Co-Founder/Owner, CEO and Animation Director
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79% Job Growth
Steamroller Studios is an animation studio created by three friends who just so happened to be industry leaders in animation, graphic design, and technology. Steamroller is revolutionary in its business model and is meeting the demands of a fast-paced industry, while also telling its own charming stories by developing film-quality animation with original intellectual properties. To fund this passion, the studio takes on many contracts, including animations for high-profile video games such as Tomb Raider, Fortnite and Mortal Kombat.
Steamroller’s company culture is built upon the guiding principle that anything is possible. This has enabled them to grow from just three employees to over ninety ambitious artists in the span of five years. They have built a team of young animators who share the same beliefs as the studio and continue to attract top clients.
The founders of Steamroller Studios have built their company on strong values. They are committed to quality and continued learning while telling charming and exciting stories with film-quality animations.
Growing from a T-Shirt Shop to an Industry Leader - How Steamroller Studios is Creating their own Path to Success
Jalil Sadool didn’t plan on being where he is today. In fact, he never really wanted to own a business at all.
Sadool grew up on a tiny island off the coast of Madagascar called Mauritius, eventually leaving home to attend engineering school in Singapore. As much as he enjoyed physics and math, he couldn’t deny his love for comic books.
Upon deciding to pursue his true passion, he left Singapore and enrolled in Edinboro University in Pennsylvania where he could study art.
“My priority at that time was to focus entirely on my drawing and painting skills. This was my second chance and I knew I couldn’t risk messing it up. In order to stay in the country, I would need a job right after I graduated,” he said. “I figured that if I worked hard, focused solely on my craft, and became as skilled as I could possibly be, someone would hire me. Easier said than done, of course.”
A year into his art degree, Sadool met Michael Genz, a professor at Edinboro University and ex-Disney animator. Sadool says Genz was the person who set him on the right path.
“Out of curiosity, I sat in one of his classes during my second year in college. I was in awe as I watched him animate live the character of Zeus from Disney’s Hercules. That was the day I realized I wanted to be an animator,” he said.
Sadool graduated in 2004 and went on to develop an impressive resume. He moved to Los Angeles where he worked on popular films such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Garfield 2, Charlotte’s Web and Night at the Museum. He then moved to New Zealand to join Weta Digital showcasing his talents in The Water Horse, Avatar, and as a Lead Animator on The Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
He didn’t stop there either. After 5 years with Weta Digital, Sadool landed in the studios of DreamWorks where he stayed until 2014, working on Rise of the Guardians, and as a Lead Animator on How to Train your Dragon 2.
After DreamWorks, Sadool didn’t move on to another company—he made his own, becoming CEO and co-owner of Steamroller Studios.
“Steamroller Studios was the result of the combined efforts of myself, Keith Lackey, and Adam Meyer. It was honestly lightning in a bottle. We didn’t start with the intention of building a studio. We were tired of the big studios and decided we wanted to tell our own stories,” he said. “We quit our jobs and started making a video game in the back room of a T-Shirt shop. It was a daunting task, but with a good work ethic and a willingness to grow and learn from our mistakes, Steamroller Studios came to be.”
Over four years later, Steamroller Studios is revolutionizing the industry with its business model, while also telling charming stories by developing film-quality animation with its own intellectual properties.
Steamroller Studios is one of the only animation studios that provides character animations and then packages them up for placement in a game or studio’s pipeline for production. They provide a cost-effective solution for game developers and production studios, with well-known contracts like Fortnite and Mortal Kombat.
Keeping a Competitive Edge
When asked what makes Steamroller Studios different than others in their industry, Sadool says becoming experts in animation has been an advantage.
“Most studios that offer contract animation also offer services from other areas in the pipeline, things like modeling, rigging, and texturing. By just focusing on animation, we’ve built a brand and reputation that is known for being the best in the industry,” he said.
Instead of hiring an in-house team of animators—who are often laid off once the work is completed—clients can work with Steamroller Studios to procure high-quality animations that is on par with the top talent in the industry, but in a fraction of the time.
“We are one of the first of our kind: an animation studio that does only animation and is run by animators,” he said. “Our expertise, experience, and drive enable us to create film quality animation performances regardless of the type of project.”
Overcoming Challenges and Looking Toward the Future
Since starting Steamroller Studios, Sadool has faced many challenges on the path to growing his business.
“One would be attracting high-end talent to a small town in Florida. The game and animation industry is largely located in places like California and Montreal. We overcome this challenge by offering something different than the companies in those places. For example, quality of life is a real issue in our industry,” he said. “We make it a point to limit overtime. Our location also means that the cost of living is significantly cheaper. We treat our employees like family, with care and respect, and that goes a long way.”
These challenges have yet to slow their momentum and Steamroller Studios is planning to continue expanding their team and projects, hoping to eventually produce even more of their own content.
“Over the last five years, we’ve gone from just five people to a team of ninety. We’ve seen incredible growth in both employees and revenue in that time. This has been in large part thanks to the contract work we do,” he said. “While we expect this trend to continue, we are looking forward to our own internal projects that we’ve been working on hitting the market and becoming as successful as we hope they will be.”
What it Means to be an Honoree
Steamroller Studios was selected after two rounds of judging and over 200 applicants to join the top 50 second stage companies in the state. They will be celebrated next month at the Hard Rock Live in Orlando.
As for what it means to Sadool and his team to be in the top 50, he says it gives them the confidence that they’re going in the right direction.
“We’ve never been a company that pursues awards or recognition. We strongly believe that recognition simply comes as a byproduct of working hard on things you’re passionate about,” he said. “Having said that, it does feel great to be nominated for a business award because we aren’t known for being business people. Getting an award for animation is one thing because it’s in our wheel-house, but to get an award for growing a company is incredibly validating.”
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
“Don’t partner with your friends just because they are your friends and you like them. Partner with people you trust will give it their all for your business,” Sadool said.
He also stressed the importance of understanding the ins and outs of your industry before starting a company.
“This usually means allowing yourself time to master your craft and grow within your industry,” he said. “Your business will throw a lot of new challenges your way, but if you first gain a thorough understanding of the industry that you’re a part of, you will always be able to find the right solutions to your problems.”
Notable Community Involvement
With two of the three owners of Steamroller Studios being born and raised in Mt. Dora, they are committed to the community that has given so much to them. They are especially dedicated to partnering with organizations that give back to children, like Extra Life and the Lake County Museum of Art.
One of their proudest achievements is an animated short that they made with Alliance For Kids, whose mission is to develop media that helps young children overcome their fears as they battle various illnesses.