London, São Paulo, and Cookie Studio

We’re constantly hearing about the happenings of the major markets, big studios, big clients, and all that lies in between. That being said, there’s a vast amount of work, talent, and communities out there fighting the good fight that sadly goes under the radar.

The South American market specifically is one that often goes overlooked. The sheer talent that has come from this region of the world is astounding. From studios to individuals, there’s work coming from that part of the world that can match that coming from any of the major markets. It’s an area that we specifically need to do a better job at covering.

So as you can imagine, when we heard that Cookie Studio was not only expanding but opening an office in São Paulo, we instantly wanted to find out more.

The following is a Q&A with Thiago Maia, the creative director and founder of Cookie Studio about what they’ve been up to and how this expansion came about.

First, congratulations on Cookie Studio expanding to São Paulo! Can you tell us a bit about Cookie and the work you all do?

Thanks a lot, man. I can’t tell you how excited I am with this new journey and challenge.

Cookie Studio is the animation studio busily cooking up animation on behalf of brand, broadcast, and advertising patrons.
We like to think of our clients as patrons as they sponsor us to do what we love and do best.

As you can see from our new Showreel, we don’t focus on a unique style of design and animation. We focus on the problem and what is the best solution to solve it through animation.

I believe every project is different and needs a different approach to solve it. It also makes life more exciting for the Cookie family.

We love to play with colours and to bring a good pinch of humour to our projects wherever possible. Our Pringles job is a good example of this.

And how big is the company now?

I like the concept of keeping the studio small with a solid creative team and expand when needed. We live in a different era from 20 years ago when I started in this industry, and for me having as small team as possible, means we’re able to focus on the creative instead of paying for overheads.

London office has 7 people as the primary core, and we expand using freelances when we need it. São Paulo office is new, and we are working only with freelances at the moment apart from Fabio, my business partner in São Paulo.
At the moment we have 16 people, including freelancers between both studios.

You’ve been established in London for some time now, what sparked the desire to expand?

The studio has been running for almost 9 years if we include the first few years as Cake, our old name.
It sounds like a long time, but I feel like we’ve just started to walk. I came from the creative side, and it took me a few years to learn the business side and how to run a studio. I am still learning every day, but now I can say I understand it and I can make better decisions.

I am always hungry for more and for the next thing. I can’t stay still for long, I think I grew up watching too much “Pinky and the Brain” hehehe

I LOVE A CHALLENGE AND BEING BUSY!!!!! That’s the truth.

And how did you decide on opening the new studio in São Paulo?

That’s an excellent question, lots of people have asked that because I’m going against the grain.

Most of the studios try to expand to a market where they can make more money with higher budgets. What I mean with that is if Cookie Studio was initially in São Paulo and I expand to London, I would get projects with higher budgets as the exchange rate from Brazilian Real to Pounds is around 1 Pound to 4.85 Brazilia Real. As I am doing the opposite, the budget of the projects we are getting in São Paulo get smaller if I think in Pounds and use the Cookie Studio London to help on the projects.

You probably think what is wrong with me, Am I crazy?

What I am thinking is different, and there are 3 main reasons:

01- I’ve always done a lot for the industry in London with the See No Evil event and also teaching. I feel I need to help to develop the industry over there, I always wanted to do something to create a thriving animation industry in Brazil and I think having the studio over there will allow me to do that.

02- The talent!!! Yes, Brazil has a lot of excellent talent hidden there. We all know some big Brazilian names outside Brazil such as Ariel (Blink My Brain), Marcel (State Design), Guilherme (Lobo NY) and Vinicius (Roof Studio), but it is a tiny group that did well outside Brazil. Now imagine what you can find in a country with a population of over 210 million? I think you get my point here.
Having the studio in São Paulo will give me the chance to discover and work with more talent over there. It will also help the studio in London as we live in a time where the budgets are getting smaller, and deliveries are getting bigger.

03- The Brazilian advertising industry runs most on Live Action when you compare the number of commercials that are done using Live Action against Animation.
I see this as a fantastic opportunity to explore the market and push more animation over there.

This is all super exciting. We hear so much about New York, Los Angeles, and London. They’re the biggest markets, but there is so much talent out there outside of these major hubs. Using South America as an example, there is so much amazing talent that has come out of this region, Brazil specifically. I’ve worked firsthand with a few Brazillian animators in LA and they all put me to shame haha! What are your hopes for this new office and what it can bring to the community in São Paulo?

Brazil is a country with a lot of culture and colour, and an excellent example of it is Carnaval! I am hoping to push more delicious animation into the advertisement industry in Brazil.

I also want to bring some of the international experience I have to the studio in São Paulo and help develop the talents.

Brazilians work differently, and not everyone speaks English over there. So, with the studio in São Paulo, I will be able to mentor and help more people. It will also give me more opportunity to explore the community and festivals in São Paulo.

On that same topic, the industry at large is in a bit of a transition. With the changing tides and budgets, more and more people are finding their own way and opening up shop outside of the major markets. What are your views on this and where do you see this all going in 5 years’ time?

Our industry is in a big transition at the moment and talking to a lot of studio owners and freelances; I can say it has been a strange year so far for most.

I don’t think we are close to the end of this transition, and we can already notice that the business model we knew in the past won’t work for much longer.
It is time to adapt, to change. Part of our job as creatives it is to solve problems, so I see all this as an exciting time, but it won’t be easy.

As I was saying earlier, having the Cookie Studio in São Paulo will help us a lot with this transition.
I think it is time to be clever and staying small. It will get harder in the following 5 years for the big studios.

Lastly, where do you see Cookie Studio in the coming years and how do you see it evolving with our changing industry?

My big goal for Cookie Studio is to make it a place where people want to be, want to come to work and feel part of it. I think we do well on this, but I believe we can always do better.
It shouldn’t be just a place to work, but also to learn and develop in your career.
I used to teach motion graphics for years and mentoring is something I also love.

I see Cookie Studio London and São Paulo integrated and developing together. I want to be able to create exchange programs between both studios.
London studio is really international with a lot of nationalities working here and I want to give the same opportunity to the São Paulo office.

I believe all of this will show in our work and help us stand out!

About the author

Joe Donaldson

Joe Donaldson is a director, designer, and animator who worked on Motionograpgher from 2014-2020. Previously, he was an art director at Buck. Over the past decade, he's lived and worked in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles and has directed work for clients such as Apple, Google, Instagram, The New York Times, Unicef, Etsy, and The New Yorker. In addition to his creative work, in 2018 he started Holdframe. He's now working as a professor at Ringling College of Art and Design and when not teaching he can be found spending time with his family or out running.