature, “Yellowbird” (Gus), the company worked in association with Imagine, the Inria project team based at the Grenoble-Rhône-Alpes Research Centre.

“At TeamTO we were looking for a way to improve the quality of our physical animation,” Spieser explains. ‘The Imagine team had the skills and expertise that could help us do this, and so we asked them to help us develop new tools tailored to our needs. To begin with, we didn’t think of working together on “Yellowbirdas it was on the point of going into production. But in the end we advanced faster than planned.’

‘The problems we ran into on ‘Yellowbird’ were mainly to do with the film’s graphic style, which is highly stylised, rendered to look something like crumpled paper, with feathers that look like scales. On paper it looks easier to create these feathers in 3D than produce a realistic representation. Unfortunately, although there are tools for modelling real feathers, like in the film ‘Rio,’ there is nothing for scales. Our feathers also needed to be consistent across the whole wing surface and react credibly to the different mechanical forces to which the characters are subjected, without any visual aberration. And we needed all this without expecting our animation artists to be computer geniuses. So, we needed a new tool, designed to deal with all these constraints.’

The tool Inria came up with was Sofa, a physical simulation software tool originally designed for medical scenarios. For “Yellowbird,” Inria devised a light version of Sofa that was connected to Maya, TeamTO’s 3D animation platform. This enabled the TeamTO animators to control the feathers intuitively, from rigging (creating all the individual parts of the 3D objects) through to the animation stage.

The two companies are now expanding what Maya and Sofa can produce together to cover hair and clothing, and are working on a new animation software tool with Mercenaries Engineering of Paris.