It was just one of those occasional trips to the office. Brad Graeber, co-founder and CEO of Austin-based Powerhouse Animation, was throwing things off when he walked into what is normally a quietly bubbling studio. “The monitors are on and the mouse is moving around the screen, but the rest looks like Chernobyl. It’s the same way we left it.”
But after 16 months of teleworking, the office will soon return to regular activity. Graeber and the rest of the management team recently conducted a staff survey and found that 75% of employees were interested in coming back three days a week or more. Graeber said, “They miss camaraderie, they miss the culture, they miss the creative osmosis.”
The workflow, he said, âhas changed dramatically. We’ve done a lot more in the cloud and had to focus on security, but communication has changed a lot. lots of file uploads. “A year ago, no one knew if this was all manageable,” but we did, “Graeber said.
Not only did they do it, but 2020 was actually the studio’s most successful year to date. Powerhouse has become, well, a true powerhouse because of its relationship with Netflix, solidified by a new first-look deal between the two. Season four of the hit video game adaptation of the streamer Castlevania came out this year. It broke with misconceptions about multi-season shows by genuinely gaining momentum and viewers throughout its run – so much so that Netflix announced a spin-off, which takes place during the French Revolution. While Powerhouse is developing this, they are also working on Season 2 of the Greek Mythological Tale. Blood of Zeus, and the team will also take care of the new Kong spin off, Skull Island. The number of projects on the slate signifies a new wave of hiring, with 40 to 50 additional employees expected by the end of the year.
However, the biggest project to date is He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Revelation, the revamp of the 1980s animated series written by longtime studio friend Kevin Smith. Graeber admitted that he thought the Castlevania the fan base was dedicated, but He-man sits on 40 years of dedicated collectors and childhood memories. “Just the number of Facebook groups that are fair He-man groups, âGraeber said. All of this is amplified by the sheer number of Smith fans. âHis social media presence is just huge. He hardly mentions anything and it explodes. “
Graeber has previously told the team to prepare for a massive response, but there’s also the more immediate challenge of stepping away from work at home. However, he said he was keenly aware that it couldn’t be just getting everyone back to their desks, and it will be a gradual process over months. âWe are about to have a social experience back in the office,â he said. “We’re going to have to get used to the presence and distractions of people.” In addition, there are lessons to be learned. Not everyone wants to come back full time, and they have proven they can do the job remotely. Additionally, working remotely has allowed them to hire artists outside of Austin, opening up a new pool of talent. Graeber recouped the time spent on the road traveling to pitch meetings, replaced by online meetings. This allowed him to be more involved in projects in his role as a producer. Yet the hybrid approach means designing a whole new production pipeline. “Trying to understand the communication will be the biggest obstacle.”– RW
Read our original 2020 interview with Brad Graeber here.
A version of this article appeared in print on July 9, 2021 with the title: Brad Graeber, Powerhouse Animation