Big Beeps and Powerhouses: Animation in Austin

HorseBack Salad may be the new kids on the block, but they're hardly the only ones in town working on cutting-edge animation, motion graphics, and interactive audio-visual madness. With its wealth of artists and designers still going strong years after the tech bubble burst, Austin is home to many other creative outfits intent on pushing boundaries and just plain making things a little bit cooler. A sampling:

Big Beep: A frequent HorseBack collaborator, Les Brook's Big Beep audio outfit handles interactive audio -- music, effects, voice work -- for everything from the Rugrats: All Growed Up game to the Monsters Inc. Wreck Room Arcade game. If you've seen local animator Lance Myers' brilliant short "The Astronomer," which matches stunning visuals to a flawlessly evocative audio track, you've already been dazzled by Big Beep's work.

Frog Design: The heaviest of hitters, this Silicon Valley-based design and interactive powerhouse has long had offices in Austin, and many local animators and multimedia whizzes have spent time under their aegis. From digital and product design to Web work and "product incubation," Frog has "generated over $200 billion in revenues worldwide," which pretty much says it all. And hey, they're hiring!

The Fizz Factor Game Studio: Now part of Amaze Entertainment Inc., the Fizz Factor is a new game development studio founded -- surprise! -- by former Human Coders this past February. Console, handheld, and all things, um, gamey, from graphics to audio and then some.

Powerhouse Animation: Their mission statement -- "to promote truth, justice, and capitalism through cartoons" -- says it all. Their crafty animators have logged time on major studio animated productions like Space Jam, The Prince of Egypt, and Animaniacs, and also produced that nifty Jen Saves Ben freestanding video-game console that supergeek Kevin Smith gave the newly betrothed über-couple as an engagement gift sometime back. Keen!

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    Charging toward a movie, TV, or computer screen near you: HorseBack Salad Entertainment

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