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Working Together to Provide High-Quality Animation Services around the World

Paco Navarro, the co-founder of Exodo Animation Studios, shared how one of the oldest animation companies in Mexico ensures outsourcing quality and discussed the difficulties studios might face when working with clients from other parts of the world. 

Animation is an important part of games and cinematics. If a company doesn't have the right specialists to ensure smooth movement, it asks other studios for help. We talked with Paco Navarro, the co-founder of Exodo Animation Studios, about the challenges and peculiarities of outsourcing in this area and discussed some of the projects Exodo had worked on. 

Exodo was founded in 2006 and is located in Guadalajara now, a hub for animation and video game production in Mexico. It is one of the oldest animation companies in the country, according to Navarro.

Exodo Animation Studios

There have been a lot of efforts from the local and state governments to make this industry grow, and it's been very successful. 90% of our clients are outside of Mexico. We've been working with companies in the entertainment industry like Disney, Nickelodeon, ESPN, and others. Also, we've been working with advertising agencies.

For the last seven years, we've been focusing a lot on the video gaming industry. We've produced trailers and cinematics for big companies like Hi-Rez Studios, 505 Games, Rock You Games, and more. We also have some corporate clients. In a nutshell, we are a company that is a full one-stop shop for stylized CGI animation. We can do anything from storyboards all the way to the final audio-video mix and everything in between, including design, animation, and maintenance of all the content.

Outsourcing Reasons

One very specific benefit of outsourcing is that you have a tested pipeline. In the end, what you're looking for is consistency and predictability, you need to know what you're getting. Once you start working with a company that has this pipeline in place, you fulfill that. It's really important because you're putting a lot of effort, a lot of money, a lot of time into the project, and not knowing if this is going to work out as expected is something that will definitely hurt you down the road. Sometimes when it's not as well developed, all the missing pieces can eat a lot of resources when you're rendering or when you're ready.

You also have a diversity of art styles and a bigger pool of possible creative options. That's really important because with so many art styles and people working in the industry, what you're actually looking for is to have something that sets you apart a little bit from others, to carve space around you on your project so you can actually be a little bit more relevant in the industry.

Sometimes you end up working with teams in countries that you have no idea about, with a very interesting cultural baggage that will bring something completely different, and that will basically take your project to the next level.

Money is one of their biggest advantages and disadvantages at the same time. A lot of countries like Mexico have lower living standards than Europe, the US, and Canada, so it will be cheaper to outsource from there, but sometimes, you can get better quality if you pay the same as in your country. It's not only about how much you can save but what you get out of that money. Of course, there's a big war around the world, the price war. I think it's the lowest-hanging fruit for companies to get their foot in the door for certain projects.

But in the long run, I think it's bad for the industry because you're basically not giving the right value to people's work, no matter if they are in Mexico, Malaysia, South America, or whatever. You're not giving them the right compensation for the effort they're putting in, and they might be putting in more effort than workers in First World countries sometimes. So it's a complicated situation, but sometimes it's the easiest way to start your projects.


I think one of the challenges depends on which country you are in. In Mexico, we have a great advantage with nearshoring but we also have significant disadvantages. For example, even though we've been neighbors with the US and Canada forever and the border has essentially created a mixed culture, there are still very important cultural barriers, like language and even differences in how jokes or visual narratives function. It's very different.

We've been able to address that issue, but with Europe, it's a completely different situation and it's been very challenging for us. We're used to working with a small number of countries but with very large populations and markets, like the US, Canada, and Mexico.

In Europe, it's completely different. I would say it's very fragmented. Each country has a very distinct and isolated environment. Trying to work with all those countries has been very challenging because the distances and time zones are completely different. Sometimes the pricing is affected by government funds, tax regulations, and other mechanisms they have in their countries. They also have local providers who can match the prices that we offer from Mexico because they receive those grants or funds.

We've also been working with Asia, where we face similar pricing. There's more competition because we're more or less on the same level of pricing. One of the biggest challenges is breaking that cultural barrier and gaining trust from companies because we're not the usual suspects. People often think of Malaysia, India, Japan, or some countries in Eastern Europe, which have been very successful.

You have to start building trust, and some markets are a little more complicated than others. For instance, the gaming industry is very welcoming to new providers and companies because they need a lot of outsourcing. 

Conversely, advertising is a bit more cautious about getting companies into their roster or pool of service providers. It's a matter of understanding each industry and seeing which strategies are better suited for getting the jobs. Sometimes with advertising agencies, you have to go there physically, whereas with video game companies, you can just have a Zoom meeting and start working with them.

Ensuring Quality

The quality when working with different studios depends a lot on the client, but some clients like to test first. It’s really important to understand that sometimes companies put their best resources forward to make that test successful.

Say, I need an OK on the test; I'm almost sure it will be made by the senior staff. Once you actually start working and have a lot of scenes and animations to make, the company will start assigning the work to animators or even juniors, so you have to be very aware. You must ensure the test has a certain complexity or a certain level that the studio can handle because if you just send a model to be animated, the easiest way to do it would be to put the senior animator on it and make the test amazing. However, the people working on that project may not be seniors. So, that's something to think about. Most big companies are well-seasoned, but sometimes, they can have those kinds of surprises too.

It depends on the ethics of the company you're working with because if I know that 80% of my animators are not seniors, it’s better to put someone at that level to take the test and see how it goes. But it’s really important to consider not only the quality that you’re getting but the vibes from the company because, in the end, you’ll be working with these people for a long time and often under very stressful situations, like time, budget, and people constraints. So, you have to think about whether they have the quality, whether they can meet the budget targets, and whether you like working with these guys.

You also have to be aware that you have to teach the company your business culture. It’s not only about a simple business relationship; these kinds of projects are not like, 'I’ll give you this raw material and you're going to give me this product.' No, it’s about people, creativity, and getting a product; it's subjective. So when you teach them how you want to work, these big companies need to teach the provider what works best for them. Then, you can start working better together.

And on top of that, there are actual cultural differences. You can find books that explain how people from different countries might or might not work. It’s very interesting because some cultures work very well together while for others, it's a big problem.

Finding Customers

We're a smaller company, but I handle business development at the studio. The way we usually attract clients is by two main strategies. First, we've been running very aggressive Google Ads campaigns for about ten years. It's a very focused, shotgun-like approach. We have a huge campaign, and anyone looking for animation might see our ads. That's very effective because we reach markets we never even thought we had; for instance, we've worked with clients in Jordan, which was surprising. We have a lot of traction in the Middle East, with clients from regions where, due to distance, geography, or language, we might never have considered reaching. 

Additionally, I typically attend nearly every conference, summit, or event around the world every month. Traveling is crucial, especially because, despite becoming accustomed to remote work during the pandemic, you can't replace a handshake, sharing a beer, or having a meal with someone. It's crucial to actually meet people in person, especially when you're discussing projects that involve a lot of money and time. 

So that's how we get clients. We look for clients that meet certain criteria, such as having a certain amount of revenue per year. We can start with smaller projects, like indie games that might need a simple trailer. These might be small projects for us, easy to manage, but they are very useful for them.

For bigger projects, however, we work with clients like Salesforce in San Francisco. We've been working with them for several years now on projects primarily for their internal communications. It's fascinating because the level of materials they need for internal engagement is quite intricate. Usually, when you work with medium or smaller project companies, you work directly with a creative director or a producer who is always there. In a corporation, you start working with many departments, like compliance, real estate, or marketing. It’s interesting because you start learning how things work inside those big companies, and each department has very different needs. You have to be very flexible in how you approach these projects.

Paco Navarro, Co-Founder and Business Developer at Exodo Animation Studios

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