Bent Image Lab works in animation genres from 3-D to stop-motion to classic 2-D drawings. The studio makes long-form films and clips tailored to YouTube attention spans. It animates rats for Portlandia and provides visual effects for Grimm. But the company’s most valuable product may be that rare pop-culture commodity, the memorable character. “When a character has depth, it strikes a chord with a huge number of people,” Bent cofounder Ray Di Carlo says. “I don’t know if that’s teachable.

FRED FLINTSTONE   In ads for Fruity Pebbles, Bent reinvented the iconic cave-dude. Every character needs its own “bible”: the definitive guide to how she, he, or it looks and moves. For Bedrock’s alpha male, the good book concerned translating a two-dimensional 1960s cartoon character into a 3-D creature of sculptural stop-motion. “In 2-D, when Fred turns his head, his hair part flips from one side to another,” Di Carlo points out. Solution: two different Flintstonian wigs. When shooting stop-motion Fred from the left, producers use the “left side” wig, and vice versa, to ensure consistency with the 2-D hair.

JINGLE   The Thanksgiving weekend of 2012 saw the second holiday TV special for Jingle, a Hallmark-developed husky pup that Bent adapted from illus-trated kids’ books into a ratings hit the year before. “We had a character, but probably only 5 to 10 percent of the design we needed to make it come to life,” says Bent cofounder Chel White. “We have to know the full range of their motion, because ultimately what we have to express isn’t much different from live action: What’s their motivation? How do they feel? What do they want?” 

  

EL TABADOR   Bent director Rob Shaw, a dedicated fan of Mexican wrestling, created this masked, muscled, four-inch-tall adventurer to promote Koodo Mobile, a Canadian phone brand. “You look at this head with that body,” says Bent producer Tsui Ling Toomer. “Then you change them around. Rob loved a version that was strangely proportioned, and the client went for it. It was supposed to be a single TV campaign, but everyone saw the gem right away.” El Tabador’s slyly naughty clips—one features the little wrestler reclining nude on a bearskin rug—went viral. El Tab even recorded his own holiday album.