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Innovative Animation Studio Growing Kelowna’s Tech Economy

The Okanagan is becoming a high-tech hub in animation, and Bardel Entertainment is helping lead the way.


Overlooking City Park, in a newly renovated 9,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, characters from production powerhouses such as DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, and Disney are coming to life in downtown Kelowna.

The Okanagan is becoming a high-tech hub in animation, and Bardel Entertainment is helping lead the way. In 2012, Bardel expanded their operations to include Kelowna and in just 3 1/2 years, they’ve grown from 4 to 54 local employees. Their two Vancouver studios house 600 employees with more growth on the horizon.

According to CEO Delna Bhesania, Bardel moving to Kelowna made economic sense due to regional tax incentives, access to dark fibre, and the area’s rapid growth. That’s where local tech accelerator, Accelerate Okanagan (AO) came into play.

AO was able to provide Bardel a launch pad and foothold in the community by offering local connections and office space for the first of Bardel’s teams at the Kelowna Innovation Centre. “We didn’t worry about setting up infrastructure. We moved in and stayed focused on the work that needed to get done, while growing the team,” says, Brad Dahl, of Bardel.

IMG_9995.jpgBrad Dahl, photo credit: Heidi Mann

Another key aspect to Bardel’s growth in Kelowna is access to the dark fibre network provided by the City of Kelowna. With no limits on bandwidth, the fibre network allows Bardel to deal with infinite amounts of digital animation data with both its studios and international partners. Initially the Kelowna studio employed key animators, but with dark fibre, the studio can now support whole production teams for each stage of the animation process.

One quarter of the Kelowna animation staff are hired from Centre for Arts and Technology (CATO), “which is ideal because they have a better chance of getting hired straight out of school compared to Vancouver program graduates,” says Joe Schober, Kelowna Studio Manager. “One of our staff members teaches part time at CATO, so we get access to help gear their program more towards our production needs.” 

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It takes a good animator one week to produce 18 seconds of quality 3D animation, requiring a lot of people to create a full show. It’s a very competitive industry and Bardel competes internationally at this level. “Getting the talent is tough, keeping the talent is tough, but we’re lucky because we are working on award-winning shows such as the Emmy Award winning All Hail King Julien, Puss in Boots, VeggieTales, Dinotrux, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” says Schober.

Bardel_shows_horizontal.pngFrom left to right: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dinotrux, VeggieTales, and Puss in Boots

With the slow death of traditional TV distribution models, independent streaming models like Netflix are taking over providing demand for new original content. With 10-25% growth rates in the industry, Bardel is in the best position ever in the company’s history to accelerate. “We’ve been doubling in size every year recently, and I see us growing to 120 next, then hopefully 240 or more professionals to produce feature films and interactive projects in Kelowna,” says Dahl. 

By being located in Kelowna, Bardel, Yeti Farm, Hyper Hippo and other Kelowna based digital animation companies are impacting the growth of the high tech sector in the Okanagan and BC. “We anticipate that once the animation industry realizes that studios like Bardel, Yeti, Hyper Hippo and Disney Interactive are producing such high quality content, it spreads enthusiasm and confidence for other studios to operate out of Kelowna,” concludes Dahl.