By Randi Altman
Issue: November 1, 2004


Longtime Soho Animation creative Tony Cleave left the Toronto studio in early October to start his own design and animation boutique called 4 Stroke, also in Toronto. As with Soho, clients will come from the advertising and broadcast network realm, but he is also planning on taking advantage of his new company's very strong design roots to give them more creative input with agencies. This is something he did at Soho, but he intends to take it to the next level.

4 Stroke has four employees. Creative director Cleave, a producer and two animators/designers. They also have a pool of freelancers they can call on.

"Along with our animation and high-end compositing backgrounds, we can support all the high-production values that agencies expect but also help them to amplify their ideas. We always think concept first and digital tools second," says Cleave.

"Historically, an animation or effects company was largely a service bureau," he continues. "You listen to the creative team, you get a script and, in some cases, a poorly-drawn storyboard, and the director really has the big vision." He points to the fact that these days, there is much more emphasis on creating things that don't exist, such as virtual elements, "whether it's 3D environments or props or a package, I think a lot of ideas can come from the design and animation team, in support of the director and agency. I like to think of our studio as being able to work collaboratively at an earlier stage than just book eight hours and comp this scene over this scene."

Cleave has seen the agency model change in the last few years. "It was much more intent on creative ownership," he reports. "I don't know if it's a generational thing or just an overwhelming sense of, 'What's all this technology and what can it do for me, because we don't know. What do you think?' So when we look at a board and talk to the creative, we sort of spin ideas off their ideas and they seem very receptive, and many times we find other ways and different ways that help their original creative."

In business just three weeks at press time, Cleave and company already have their first agency project, so they are off and running.

In December you will see a very different face in this space. While I'm off on maternity leave, my colleague Ken McGorry will be writing this column in my place. For editorial questions or submissions in my absence, please contact Marc Loftus at or Matthew Armstrong at

See you in February!