Imaginears Animation Studio SCAM

My name is Francesco Giroldini,  I’m an artist working at Blue Sky Animation Studios. I previously worked at Dreamworks Animation Studios and Pixar. I am also the writer and co-director of  the animated short film “The Monk and the Monkey“.

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This blog is intended be a permanent home to the story of Adam and Antony Murphy’s Imaginears Animation Studio‘s scam, their disastrous attempt to crowd-fund a $250,000 short film based off my original art and storyboards, their failed and repeated attempts to threaten me with a $10,000,000 lawsuit and their subsequent efforts, with Ken Sullivan to reboot the project under a different name.

I intend for this blog to be a factual and unbiased report of their scam and its main intent is to share my story with the online community in hopes that no more artists or companies will get scammed by them, as they still continue to this day to contact artists around the world and have them produce work on their behalf.

I have so far received an overwhelmingly positive response from the online art community, and news of the scam already spread like wildfire trough Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit and Tickld.

The co-founders of Imaginears Animation Studio, Adam and Antony Murphy attempted an elaborate scam which involved taking some of my original art and storyboards, which I shared with them during an eight-months-long FREE mentorship, and attempting to pass it as their own in order to crowd-fund a short film through Kickstarter for $250,000 without my knowledge or permission, and without crediting me, in direct violation of US copyright laws.

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I never signed any contract that would assign them copyrights to my art, I was never compensated for my work, nor I ever demanded to be. I agreed to their request to informally mentor them and they never received my permission to take my artwork and claim it as theirs.

The twins contacted several artists working at major animation studios such as Pixar Animation Studios, Dreamworks Animation, Sony Pictures Animation and asked them to collaborate and appear as testimonials on their Kickstarter campaign.

None of these professionals were told that the story and artwork pertaining to the short film belonged to me, and  Adam and Antony Murphy lied to them, claiming that the work had been produced  as work-for-hire by a contractor and that they retained a right to use it, and as a consequence of that, all of these artists unknowingly participated to the scam.

A lot of the people they scammed were former college classmates, good friends of mine, former-co-workers or professionals who were at the most one or two degrees of separation away from me.

Below I posted a graph of Adam and Antony Murphy‘s scam associates.

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When their associates and testimonials found out about the scam and withdrew their support, Adam and Antony Murphy setup a now-defunct blog, with the intention to bypass Kickstarter and use PayPal in order to receive $110,000 in funds for the short film.

Their 2nd attempt to crowd-fund the short film failed as well within 24 hours of going live.

Below is an incriminating video that appeared on their now-defunct crowd-funding blog that features the two of them standing in front of prints of my original art and storyboards, as they pitch a short film idea that they refer to as “Steampunk-AL“.

A copy of their original video can be found here (click to open):

 

Below is photographic evidence that the images that appear behind them in their crowd-funding video are in fact my artwork as it  first appeared on my blog on October of 2012 (a whole year prior to their attempts to crowd-fund the short film).

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Evidence showing prints of my original artwork, as it appears behind the twins, in their crowd-funding video.

On April 25th 2014, the twins threatened to sue me for $10,000,000 (10 million dollars) and stated that the story and artwork pertaining to the short film are entirely theirs and that my art is an unauthorized reproduction of their original work. This is despite the overwhelming evidence against their claims, which includes their own statements admitting my responsibility in the original story, their admission that they can only draw stick figures and photographic evidence of my artwork appearing behind them in their crowd-funding video.

On June 23th 2014, I became aware that a former associate of the twins and former Pixar employee, Ken Sullivan, who had initially been approached by the twins in order to lead the “Steampunk AL” project and who had promised several times he was not going to work for them again, was in fact still working for them, after the “Steampunk AL” fiasco and managing a reboot of their short film, on their behalf. This is despite the fact that I had provided him with extensive evidence in order to support my claims that the twins were infringing my copyrights and despite being warned over and over about the risks of being associated with the twins.

He is currently the only person I am aware of, who is still collaborating with the twins despite being fully aware of their repeated acts of copyright infringement, defamation and legal attempts to bully me into silence. He chose to continue to work for them in spite of the possibility that it could affect his professional reputation.

 

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Imaginears Animation Studio SCAM – Now on Facebook

I created a Facebook page for Imaginears Animation Studio Scam, feel free to like, share, message for additional information about the scam or submit anonymous tips!

https://www.facebook.com/Imaginearsanimation

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Imaginears Animation Studio SCAM – Former Pixar employee, Ken Sullivan to lead Steampunk AL reboot.

On June 23rd 2014 I received an e-mail from a CG artist claiming that Kenneth Sullivan, a former Pixar employee and current associate to the Murphy brothers, contacted him in May of 2014 and hired him to model a CG character.

In his first e-mail to the CG artist, Ken Sullivan introduced himself as the Project manager for an undisclosed short film and mentioned two individuals, a director and a producer, but didn’t reveal their identities. These two individuals were most likely Adam and Antony Murphy, since upon completion of his services, the CG artist was paid through a paypal account associated with Imaginears Animation Studio.

This is the Scottish Animation Studio that stole some of my artwork and tried to raise $250,000 through kickstarter, without my knowledge, permission and without compensating me, in direct violation of US copyright laws. These are the same people who repeatedly threatened to sue me for $10,000,000 in an attempt to bully me and silence me.

ken_01In a following e-mail to the CG artist Ken included an e-mail from the short film Directors, where they praised the CG artist work and once again confirmed Ken Sullivan as their project manager. The signature to their e-mail indicated the short film’s code-name to be “Project Rita“.

The reason why the Directors didn’t e-mail the CG artist themselves, nor reveal their identities was most likely in order to prevent the CG artist from googling their names and realizing they were notorious scam artists. Similarly, the reason why Ken and the twins referred to the project as “Project Rita” as opposed to “Steampunk AL” was to avoid being associated with their previous kickstarter fiasco.

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The CG artist was provided with a character package that included turnarounds for the character and he was asked to create a CG model of the character.

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Upon completion of his services, the artist was paid through a paypal account associated with Imaginears Animation Studio. Out of curiosity, the artist googled the company name, found numerous references to their scam and immediately alerted me. His final model is shown below.

The character design that he was provided with, matches a design that appeared online on the Murphy‘s now-defunct crowd-funding blog, in late 2013. A comparison between my design, their derived design and the CG model is shown below.

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This is the Murphy‘s second attempt at deriving a CG model from my original artwork. Below is a comparison between my original design from 2012 and a design, that was produced in 2013 by a paid contractor who the twins provided with my artwork and asked to reproduce it.

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Upon receiving this information, I contacted Ken through Facebook and asked him if he had been in touch with the twins. He lied to me and told me he hadn’t heard from them in a few months. I asked him about “Project Rita” and he suddenly stopped replying. Almost immediately the CG artist told me he got an e-mail from Ken asking him what he had told me.

I asked Ken if there was anything I could do to help him and I asked him to explain to me why he was still working for the twins at the risk of ruining his reputation.

He never replied to my questions and shortly afterwards he blocked me on Facebook.

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I contacted him through his phone number and he admitted working for the twins, although he referred to his position as a “liaison between the parties”. This his despite his own e-mails where he repeatedly referred to himself to and was referred to by the twins as “Project Manager” for “Project Rita“.

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Ken Sullivan is currently the only person I am aware of, who is still collaborating with the twins despite being fully aware of their repeated acts of copyright infringement, defamation and legal attempts to bully me into silence. He chose to continue to work for them in spite of the possibility that it could affect his professional reputation.

Pixar, a former employer of Mr. Sullivan–whose employment was terminated in 2012–, never participated to the scam and is in no way associated with Mr. Sullivan‘s or the Murphy‘s wrongdoings.

 

 

 

 

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Imaginears Animation Studio SCAM – Adam and Antony Murphy demand $10,000,000 in damages.

On 04/25/14  I received a letter from a solicitor hired by Adam and Antony Murphy, claiming that the twins reputation suffered irreparable damage as a consequence to my “campaign of defamation” and demanding not less than $10,000,000 in damages in order to offset their financial losses. Below is an excerpt from the letter:

“As a direct and proximate result of the foregoing acts and conduct, the Plaintiffs have
sustained and will continue to sustain substantial, immediate and irreparable injury, and  therefore request judgment against defendant Giroldini for compensatory and punitive  damages in an amount not less than $10,000,000 (ten million dollars), together with  attorneys’ fees, costs and other relief as this Court may deem proper.

The letter claims that the twins are entirely responsible for the idea, designs and storyboards for a short film that they attempted to crowd-fund through kick-starter in 2013 and that my designs and storyboards are unauthorized reproductions of their work.

These new claims directly contradict their previous statements affirming that I was  a former employee of theirs (which I never was).

a9e9f-abusive_commentsThese new claims also contradict other statements the twins made, where they admitted that we were working together to create the story and designs (Although I wasn’t working for them, but mentoring them FOR FREE and at their own request).

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These new claims also contradict their own previous admission from October 25th 2013 that I was responsible for the original story.

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In addition to that, their claims of being solely responsible for the original design and storyboards  could be met by skepticism since in September of 2012 they admitted of never have studied film-making and as of February 2013, they still admitted of only being able to draw stick figures.

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I also have evidence to support their claims, the evidence being assignments they turned in during the time I was still mentoring them, in October of 2012.

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A drawing assignment the twins turned in October of 2012, while I was still mentoring them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Imaginears Animation Studio SCAM

Adam and Antony Murphy first contacted me in March of 2012, under false name (their last name appeared to be “Wormy“) and under false claims of being students (their linkedin states they graduated in 2011). They asked me for some free informal advice which I gladly provided.

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About a month later, Adam e-mailed me again and mentioned for the first time his twin brother Antony and their animation studio: Imaginears Animation Studio. He asked me for more advice on lighting and rendering for their character animation, which I gladly provided at no cost.


About three months later Antony Murphy sent me an e-mail from Adam‘s account asking me for lighting advice and he attached a render that featured the character from their animation project, which turned out to be a commercial project, commissioned by a UK hardware company specialized in workstations.

The render of the character that was attached to the e-mail and that was intended to appear in their commercial project, bore a striking resemblance to Pixar‘s character from the short film BURN-E, not simply in terms of overall design but also in terms of graphic design and palette.

I provided Adam and Antony Murphy with a lengthy critique to their character lighting and an even longer critique to their design, in an attempt to persuade them to deviate from it, as it too closely resembled Pixar’s BURN-E character. I also offered to do some explorations as they previously claimed they could only draw stick men.

Several months went by and I continued to provide them with informal advice, created tutorials to teach them about lighting, critiqued their work, performed draw-overs of their designs and taught them principles of design and film-making.

All of this for FREE and under no formal obligation.

On August of 2012, after I informed them that I could only help them so much, given the hardware limitations of my laptop, Adam e-mailed me and offered to sell me what he referred to as a “Brand New Workstation“.

The very next day Adam contacted me and sweetened the deal by offering to purchase a Renderman Studio license for me (valued at $ 1,300), if I agreed to purchase his workstation.

In a following e-mail, Adam told me that the cost for the workstation would be $2,350 and once again, reminded me that that money would be used to get me a Renderman Studio License.

In late August of 2012 the payment for the workstation went through and Adam told me he would get me the Renderman Studio license he had previously promised me.

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In early November of 2012, as production on DreamworksRise of the Guardians” winded down and I was finally able to unpack the workstation and install the Renderman License, I discovered that something was off and immediately alerted Adam and Antony Murphy.

They had lied to me about the specs of the workstation, which instead of featuring an Nvidia Quadro as they had previously promised, featured an ATI , a graphic card unsupported by most CG software and prone to crashing.  

On November 21st, after continued failures for the workstation to perform, Adam and Antony Murphy mentioned for the first time that the Renderman Studio license had actually been purchased under their name and that Pixar could take it back from me.

This was almost three months after I  had purchased the workstation from them, and at no point prior to November 21st, they had ever mentioned that the license would only essentially be leased to me.

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A week later, Adam and Antony Murphy contacted me and asked me to uninstall the Renderman Studio license from my computer, so that they could use it for “extra render power”.

At this point I had no doubt that I had been scammed by the twins, as I had paid them $2,350 for a machine that was falsely advertised as a discounted workstation (Adam referred to it as a “huge saving”), while they actually sold it to me at full retail price and on top of that, they had actually never paid for it, since it was received as payment for their commercial project. The money which I thought went to get me a Renderman Studio license (valued at $1,300) actually purchased the twins an extra Renderman Studio license.

I spent 8 months giving Adam and Antony Murphy free informal advice and mentorship, in order to be scammed by them, in cold blood.

I eventually moved on and put the scam behind me and in March of 2013 I paid $1,600 in order to turn the render node into a proper workstation and replace the malfunctioning graphic card with a Nvidia Quadro.

In October of 2013, in an attempt to mentor some friends of mine back in college, I tried to use the Renderman Studio license that was purchased for me by Adam and Antony Murphy. To my surprise I found out through the sales associate that Adam and Antony Murphy had transferred  the license back onto themselves without notifying me.

I created a draft for a new e-mail and typed-in Adam‘s name as the recipient and realized his avatar was a painted rendition of one of my designs from 10/10/12. I immediately contacted him and told him that he had no right to copy, distribute or claim ownership for any of my work.

I received no response from Adam and Antony Murphy, and in an attempt to get a 2nd opinion on the situation, I e-mailed a former classmate of mine asking him for advice on what I should do. To my surprise I found out that this dear friend of mine had been working for them for some time and had just completed an animation test for them, which to this day appears on Imaginears Animation Studio’s Vimeo Page.

 

He had not been informed by Adam and Antony Murphy that the artwork he had been provided with belonged to me. Moreover, he told me that the twins were planning to go live with a kickstarter campaign in order to crowd-fund a $250,000 short film, based off of storyboards that I had shared with them over a year before.

Below: a comparison between my original drawings, (which I posted on Facebook, Instagram and on my blog on 10/18/2012) and Adam and Antony Murphy‘s design, derived from my sketches and produced by a paid contractor in 2013.

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On 10/25/13, after I contacted Adam and Antony Murphy‘s associates and convinced them to withdraw their support to Imaginears Animation Studio’s kickstarter campaign, Adam and Antony Murphy finally contacted me and offered me a deal, which I promptly refused:

They offered credit for the original story and monetary compensation as long as I would stop interfering with their crowd-funding efforts.

The following e-mail  proves:

*That no contract had previously been signed, that would assign them copyrights to my art. If I did sign anything waiving my copyrights away, they wouldn’t have needed to credit me.

*That no contract had previously been signed that would include compensation for my work, otherwise they wouldn’t have had a reason to offer me any more money.

*That they failed to credit me as the original creator for the story and artwork when they initially approached their associates asking them to collaborate.

*That their claims that I was a contractor who produced the artwork as  work-for-hire were false and made up specifically with the intent to convince their associates that I was a lunatic.

 

Shortly after I refused their deal, they setup a now-defunct blog with the intent to defame me which is still available for anyone to read here:

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On their blog, they claimed that I was a former employee of Imaginears Animation Studio and that I had to be let go due to my abusive comments, yet they failed to provide evidence of such a contract or of such termination notice. They accused me of purposely omitting evidence that I was working for them, and yet they couldn’t provide any themselves, at any point, ever.

They at times referred to me as an employee, sometimes as a contractor/freelancer and at times  as a consultant. The variety of terms they used to describe my relationship with them is indicative of the lack of a contract or of an agreement between us and goes to show that I never signed or agreed to give up copyrights to my work.

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Shortly after,  they  updated their LinkedIn page and used it as a public platform to refer to me as “fraudulent” and asked for people  to contact them by e-mail and offer them support.

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On that same day, Adam and Antony Murphy made similar claims in a personal e-mail they sent me, saying that I was working for them at the time and that they weren’t using any of my artwork.

I never signed any contract that would assign them copyrights to my art, I was never compensated for my work, nor I ever demanded to be. I agreed to their request to informally mentor them and they never received my permission to take my artwork and claim it as theirs, nor to use it to crowd-fund a short film. In regards to their claim that they aren’t using any of my artwork, I have clear evidence that they are, as it appears right behind them in their crowd-funding video.

I also have evidence that the artwork they stole from me was not commissioned, nor expected of me under any formal agreement. Below is a conversation that took place between me and the twins in October of 2012, after my return to work from a two-weeks stay-at-home vacation where I devoted myself to produce personal work. My vacation culminated in a big blog post that contained a large amount of sketches that Adam and Antony Murphy later took without my knowledge or permission in order to promote their kickstarter campaign.

The original blog post with my original sketches is still available here:

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On 01/22/14 I received a letter from a solicitor hired by Adam and Antony Murphy, claiming that Imaginears Animation Studio reputation suffered significant damage as a consequence to my “campaign of defamation” and demanding $250,000 in damages in order to offset the losses from their failed kickstarter campaign. I contacted kickstarter and inquired about the alleged $250,000 campaign and found out from a representative that Adam and Antony Murphy‘s campaign was never submitted for review, and never at any point had been live.

This makes Adam and Antony Murphy‘s claims that I was solely responsible for their kickstarter failure void, as their kickstarter was never submitted for review in the first place, therefore I cannot be held accountable for its failure.

In regards to my role in damaging Imaginears Animation Studio “excellent reputation” I argue that they never enjoyed a good reputation in the first place and that any damage has been self-inflicted and due to their repeated misconduct regarding copyright infringement.

Their company name is borrowed from Walt Disney’s Imagineering and their logo borrows the font and the cloud in the background from Disney Pixar’s Toy Story‘s franchise.

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toy_story_3_logoImaginears Animation Studios logo bears a very close resemblance to Andy’s room wallpaper cloud, a very recognizable element that appears repeatedly throughout Pixar’s Toy Story movies


Even the company statement that appears on their LinkedIn page: “Dream like a child, Believe in your playmates, Dare to jump in the water and make waves, Do unleash your childlike potential, Making a Dent in the Universe!” is a blatant ripoff of Bill Capodagli and Steve Jobs.

According to their LinkedInAdam and Antony Murphy graduated college three years ago (2011) and yet to this day they aren’t credited with anything and don’t appear to have any working experience relative to the CG industry. Before their accounts on CG-talk, CG-hub and CG-architects were shut down they showcased no professional work.

Their now-defunct CG-hub page, featured characters from Pixar’s Toy Story 3 in the background, which seems dishonest as they failed to credit Pixar for their work:

Their now-defunct website, used to feature striking similarities to Pixar’s, from the general layout of the page, all the way down the font choice:

Their YouTube channel doesn’t seem to contain any professional work, only tests (they removed all their movies as of 02/20/14:

One of their movies strikes a similarity to a Digital-Tutors fluid simulation tutorial yet fails to credit Digital Tutors for the original content.


Their first and only client, which as far as I am aware of, was also their last, was the workstation business that Adam and Antony Murphy were working for when they first contacted me about two years ago asking me for lighting advice. 

I contacted the business and asked about their experience working with Adam and Antony Murphy and they referred to it as a “total nightmare”.

Another person, who used to work for the same workstation company, described his experience dealing with Adam and Antony Murphy in detail.

In conclusion it seems that Adam and Antony Murphy‘s reputation was not hard-earned and that their claims of irreversible damage are only traceable to their repeated misconduct regarding copyright infringement towards but not exclusively me, Pixar and Digital Tutors.

 

In regards to the possibility that Adam and Antony Murphy could be responsible for my artwork, I still own all the original sketchbooks that contain the drawings they used to promote their crowd-funding campaigns and several hundreds more undisclosed ones, that I created over the course of almost two years. Altogether the massive amount of work in my possession, the distinct style of those pictures and the two years long electronic trail of work that I posted online regarding this project clearly demonstrates that I am solely responsible for both the art and story for my short film.

 

Further evidence that Adam and Antony Murphy would have never been able to produce the images they claim responsibility for due to their lack of draftsmanship, is a copy of a drawing assignment I gave them on 10/02/1012, two weeks prior to my sketches appearing on my blog post.

The title of the assignment I gave them was “Red Riding Hood”.

Thank you for taking your time to read trough all of the information contained on this blog.

Feel free to share the story! Take care!

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