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Radar: Le Cube

Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Not to Scale-repped, South American animation studio on inspirations, a first Cannes Lion with Ayrton Senna, and sailing around the globe

Based in Buenos Aires and São Paulo, Le Cube is a self-proclaimed “crew of crazy sailors”.The nautical theme of the animation collective’s persona is an ode to theirglobal viewpoint and position – Le Cube is the metaphorical ship that sails them to various docks around the world. However, no matter where a job goes down, the trio promises “a little bit of Latin spice” within every project. Made up of Creative Director Ralph Karam and Executive Producers Gustavo Karam(brother or Ralph) and Juan Manuel ‘JuanMa’ Freire (former owner of Argentine creative agency Animal), Le Cube picked up their first Cannes Lion in June; a Silver in Augmented Mobile Experience for their work for the Instituto Ayrton Senna. LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Gustavo to find out more.

LBB> Where did the three of you meet and why do you think you work well together?

GK> Ralph is my older brother and ever since I can remember he has been designing things like stickers, T-shirts, poster-bombs, covers for CDs and DVDs. As for myself, I have always known that I like to talk with people and that I have a way with words; I can explain myself easily and occasionally sell ideas. So it has always been this way – him having a vision and engaging me in it, turning me into his front man. After Ralph founded Le Cube, he realised there were two gaps to fill: someone who could be a sales front man and someone who could do what we couldn’t, i.e. turn Le Cube into a serious company. At that time, JuanMa contacted Ralph to do a project together for his former digital agency, Animal. Although JuanMa´s project didn't materialise, they became friends and when JuanMa decided to close Animal, Ralph invited him to join Le Cube as partner, thus filling in these gaps. Our dynamics couldn’t be better: we share the same values, the same good taste; our objectives are aligned, but our skills and personalities are totally different and complementary. You definitely need to see the three of us at a party to discover how explosive things can be.

LBB> Who and what have been your influences?

GK> The three of us have had different influences. Ralph is much more into the art and graphic design scene. He always brings names such as Cassandre, Shepard Fairey and Saul Bass. JuanMa comes from cinema; he has a degree in this field and is himself a cinematographer. I can't deny that I really like advertising and I get my inspiration from guys like Marcello Serpa, Dan Wieden, Renato Fernandes and several others. Other production companies and studios have also had a big influence in our story. Not to Scale, for example, who is now our rep in Europe and the USA, was a big reference for us. I think it’s important to mention that Bob Dylan, Nirvana and the Beastie Boys are, for sure, common grounds for all of us.


LBB> I’ve read that your work is inspired by urban culture - can you elaborate on that a bit more? How does it influence your output?

GK> Ralph's first big project was with urban intervention working with graffiti and poster-bombs. JuanMa, as mentioned before, is a cinematographer, with projects such as documentaries about musicians. And I used to be a DJ and I still do band photography in my hometown. Ralph and I used to play in rock bands as well. We come from a generation that grew up in big cities, being a part of subcultures like grunge, indie... It was the natural thing to express all this urban life experience in our work.

LBB> You describe yourselves as a “crew of crazy sailors” - why the nautical theme?

GK> Right from scratch, the idea was never to position ourselves as a local South American studio. Instead, we have always hired talented people from all parts of the world, worked for clients from different countries, and we have developed a production pipeline that makes everyone feel like there are no borders among us. Thus the nautical theme was conceptually perfect. Le Cube is our ship that allows us to set sail to wherever we need to go, with a crew of adventurous souls from different parts of the world. The 'crazy’ part was just to add some spice to it; ‘bastards’ would have been a little too intense!

Let me add that we hate the corporate way of communication: the ‘regards’ at the end of e-mails and the way that a lot of businesses forget that we are all humans who eat and crap. Corporations treat others like robots. The way we communicate is also part of our philosophy, i.e. to be light, spontaneous and exchange much more than just money for services. We exchange a part of our lives, our time and at the end, there is also a bit of our souls.


LBB> How would you characterise your style?

GK> We don’t pigeon-hole ourselves into a particular style, but it's natural to end up following Ralph´s creative vision – to always search for elegant art direction and characters and animations much more oriented towards craft productions. 2D Cel animation character design is something we love. Now, we still have fun doing motion graphics and part of our current plan is to produce more 3D projects and mix techniques.

LBB> In terms of character design, what’s your starting point? Do you like to think quite graphically and stylistically or do you use personality as a springboard?

GK> The process of creating characters varies from one project to another. In many projects, we create characters’ personality descriptions. And we even try to find references or inspiration in existing personalities. Sometimes characters are there to collaborate with the feeling or atmosphere we are creating in a scene. In this case, in general, we go straight to the designs without really developing a personality. An interesting technique that we are starting to explore is to use some of the Visagism aspects of face and body proportions to highlight the personality of the characters. This is something new to us, so we will be able to tell if it works in a few months.

LBB> Which piece of work are you most proud of and why?

GK> I think that each one of us has our favourite project. For me it was Senna, in the Heart of Brazil. Ayrton Senna, the F1 driver, was someone who has really inspired me since I was a little boy. On the other hand, to make the project feasible was a big challenge, not only in the creative aspect but also in the executive production. So, to win Cannes, Bass Awards and Creation's Club Brazil with something so elaborate, and at the same time, with so much symbolism for my life, was amazing. I am pretty sure that this work has a piece of our souls in it.