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Issue: January 1, 2010

OPEN HOUSE: BAD ANIMALS - 10 YEARS AFTER THE BUY-OUT

SEATTLE - When Mike McAuliffe, Dave Howe and Tom McGurk started to kick around the idea of buying Bad Animals (www.badanimals.com), the thing that intrigued them the most was the opportunity to reshape the company into a streamlined owner-operated business.

The trio had an inside look at Bad Animals, each having worked there for a handful of years, and knew that the situation was right and the prospect for success was high. Partnering with local entrepreneur Charlie Nordstrom, a proposal was accepted and in 1999, Bad Animals had a new team at the helm.

It’s been an interesting run, remarks Mike McAuliffe, especially since the company has expanded its reach into the film, television, video game and corporate video markets. “Every day is something new, because our projects are constantly changing and every challenge is different,” he says. “But that’s what makes coming to work here exciting. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”

While the services offered at Bad Animals have expanded, the company’s core philosophy has not shifted. “We are absolutely dedicated to turning out good work and creating a positive atmosphere for the people that walk through our doors,” says Dave Howe. “We all believe that it doesn’t take any more effort to do a good job than a poor one. So, if we’re working on it, we are bringing our A game.”

Longtime clients, like Rick Cesari of Cesari Direct, attest to the care that Bad Animals staffers give to his projects. “I’ve been bringing projects here since 1996 and I’ve continued to come back because they are great to work with and they bring ideas to the table that we would have never thought of,” he says. “Our job is easier when we’re there. That’s the bottom line.”

Jamie Hammond has been bringing television programs like Bill Nye the Science Guy and Biz Kid$ to Bad Animals since 1993. “I have used their expertise for shows that vary a great deal in content and style,” she says. “Their personal commitment to every project and their creative contributions are amazing. Production is a crazy world, but they go out of their way to make it work without compromising the quality of what they do.”

Part of what makes that possible at Bad Animals is the collection of talent within its walls. “Our entire staff gets involved in a project,” says Howe, “and when you get multiple brains working together good ideas rise, so the entire project benefits. Our clients may not know that’s why their projects are better here, but they know something is better.”

The brains that Howe is speaking of include the partners as well as production manager Wendi Wills (who handles vocal casting along with scheduling and project management) and sound engineers Sam Gray and Jamie Hunsdale. “Each one of them brings a wealth of knowledge to every project,” says McGurk. “We rely on them as much as we rely on our own families and we have complete trust in them.”

Dave Howe laughs when he thinks back to the early days of Bad Animals. “There were people who said we wouldn’t last six months,” he admits, “but we have. We did it with good work, taking care of our clients and diversifying our client base to where we have no more than 20 percent of our income coming from any one faction of the industry. We’re evenly split between film, television, corporate, advertising and video game projects. That’s served us well, because historically, when one area is slow, another is ramping up.”

The business has grown by relying on good old-fashioned word of mouth. “We’ve been extremely successful at building relationships that stick,” Howe says, “and by letting our work speak for itself. A couple of our projects have been nominated for Academy Awards. We’ve had our share of Emmys, Addys, Clios and the like. People take notice of that, of course, but what speaks more about us are the people that come back and then talk about us. That’s the true mark of success.”

It’s also the fundamental business value at Bad Animals, adds Charlie Nordstrom. “Our philosophy — that the client and the project is the most important thing in the world — is why we’ve been around for so long and why we will continue to be here.”