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Animators bring motion art to Langley

Dane Herforth, Drew Christie and Amanda Moore operate and animate at Kalakala Co., an animation studio and store that recently opened in Langley. Christie, the lead animator, has worked on commercials and short films for the New York Times and Vanity Fair.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Dane Herforth, Drew Christie and Amanda Moore operate and animate at Kalakala Co., an animation studio and store that recently opened in Langley. Christie, the lead animator, has worked on commercials and short films for the New York Times and Vanity Fair.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

For all the art forms in Langley, animation is a new addition.

Drew Christie, Amanda Moore and Dane Herforth, all animators at Kalakala Co., recently opened a combination store and studio in the Langley Village suite formerly occupied by The Record.

Christie, the lead artist and animator, keeps almost 30 sketchbooks in the store for customers and visitors to peruse. They show the tiny storyboards he made for some of the animated shorts he has produced, like “Allergy to Originality,” featured on the New York Times’ Op-Doc section. His short films have been screened at the Sundance Film Festival, and have won awards at the New York Children’s Film Festival, Ashland Independent Film Festival, and MOHAI History is _____ Film Competition.

The Stranger, an alternative weekly publication in Seattle, nominated Christie for a Seattle Genius award in 2012 for his body of work in animation.

“If I can draw all day long, that’s what I’d do,” he said.

Several years ago, Christie started in filmmaking. He moved to animation because it allowed him greater control and manipulation of a scene everything from characters to setting and lighting.

“I was sick of trying to get my friends to be in my movies,” he said. 

The upstairs section of their leased space is where the animation magic happens. Christie’s desk, a former drawing board used by a Disney animator, looks out the window that was covered by brown wrapping paper to filter out the sun — a nuisance when Christie is sketching on his digital pad or his MacBook, though he often prefers to draw with pencil and paper. There’s also space for Herforth, who assists Christie with animation, and for Moore, who plans to set up a sewing station.

While Christie, Moore and Herforth earn a living from their animation projects, which include commercials and commissioned projects like a piece for Vanity Fair that illustrates the 1940s, the store is a new enterprise.

“It’s a good way to showcase our work,” Moore said.

Though open just two weeks, the store has attracted a bit of interest from passersby and other business owners in Langley. During a recent visit before the store opened, a few people came in and wanted to see what Kalakala Co. offered.

“Everyone seems to be very interested and supportive of us,” Christie said.

The Kalakala Co. crew had plans to reciprocate that interest with ideas to host animation workshops that include live demonstrations.

For now, they are busy working on a couple of commercials and engaging a new community with their moving art.

“Humans love seeing artwork and seeing the world through someone else’s vision,” Christie said.

They are also just the type of working professionals city leaders have hoped to attract to town. Christie is 29 years old, Moore is 32, and Herforth is 25. 

Attracting young “knowledge workers,” people who can do their job anywhere, to move to and work in Langley was an emphasis of recent economic forums organized by city leaders. It seems that goal is beginning to be realized with the opening of Kalakala Co., though it did not require much pandering or advertising.

“Drew and I have always been charmed by Whidbey,” said Moore, Christie’s partner.

They also needed more space than Seattle afforded them, making Langley an attractive alternative. The locally-owned bookstores, the music shops, even the architecture attracted them to the seaside city.

Along with the animation studio, Kalakala Co., a street-level shop near P.S. Suisse and the liquor store in Langley Village, also offers several products, though product is probably too industrial a term.

They have $28 tote bags that are decorated with abstract designs, screen-printed cards for $7.50, prints and original pieces of Christie’s art for as much as $300. They also have tea towels — two for $20 — which have an abstract design as well.

A tea towel is a piece of cloth that can be used as an apron, for drying produce after it is washed and to keep baked goods warm.

“Nobody knows what a tea towel is, but they’re our best seller,” Moore said.

“Everything is for sale, except the sketchbooks.”

Kalakala Co., named for a decommissioned ship of the Washington State Ferries system, uses an open space office. A projector plays animation clips onto the back wall, which serves as a sampling of their work for drop-in customers.

They wanted to make sure to thank Jess Marie Griffith, who set up the store including its branch fixtures which hang some of the wares.

Mike Johnson handles the screenprinting.

 

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