Description: Animation studio
Founder: Jeff Nodelman, 35
Location: New York City
2004 sales: $4.2 million
Disney days: After five successful years as an animator for The Walt Disney Company, Nodelman wanted to try other things. A job as an art director at an advertising firm followed, where he also got a year and a half of experience directing commercials. In 2001, he branched out on his own. Says Nodelman, "I figured I knew enough or was stupid enough to give it a shot."
Diverging interests: Knowing he could animate for ads, TV and film, Nodelman focused on marketing his skills as a good storyteller with animation to crack all those markets. The strategy worked--Noodlesoup has produced animation for various media, including Cartoon Network's The Venture Brothers, as well as for two Miramax films and the Broadway production of the Tony-award winning musical Avenue Q. Cartoon shows for Cartoon Network, Disney and Nickelodeon are in development, along with plans to create a comic book.
Drawing talent: In the early days, Nodelman would communicate with a network of animating freelancers mostly via e-mail and meetings at each other's homes in both New Jersey and New York. The challenge, he found, was working with Los Angeles-based clients from his home, so he and his crew came up with a way to e-mail and post smaller-size files of their work. One of their technical successes was creating a 60-second Flash animation to send to a potential Los Angeles client--the whole file was no bigger than a Word document. "The fact that we're not in L.A. really shouldn't be that big of a deal, because here we are, sending stuff, and clients can see it quicker than if we were [there]," he says.
All or nothing: Nodelman mortgaged his house, sold his cars and, he admits, "took out more credit cards than anyone should ever touch in his life." Thankfully, he, along with the five animators he recruited from his Disney gig, scored two big accounts right off the bat--General Mills and Warner Bros. Entertainment.