Small Business Spotlight: Animatus Studio

May 23, 2019 10:09 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- When you enter Animatus Studio it feels like you're walking into part art studio, part library and part museum. But for almost three decades, this small business in downtown Rochester has been bringing characters to life.

"We do multiple types of animation...mostly 2D, hand-drawn stop motion," explains Fred Armstrong, Animatus founder and president. 


Chances are, you'll recognize some of the characters created here.

Armstrong started the company after quitting a construction job to make a go of what really interested him...animation.

"I used to make short super 8 movies for my friends and we would have parties and watch Monty Python, and I would show my cut-out animation afterwards and just have some laughs," said Armstrong.

Armstrong has a handful of illustrators and animators working for him, where on any given day they may be using clay or paper cut-outs to create an animated story.

"We have paper cut-outs and you move things under the camera a fraction of an inch at a time and shoot a frame...move it...shoot a frame ...very time consuming," he said.

Over the years, Animatus has been part of projects for companies like Kodak, Xerox and Wegmans, doing commercials, educational films, websites and promotional videos. But nothing Armstrong has done is more well known to locals than a commercial created for the House of Guitars in 1991.

"It was all made out of clay and armatures and we built big sets and had a lot of people volunteer and helping me," said Armstrong.

Now a cult classic, it still runs during the holidays, although it has been re-mastered in HD.

News10NBC's Brett Davidsen: "When you made that commercial, did you have any idea it would air 28 years later?"

Fred Armstrong: "Not really."

These days, about half of Armstrong's business comes from workshops. Kids come to the studio and get hands-on experience exploring many different forms of animation.

"Some kids find it as a creative thing and enjoy it and love it," said Armstrong. "Some have used it to get into college. Some have gone to college and come back and interned and gotten jobs on the west coast or east coast. One kid started his own gaming company."   

While technology has changed, the principles are the same -- making characters come to life, one frame at a time. Does Armstrong have a favorite character?    

"Well, Derf the Viking is kind of my alter ego, and we have a trilogy of three Derf cartoons and he usually has my worst personality traits."

Thirty years after turning a hobby into a career, Armstrong says he still does it for the love of art.

"We're never going to get rich here, but we've change some lives and it's gratifying, and I've been lucky enough to do a job that I like my whole life."

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Brett Davidsen

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