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.

education

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.

1ed21-license_02

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.

workstation_06

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.

bot_design_russell bot_design vehicle_design

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:

imaginears_blog

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.

omitting_evidence

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.

imaginears_linkedin

 

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:

fb1c7-personal_work

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.

.

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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About francescogiroldini

Originally from Milan, Eataly he spent several years backpacking to school, being bullied by his chain-smoker friends and growing his fabulous hair. He was chubby throughout middle school, had a Mohawk, wore sandals with socks and was made fun for his soft breasts. At age 19 he moved to the U.S. in order to study art and film-making. Upon graduation from Ringling College of Art and Design, he moved to sunny California where he worked at Pixar and DreamWorks Animation Studios. In 2013 he moved to NYC and started working at Blue Sky Studios, where he currently helps making animated movies. He is often found doodling or otherwise painting.
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39 Responses to Imaginears Animation Studio SCAM

  1. Bug says:

    I hope that you are able to get the recognition you deserve for your amazing talent, I hope this awful experience doesn’t put you off further work as you have an awesome gift there, don’t let two idiots ruin that creativity within you. Best of luck for the future and for a quick resolution to this dishonest theft of your talent. Peace.

  2. shizu says:

    Hey!
    Thanks for sharing.

    Seriously! I can’t believe they even had the audacity to defame or sue for scamming you.

    they are truly despicable…

    I’ll definitely spread this out to my friends and colleagues in this industry.

    Lastly, your drawings looks great! Watermark to protect them or something. 😀

    All the best!!!

  3. My pleasure! I know, they had the nerve to waste 8 months of my time, scam me, steal my work, try to make $250,000 out of it and then threaten to sue me. Unbelievable.

  4. V says:

    A good read, It’s unfortunate there are people like that that exist. I’m definitely spreading the word out to my industry friends, but atleast now you have a face of who these scammers are.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Gari Clark says:

    Good on you Francesco and i’m glad that you called them out. People like that make me sick. All the best buddy!

  6. I’m going to be passing this story out to anyone who will hear it. People need to know to stay away from these guys. And honestly, if I were you, I’d look to burn their company to the ground. Sounds drastic, but I cannot abide liars and cheaters.

  7. Paul Gleason says:

    I hope that this incident has not damaged your feelings about the industry. You are a massively talented artist, and people like that are unfortunately drawn to to people like you. I hope for the best in your endeavors, and if anything can be done beyond sharing, please ask.

    • This incident has actually put me in touch with some really generous and kind people I might have never met otherwise. If I decide to take legal action against them, I might ask the community for donations in order to support the cause.
      Thank you!

      • David Young says:

        I would love to support that cause, what they are doing should be punishable criminally. Shoot me an email if you do decide to take legal action. Also, I hope that they haven’t ruined what you have planned for this story, I would also support a Kickstarter of this if it had your name on it.

      • Hi David, thank you for your support! If I decide to ask for the community’s help in taking legal action against them I’ll make a public post and ask for donations. I am planning on producing the short film and several artists already expressed interest in taking part in it. I will keep everyone informed about the production for the short film moving forward!
        Thank you!

  8. Jan says:

    These scammers need to buy themselves new faces and identities soon! LOL

  9. Dayle Hodgson says:

    wow. I went through something very similar before. I mentored some people that I thought I could trust. They then used my work to try and crowd fund a game that almost resulted in me losing my job at Rockstar. Some people sicken me 😦

  10. fraeya says:

    hooo my goodness. What a nightmare. Thanks for putting this out there. It’s disheartening to know that people like this exist; but hey, at least now I know.

  11. Todd Smith says:

    That is just so sad that they were given such a wonderful opportunity to learn and be mentored by such a talented artist, and this is how they chose to waste that gift. People like this not only hurt themselves with their stupid actions, but they hurt the community as a whole. Artists will be more hesitant to help people that actually would like to learn, and rightfully so with stunts like this.

  12. Swainson Holness says:

    Thank goodness you called them out. They would’ve turned a great project to rubbish if they ran away with your creations.You have my support.

  13. Gari Clark says:

    If you ever do decide to go down the ‘legal action’ route, please keep us informed as I will definitely help fund as much as I can to help you out, Francesco. You deserve to see those idiots get the book thrown at them and we all want to see that happen (for you) as well.

    All the best and keep us updated with any new info.

    Gari.

    • Hi Gari, thank you for your support! So far the legal fees have been bearable, but if I decide to sue them, or if they decide to sue me, I might need to ask the community for help. I have a lot of faith in the animation and vfx community and I know what they are capable of doing when they are committed to an ideal.
      thank you!

  14. I’m sorry you had to fight tooth and nail simply to defend the work you’d already done, Francesco. They couldn’t have been in it for anything other than a scam from the start… i mean, the animation industry is so tight and word gets around really quickly; if you rip off ideas or pass off work as your own or are even a bit of a dick to work with, everyone knows it. Still, that doesn’t stop some idiots trying anyway.

    A friend of mine saw his reel appear with someone else’s name on it in a different language!

    Anyway, i’m so glad that you’re past the worst of it and just want to say that i love your work =)))

  15. Paige says:

    Francesco, the only reason they are even getting any amount of attention is because they ripped off a person who is reputable in his business and amazing at what he does (you). I can’t believe that after all of this they still feel that they are entitled to 10,000,000 dollars??? Jeez.
    I noticed that they did change their LinkedIn profile bio and got rid of the information about you.
    If I were you, I’d look into not only suing for copyright infringement (blatant) but also fraud, if you aren’t already. I’ve studied linguistics, and my best friend is currently studying in Scotland, and that is the strangest “Scottish” accent I’ve ever heard. I’m curious as to, as you’ve already pointed out, what their real names are and where they’re actually from. They already have been inconsistent and used two different names, and scam artists usually have many aliases.
    Don’t get brought down by what they say or post, because you and almost every other person in this freaking business knows that they’re full of shit.
    Sending good vibes your way until you bring these a-holes down.

    • Thank you for your support! I really appreciate your good vibes!

    • nerve says:

      I’m Scottish, and I can tell you that these guys are too, or at least they’ve lived here their whole lives – they only sound particularly strange because they have extremely nasal voices, and I guess reading aloud to a camera is leaving their intonation stunted. It’s the same kind of sound as a nervous high-schooler giving a presentation to a whole class.
      Still, be they Scottish or not, they’re really the lowest. Even being from the same country as them is embarrassing.

  16. Miriam says:

    Someone from my animation class shared this today , this is just awful! We hope (me and my classmates) those thieves pay for what they are trying to do, if it helps we are sharing this with other people that we know. I hope those two enjoy the reputation they are getting from their scam. (people from all over the globe are reading this)
    From D.F. City Mexico, best of luck!

    • Thank you so much for sharing it! That’s all I can ask for right now. If they were to actually sue me for $10 million dollars I will probably have to start a fundraiser for my legal defense, but until then… sharing is caring!

  17. eagle3zio says:

    Whoa! Felt sorry for the $2200..

    but, umm.. how’s their life by now? i mean, is there any new information about those jerks?

  18. Nick Motrich says:

    Now we know the exact origins of the “No good Scotsman” fallacy.

  19. Hi Francesco,
    My name is Myriam and I works as senior texture artist in the industry of SFX (since ” way-too-long” )
    A colleague and friend sent me this link and I read it all …and I’m horrified by your experience and extremely motivated to help you and supporting you to let the veil down.
    I shared on Facebook this adress of blog , if you don’t mind? To share your story as I have many colleagues (Art Concept artists as well) and hoping that everybody would read it and share it as well.
    Thank you so much for putting so much time and efforts to make this blog alive and tell your story to us and believe that I admire the way you fence for yourself and fence for the rights of authors like you , for the truth and against scamers like those 3…. They are so many… I can see that now.
    Recently, I read an article about how Juan Torres, a Comic artist creator, saw two of his books (that I’m quite fan of!) , were adapted in movies! …Except , that it was supposed to be “originals stories” (what a joke!)
    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2016/01/16/swipe-file-the-veil-and-the-suicide-forest/#.VpyxOSsX46s.facebook
    Fighting for your rights as an author is now mandatory? Are the authors not protected by a the sacred intellectual Right of property?
    I’m with you with all my heart.
    Kindest Regards,
    My

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