PandaPanther

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Jonathan Garin and Naomi Nishimura, better known as PandaPanther, are a truly multi-dimensional pair. Leveraging an extensive background in 3D motion graphics and a keen eye for filmmaking, this year alone the New York-based directing/animation duo showcased an array of crafty techniques and sensibilities on work like the battle-driven animated web short "Masks" for Zune, the Nickelodeon short Mika's Marshmallow Train and a live action show package for MTV Tr3s. "A big part of our process is that we have a solid backbone of 3D," says Garin. "We can make things super-dimensional and add design polish and production value to the things that we do. I take pride in that but we're trying to push the boundaries of different mediums and combining things in ways that haven't been done so much."

Garin and Nishimura previously worked together as freelancers for production companies like Psyop and Spontaneous but realized they had real creative chemistry while working on an art project. "We did this [short film called "Gifts of Dance and Magic Trance"] for a Hello Kitty-themed show in Hong Kong called Hello Kitty's Secret House," says Garin. "That was the first time that Naomi and I put our efforts together and definitely marked the beginning of us working together as team. At that point, though, there wasn't a master plan to make a company. We just wanted to have this art thing and have a website with both of our work on it."

In any case, they thought they should figure out what to call their their burgeoning partnership and "went through millions of different weird names," says Garin. "[Then] we thought OK, if you're an animal, what would you be? Naomi said, 'I'm a panda' and I said 'I'm a panther.' From there, the PandaPanther name stuck and people seemed to like it." At the end of 2006, with their portfolio expanding and the thrill of freelancing waning, Garin and Nishimura eventually enticed friend and Version2 alum Lydia Holness to join them as executive producer, turning PandaPanther into a real company.

Now nestled in a downtown studio that features digital and analog setups, as well as a backroom with a green screen for live productions, PandaPanther employs a diverse crew of 3D wizards, fine artists and others to cultivate their colorful, psychedelic and abstract style in various mediums. "Our industry is very diluted with similar styles and copycat houses," says Garin. "There are a lot of things out there that could've been done by Studio X, Y or Z, so we're just trying to avoid a lot of the things that make people blend together. We try to stand out and experiment with new techniques. We're doing things that are a little unconventional like building actual props and stuff like that [including actual mock-ups of the Zune "Masks" battlefield]. In all of our experience working here in New York, I don't think there's any company that actually does that."

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