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Tom Bancroft sees Pencilish Animation Studios as industry disruptor
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Tom Bancroft

Update 27 April 2021: On 4/25, Pencilish raised the target on its WeFunder campaign to $5M.-Ed.

A DISNEY ANIMATION VETERAN with a career spanning the creative arts, entrepreneurship and education, is crowd-raising capital for Pencilish Animation Studios Inc., which he believes can become an Animation industry disruptor.

Speaking from his home in Franklin outside Nashville, Co-Founder and CEO Tom Bancroft said the company has thus far raised more than $800K via the WeFunder platform, against a target of roughly $1MM. The company carries an $8.6MM pre-money valuation.

Bancroft told Venture Nashville that in launching Pencilish he has aimed to afford owners an opportunity that he believes is unprecedented in the Animation space: A chance to own a stake in a company creating and marketing intellectual property "that could ultimately become worldwide stories and franchises..."

Addressing its business model, Pencilish says it aims to derive revenues from licensing, merchandise and other streams of income, with its business goals including becoming "the number 1 boutique animation studio in the world," according to its crowdfunding page.

The company will create 2-D content, but some of those projects may have some 3-D components. While short-form content is the priority now, Bancroft made clear that the company aims to develop feature films "down the road" and it is likely to do licensing deals with interactive videogame studios.

Ash Greyson

Bancroft's co-founder and fellow Animation industry veteran is Ash Greyson (Lionsgate, SONY, et al), whom Bancroft has known a decade or more and who is also based in Franklin.

The CEO holds controlling interest in Pencilish, which does not yet have a corporate board of directors.

The company's advisory board includes Steve McBeth, a former president of Disney Interactive within The Walt Disney Company; and, Franklin-based Jason Brown, CEO of producer Called Higher Studios.

Also advising are Ming-Na Wen, an film and television actress with credits including Disney's Mulan and Marvels S.H.I.E.L.D.; Aaron Blaise (Walt Disney, Paramount); AIG VP-CCO Christopher Joe; and, the CEO's identical-twin brother, Animation veteran and Disney alumnus Tony Bancroft (Lion King, Mulan).

Pencilish's professional advisors include attorneys with CrowdCheck Law, bankers with Pinnacle Bank, and accountants with Vita Finance Services.

For purposes of the WeFunder raise, Arizona-based illustrator Jake Parker is identified as the round's lead investor.

The current crowdraise will initially enable the company to operate with at least three fulltime payroll employees and a handful of part-timers. Drawing on its existing wide network of potential contractors, the company will remain leanly staffed, with core staff possibly totaling 10 or more within five years, said Bancroft.

Projects will be assigned for production only after their quality and potential commercial value have been thoroughly vetted.

Pencilish has several options for building its capacity and value: It may retain full rights to its content and other intellectual property for distribution and merchandising; it may partner with major distribution platforms (e.g., Netflix); it may out-license IP to others; or, the company itself could ultimately be acquired by a strategic buyer.

In the year ahead, Bancroft said the company will use state-of-the-art tools and methods to create an array of short-form animated series and other intellectual property for films and television, with each series offering having individual on-going storylines.

By Q3 CY21, the company plans to be in-production on two or three short-form projects, of 3- to 5-minute duration each. Each such freestanding project will be considered for serialization.

The stories will unfold in "small, digestible chunks" for widest distribution via ubiquitous portable electronic devices.

Wide-spectrum marketing efforts are scheduled to begin by Q1 CY22, with licensees recruited and merchandising opportunities likely to emerge in Q3 CY22.

Among other tactics, the company's new offerings will be released via a channel on YouTube. Bancroft has previously posted some of his art-instruction videos on YouTube.

Asked about further capital raises, Bancroft said only that he and his colleagues are considering funding options, and are well aware of the recent change in federal crowdfunding rules that now allow raises as high as $5MM.

The company's crowdfunding page notes that the current raise to provided at least six months of runway, before further capital is required.

Brief VNC research shows that estimates of the value of the global Animation market contain varying segment mixes, including 2D, 3D, video effects, video gaming, etc.

The Pencilish funding page cites a global market opportunity of $259BN. VNC research found that in 2018, one consulting house projected the 2023 global market (all types, all manners of delivery) at north of $400BN.

In December, Forbes magazine contributors addressed the Animation sector, noting at one point, "Audience demand for animated content is insatiable. The genre is consistently a top performer at the box office, and the franchises that originate in animation are often worth billions of dollars to studios."

Bancroft said he believes Pencilish is the first Animation studio that has raised crowdfunding to fund launching its entire business.

Indeed, VNC research turned-up no similar studio offerings, though crowdfunding via various platforms is not unusual for individual films or related projects, see this Crowdfunding for Animation group page.

In addition to his Animation work and other business pursuits, Bancroft has served more than six years served as director of animation studies and artist in residence at Lipscomb University.

Prior to starting Pencilish, he spent nearly a decade as a self-employed illustrator and animator. Earlier, he spent more than a decade in feature animation within the The Walt Disney enterprise. In addition, he led or served on creative teams with Big Idea Network, Christian Broadcasting Network, Funnypages Productions, and Age of Learning Inc.

His formal education in character animation was while enrolled in the California Institute of the Arts. His LinkedIn is here. IMDB here.

Bancroft, 53, is a native of Long Beach, Calif. He and his wife reside in Franklin.

They have four adult children, one of whom is married and three of whom are still in college.

And, yes, Bancroft has a personal side project: He is simultaneously developing a "feature documentary" about the work of prominent industry animators, including himself, that is to be released in 2021. VNC

. last edited 1705 2 April 2021

Related Articles
Tags: animation, art, Ash Greyson, California Institute of the Arts, Called Higher Studios, Christopher Joe, CrowdCheck Law, crowdfunding, Disney, education, film, Jake Parker, Jason Brown, Lipscomb University, Ming Na Wen, Pencilish Animation Studios, Pinnacle Bank, Steve McBeth, Tom Bancroft, Tony Bancroft, venture notes, Vita Finance Services, Walt Disney, WeFunder

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