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After creating the stars of last year's "Angels" spot for BMW, the film and design company Hornet has won several new pieces of business and added new talent that has positioned the shop as a potential animation powerhouse. "BMW was a great breakthrough for our business, and what we've done around that is beef up the animation division with three additional artists and a producer," says partner Michael Feder, who joined in 2002 from Blue Sky Studios to help then-five-year-old Hornet expand beyond live events and into commercials. Two years later, with animation credits for BMW, Orbit gum, Discover and MTV, in addition to spots on the way for Quaker and Element 79, Chiclets and Deutsch, and Reese and O&M rolling out in a matter of months, he can consider that mission accomplished.

"The whole song and dance of bidding can be grueling and exciting, but the thing I like the most is finding new talent and getting them work and helping them to grow as artists," Feder says. His strategy for acquiring and representing directors is simply to find big talents with a strong sense of style, though not necessarily any experience in the advertising world. "We transition people, because what people in advertising like is something new. None of our talent competes with each other. I don't want to have a dozen of the same kind of director. The line between animation and design has blurred a bit. "

Case in point: Hornet's recent animated spots, whose styles couldn't be more disparate. First, there are the angels, animated by Steve Talkowski and designed by illustrator Peter de Seve, a renowned character designer who has developed 3-D creatures for features such as Blue Sky's Ice Age and Disney's Finding Nemo. Then there are the animations for MTV, by Matt Vescovo, seen at last year's Video Music Awards. The Flashlike rudimentary hipster line drawings offer how-to instructions on pop cultural basics such as the sex appeal of different musical instruments, and properly executing an armpit fart. Finally, there's 2-D animator Brent Chambers' work for Orbit and BBDO/Chicago, which ran continuously on Wrigley's Times Square Jumbotron in late February. With refined lines, springtime colors and attractive trendy characters, the three :30s feature an animated version of the British spokeswoman from the gum's live-action spots. As in the television spots, she plays MC to the variety of ways that chewing Orbit will keep your mouth feeling clean. Other work includes Aaron Stewart's retro-styled spots for Discover and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

Last month, Hornet signed two animation collaborations, Archer Beck and Lifelong Friendship Society. The former team, composed of animators Jason Archer and Paul Beck, is best known for work on the Richard Linklater feature Waking Life. "Their style is the painted-over-footage look, and their sense of comedy will play well in advertising," says Feder. Representing Lifelong Friendship Society, on the other hand, is a more strategic move. Feder says he looks to the four former VH1 graphic design animators to fill out Hornet's design staff. "They fill a hole where I wanted a design team to compete with Digital Kitchen and Brand New School." They don't just make pretty pictures, they're thoughtful about what the concept is, and they stay true to that."

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