Milo Ferguson, Reid Sandlund and Ren Abueg answer: “What’s a Flimpo?”


Milo Ferguson, Reid Sandlund and Ren Abueg answer: “What’s a Flimpo?”

Have you ever wondered if you have the experience necessary to start an independent animation studio? Studio Flimpo is an independent 2D animation studio located in the New York metro area, which was founded by three School of Visual Arts alumni just after graduation. 

The three co-founders, Milo Ferguson, Reid Sandlund, and Ren Abueg, joined forces on their third-year film, Sky Vandal. The group has since founded an animation studio, built relationships with clients, and is working on their next independent project, an animated horror series called Mandelbrot Hall. We invited Milo, Reid, and Ren to our livestream to discuss their remarkable experience of entering the animation industry by founding their own studio as well as their upcoming crowdfunding campaign. 

The following article is an excerpt from our livestream Q&A with Studio Flimpo in April 2024.

How would you introduce yourselves and describe your roles at Studio Flimpo?

Reid: I’m Reid. My pronouns are he/him. I generally deal a lot more on the artistic side of things. We all kind of trade and take part in all aspects of the studio in different ways, but I do a lot of character design, storyboarding, and general animation direction.

Ren: Alright, I’m Ren. I use they/them pronouns. I am the director and writer of Mandelbrot Hall, which is our current project. Also, I am a storyboard artist and the production coordinator, handling finances here.

Milo: My name is Milo. I use they/them pronouns. Among other artistic roles like location and background design, compositing, and animation, I am also the lead social media manager for Studio Flimpo. I’ve edited pretty much every single video on our social media myself, and we upload a lot of them!

I have to ask: What is a Flimpo?

Ren: Okay, so Flimpo is a bit of an in-joke and a bit of a character. I ran a D&D campaign while I was in college that featured these two player characters, and we also had a handful of our friends in it. There was a minor player character I made, a floating psychic jellyfish named Flimpo. He is just a lovable jellyfish mascot that I created for the campaign. We kept saying his name a lot, and when we were coming up with a name for our studio, we thought, “Funny words… Flimpo!”

Milo: Once we said Studio Flimpo out loud, we thought, that’s it. We think we just nailed it. We made a video dedicated to Flimpo’s origin very early on, but people still ask and are still confused after the origin story, which adds to the mystery.

Ren: In a few words, Flimpo is a psychic magic jellyfish that looks like an egg.

@studioflimpo Answering the age old question, why are we called “Studio Flimpo”? #supportindieanimation #dnd @Keetz ♬ Waterfall – Toby Fox

What is your origin story? How did you come together to form a studio?

Milo: Ren Googled how to form an LLC. And they formed an LLC.

Ren: We were friends in college, and that’s where it started. We began talking heavily in our second year. When we started working together professionally, it was in our third year at SVA. Everyone in our class needed to work together as a studio on a short film for one semester. Milo’s idea won, and I worked on it with him before pitching it.

Milo: Yeah, we were roommates and developed the idea that became Sky Vandal. Ren was elected production coordinator, and because we lived together, communication was easy. Everyone agreed, and Ren was an incredible production coordinator.

Ren: For that film, Reid was the lead storyboard artist and did some character design. We were all in leadership positions and delivered it on time. Everyone in our class liked the leadership and the project.

Milo: At that point, the animation industry was already turbulent with layoffs. As third-year students entering our thesis year, we realized that if we worked together professionally, like in school, it might work out. When we graduated, we formed an LLC to work on freelance work together. When we launched on social media, it got really big.

This is not the usual path animators take to get into the industry. Was that scary for you or something you were excited to do together?

Reid: It was definitely daunting. It’s not easy, but none of us wanted to leave the New York or East Coast area, and most of the industry is in California. We thought we could try to do this ourselves.

Milo: It seemed like a far-future idea, but it happened much sooner than we expected. The stars aligned, and we were able to jump on it right away. Many seasoned industry veterans were going independent too.

Ren: There were gigs and work, but it necessitated more freelance and independent work rather than breaking into a studio. With all the layoffs at major studios, it was hard enough for veterans to find work, let alone newcomers. So, we decided to take a different path.

Sky Vandal: A young girl deliberately causes a power outage in a dystopian, light-polluted city so she can see the stars again with her best friend.

Let’s talk a little about Sky Vandal. How did the project come about, and how would you describe the production process on your first film together?

Milo: The idea came from a post about a 90s power outage in Los Angeles, where people saw the Milky Way and called 911 about something strange in the sky. I thought it was a cool film idea, and we developed it for our pitch. We had unique challenges working with a class of 20 people, but it was a reminder that animation is a team sport. There were learning curves, but it was the first moment where my idea became a project with a whole team, and it was incredible.

Reid: All design decisions were made as a group, with everyone involved. It was a team effort.

Milo: It was stressful, making a short film while attending college and other classes, but everyone tried very hard and did great. We turned it in on time.

What was the biggest challenge during the production of Sky Vandal?

Milo: Time crunch, honestly. We were lucky to have a team that worked well together, largely thanks to Ren’s management. But more time would have made it easier.

Ren: I organized deadlines within a limited timeframe, which caused stress. Balancing the work without overworking people was tough, but we managed it, and everyone did great. We learned from Sky Vandal to be more efficient and avoid excessive complexity in our current project, Mandelbrot Hall.

What made you choose to focus on 2D hand-drawn animation instead of cut-out or 3D animation?

Milo: We love 2D animation; it’s timeless and looks incredible. It’s also what we were trained in at school. 2D animation has always appealed to me because a drawing is always a drawing, while 3D animation can look dated quickly. A drawing always looks like an illustration, but it’s moving.

Ren: For me, the love of drawing drew me to 2D animation. I love the visual appeal of hand-drawn traditional animation. Other mediums are fantastic, but this is what I know and love to do.

Milo: That’s not to say Mandelbrot Hall won’t have some multimedia elements, but this is what we do here.

Studio Flimpo’s pitch for their upcoming animated horror series, Mandlebrot Hall.

Let’s talk about Mandelbrot Hall. What can you tell our readers about the project?

Ren: Mandelbrot Hall is about a first-year art student’s semester curdling into cosmic horror as people, places, and even concepts vanish from reality. It’s an adult comedy-horror series. We hope to raise money for it this summer to get a good team, pay them well, and release it by the end of next year. The reception on social media has been incredible, and we’re really excited about it.

What inspired you to make Mandelbrot Hall?

Ren: There are a lot of inspirations: Junji Ito’s works, Silent Hill games, House (1977) and more. Visually, we want it to look handcrafted and organic. We’ll use physical paintings, stop motion, and pencil tests to give it a tactile feel. We’re inspired by Masaaki Yuasa’s work, among others. Narratively, it’s about cosmic and psychological horror, where the horror is both physical and psychological.

Milo: It ties back to wanting a tactile sense that people made this. We’re using a Toon Boom Harmony vector line we made ourselves with a charcoal pencil on paper. We have physical paintings for backgrounds. It’s about showing that people made this.

Ren: It’s like how a painting can affect you more than a photograph. It’s about visual development and the unique aspects of art that reach people.

Reid: Drawn art is the world filtered through your perspective. It adds a lot to what’s being shown.

@studioflimpo We’ve been working on this FOREVER… all the more reason to be there the moment it drops! June 14th, 4 PM EST, BackerKit link in bio, be there!! #IndieAnimation #SupportIndieAnimation ♬ original sound – Studio Flimpo

How long have you been developing Mandelbrot Hall, and what work went into it?

Ren: I came up with Mandelbrot Hall in January 2023 and people were drawn to it immediately. When we formed our studio, it wasn’t with the intent of making this pilot right away, but it became a priority. In terms of work, last year was about developing the bones of the project. In the past few months, we’ve focused on the art, character designs, storyboards, and animatics for our trailer.

Milo: We can’t say much about the trailer yet, but it’s so cool. We have a great composer, and the shots are incredible. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.

What advice would you give to recent graduates interested in starting a studio?

Milo: Don’t neglect the business side of things. You need a basic understanding of business management, money management, and taxes.

Ren: Manage your own schedule. Treat it like a job. Separate your home and workspace if possible. Set your own deadlines and stay on task.

Milo: Don’t expect to make loads of money right away. It’s okay to work on it part-time or get support from friends or family. Post consistently on social media and eventually, things will work out.

Reid Don’t dedicate yourself to multiple projects at the beginning. Choose one and focus on it.

Milo: And take care of your hands, eyes, and back. They are your livelihood.

  • Interested in learning more about Studio Flimpo and their upcoming project, Mandlebrot Hall? Be sure to visit their studio website learn more about their work and sign up to join the Mandlebrot Hall launch party.
  • Getting started on your next big project? Artists can download 21-day trials of Harmony Premium.

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