Pick a Peck of PepperMelon

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It all started with soap. Or at least PepperMelon founders Tomas Garcia and Fernando Sarmiento's hatred of mediocre soap and detergent commercials. Before launching the Buenos Aires-based animation and motion graphics shop in 2007, the two met while doing post production for the Argentine film The Aerial (La Antena), which opened the 2006 Rotterdam film festival, then continued on at post house ladolblea.

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"The deal was that they would bring in the clients and we'd do the post-production but all the clients were soap and detergent and it wasn't the type of work we wanted to do," says Sarmiento, PepperMelon's principal and executive producer. "Then we started to get clients like MTV and Nickelodeon on our own, so we decided to split and start our own company, and three others came with us."

Since then, the shop has stuck firmly to its ideal of working only on projects that challenge and excite them, which as Sarmiento points out, can mean making sacrifices. "We look for projects we want to work on, so sometimes that means smaller budgets," he says. "We're not like a lot of Argentine companies because we don't want to do soap commercials that look like shit but make lots of money."

A glance at the PepperMelon reel reveals Garcia and Sarmiento's desire for meticulously-crafted, often surreal animation that doesn't get stuck in any particular style. Sarmiento says that it's a result of everyone at the shop using their own distinctive style and sensibilities to collaborate and create with each other.

"Most motion studios (in Argentina) tend to be all about the Friends With You style, which is a really good style, but everyone does the same thing," he says. "We like everything, all styles. We always discuss things and convince each other of how to do things, which is how we work. Tomas always tends to hate what he did on the job before so he always changes to something completely new each time. The rest of the team here all have their distinct styles, as well. For instance, I like anime and square, cubic style, not a lot of round and soft things, but Tomas likes things round. Then Martin, our project manager and 3D animator, loves the Pixar style, and Juan, our character designer, likes Mickey Mouse style, then Ignacio, another project manager, loves anything to do with vehicles and cars. So we're continually sharing opinions and ideas and it helps the work quite a bit."

For a recent series of spots for food brand Lucchetti, depicting a trio of moms dealing with various aspects of family life, the style is soft, round and hilariously expressive. The shop did round after round of mock-ups and character trials in full animation before settling on the final versions.

"The agency, Madre, went out on a limb for us on Lucchetti," says Sarmiento. "They just liked a lot of our work and brought us in, even though we'd never done character animation or modeling to that level. The process was quite extensive because they wanted to see examples of various looks and styles. Generally, we don't do that much testing work, we usually get to what we want a lot quicker, but it was our largest project so far."

Sarmiento sees Lucchetti as a key learning experience for PepperMelon, providing lessons that will come in handy as they pursue their ultimate goal. "Eventually we'd like to do animation for television and film," he says. "We've got a couple pitches in to Nickelodeon and MTV, so we're looking for more projects with character animation and design."
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