Claynosaurz: An Overnight Success, 20 Years In The Making 🦖
Claynosaurz vibrant character designs have caught the attention of major animation studios around the world, they are on a journey to disrupt an entrenched traditional industry.
Nicholas ‘Cab’ Cabana and Andrew Pelekis are childhood friends who reunited after twenty years. They are on a mission to reshape storytelling with the Claynosaurz, “cute, colorful, mostly clay dinosaurs looking for adventure”.
Their whimsical animated shorts rack up millions of views each week.
In an industry dominated by giants like Pixar and DreamWorks, Claynosaurz has emerged as a formidable player in the animation world.
Today we dig deep into:
the Claynosaurz origin story
leveling the playing field for creatives
solving the most difficult problem for web3 founders
competing with the archaic traditional systems
Cab and Andrew’s favorite childhood cartoons
inspiration for the Claynosaurz designs
…and much more!
The duo grew up together in Montreal before heading off to different universities. Cab went the creative route while Andrew pursued finance.
Twenty years later they came together to build Claynosaurz, this is their story.
Cab: I really believe that Claynosaurz will have been a unicorn event. There are so many little things that give us an edge.
I was so lucky to grow up with Andrew, and it turns out that Andrew’s experience and rolodex of the investment sector is huge.
Oftentimes you see young startups, especially NFT companies go “I’m going to be an IP company but I don’t know who to talk to, how do I do this?”
We didn’t have that.
Cab: That’s where Andrew came into the mix and since then we’ve built ourselves up for success.
We have the trust factor because all of us have known each other growing up. We made our lives and then came back to start something together.
It’s been a really special journey.
Andrew: Trust is a big one with creatives.
There is a lot of distrust all around the entertainment sector.
You’ve got guys on our team who have contributed in very material ways to some of the biggest intellectual properties on the planet.
You won’t even find their names in the credits.
Andrew: They get two-timed by business managers, boardrooms of people who have never met them.
Guys that fall into the general court of my background.
I’ve known Nick for a long time so there is a good element of trust that allows me to operate and do the best I can for them.
There’s also a web3 democratic ethos of “These guys were putting in the value, let’s reward them for the value.”
What is the hardest thing you have encountered as a founder?
Andrew: I think that Nick will have a very similar answer.
With managing a hedge fund you have a dozen or so investors and you report to them every quarter, or every year.
Now we’ve got thousands of folks that are invested in the product.
Andrew: They want updates every single day, all the time, it becomes really tough to manage.
The community want to help and there are a lot of great nuggets of gold in there.
But it falls through all this noise.
It’s really tough to manage expectations of a larger community that has infinite access.
Cab: There are ways of doing it correctly, and there are ways of doing it wrong.
Where the balancing act happens is you’re keeping that audience engaged, excited and fed.
You’re also trying to build out a company at the same time and make sure you’re doing the right moves. I’m proud that we’ve done a really good job of educating the collectors, our community.
Cab: That greater calling on Solana really helps, like “These are going to be the guys that get us there. So let them cook a little bit.”
It has really worked in our favor. A lot of it comes from confidence.
We rarely answer to FUD.
We’re very confident in where we’re going to go and where this can end up.
Cab: However, we don’t want to be tone deaf. We want to make sure that the community feels very much seen and part of the process.
Everything needs to be carefully thought out.
The web3 demographic wants you to deliver quickly, solutions they think would [cause] the floor price to rise.
Unstainable moves that typically destroy a company early on in it’s incubation phase.
Cab: It’s tough to educate them on “If we do this now, you’ll see floor price rise for a bit. But we may not be around next year.”
It’s a very careful choreography of approaching both spaces at the same time.
It’s a lot of sleepless nights but ultimately it’s worth it.
Marrying the timeline between company building for IP takes time. It naturally takes time to build entertainment, brand relationships.
One year in web3 is like 10 year is IRL.
Having that timeline of IP building and company building into the expectations that exist in web3 is the tough part.
What are you looking forward to the most this year?
Andrew: In 2023, I don’t want to say “soul searching” but like any good startup we searched for product market fit.
This is a question that a lot of web3 projects are asking, especially in the IP space.
“How do I get to the next level?”
We spent a lot of the year not just thinking about that question but answering it with real intent.
Andrew: Now that we’ve had this success we need to figure out what’s the company look like. Who are we going to hire to fill in these different gaps?
We needed to get the company foundations set up.
We’ve just moved into a new office.
It smells like fresh paint when we open the door, half the desks are made, and we’re waiting for carpeting in our screening room.
Andrew: The boring stuff.
The legal stuff. The HR. The payments stuff.
2023 had a lot of background stuff, it’s not outward facing to the community.
Going forward to 2024 we’ve got all guns blazing.
We’ve got a content team that’s putting out stuff on a regular basis.
If you project from where we are today you’re talking about hundreds of millions of purely organic, not a dollar spent on marketing, views.
Since November 2023, the Claynosaurz Instagram has:
• Posted 17 videos
• Gained 99K followers
• Garnered 37M+ views
• Received 500K+ shares
Andrew: Then it’s the continuation of the plushies and launching more of these collectible toys.
We’re thinking heavily about the experience and what it looks like, the digital companion.
Andrew: It’s this place we think a new community can emerge and be existed by our existing community.
Bring everything together.
We’re going to have the beginning parts of that launching throughout the year, we’re hoping to go into beta by 2025.
Cab: The speed at which we did things year one, while trying to figure out company structure, is absolutely bonkers by any web2 standard.
It’s just lunacy.
What excites me is the presence that’s not car salesmanship-like.
A genuine presence where people take us seriously.
Cab: Parents are looking at us. Kids are looking at us. Everybody is looking at us.
And we’ll be the guys that did it.
We’re confident that by the end of this year we’ll be in a place that we’re close to a brand that appeals to many, many, many people.
Cab: We know that we have an advantage.
We’re talking to big studios.
We’re talking to triple-A game studios.
We’re talking to media distributors.
All of them are hungry for new IP.
All of them welcoming these talks with open arms.
It’s not like we’re knocking on any doors begging for them to look at us. It’s the opposite.
Cab: It makes me excited to hit the ground running this year.
Focus on content, get people to fall in love with the characters.
That’s how you find consumers, people have to love it.
Cab: We’ll have hyper limited runs, blind boxes and standard lines that represent hero characters.
This year, it’s about accruing familiarity and love for the brand in and out of the ecosystem.
Positioning ourselves to be an IP superpower.
Tell me about your alignment with Koto Studio.
Cab: That’s an awesome story, Koto rarely does this with companies of our size.
They’re like “We really vibe with the look of your characters. This is fun for us.”
They had only worked with one web3 company previously.
It’s Spotify. It’s Netflix. Uber.
Cab: It’s a firm that wins design awards.
It speaks to me that there are a lot of web2 eyeballs that takes us very seriously off the merits of design.
That’s our super power.
Had we not told you we are an NFT product you never would have known.
That’s the point.
We’re optimists building brand and digital for the most impactful companies of today and the founders defining tomorrow.
What animated shows or characters were your favorites when you were younger?
For talking cartoons I loved the more cinematic stuff, like Feivel Goes West.
I love when cartoons used to be a little bit darker.
I used to love those!
I watched The Simpsons pretty early on, I was born in ‘89.
Andrew: Those were the first cartoons that became something I could watch when I was 20.
I think The Simpsons set the stage for that, even today I can watch The Simpsons and enjoy it.
Futurama and Family Guy, you wouldn’t even watch that with a nine year old necessarily.
Did any of these cartoons inspire the Claynosaurz?
It’s really a focus on pop colors.
If you look at Rio, it’s all about colors. Minions as well.
Cab: When you’re dealing with 3D animation, or 3D character design, it’s hard to make it appealing.
It could feel it lacks just a little bit of magic. It can be lackluster.
We needed to do something that’s hyper appealing.
Nobody was doing that in the space.
We wanted to have these beautiful shapes, beautiful colors, things that hook you and feels like you’re in a candy shop.
Pokémon was a big inspiration for the different color pallets that they use.
Cab: In terms of humor, again we were heavily inspired by Illumination, the stuff that DreamWorks does really well.
There’s a humor that can appeal to adults even though the kids don’t actually know.
They think it’s a slapstick joke, but really it’s an adult joke. I love that.
The Land Before Time was really appealing to us, not just from a design point of view but their ability to go from different tonalities.
Cab: You can go from adventure and super happy-go-lucky, and then you go SUPER DARK for a bit.
Nowadays we’re too safe with kids.
What we want to approach is to be able to explore different tonalities.
You can be scary. You can be super epic. You can be funny.
You can get serious at times.
How To Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, they all do a phenomenal job of exploring different tonalities and I think that’s what makes it super watchable.
Cab: The most important one we’re looking at is Bluey.
They do such a phenomenal job of making it watchable for adults that it’s almost become a meme.
It’s high level, mature branding that can target the super young age group because the colors are beautiful.
There’s also a sleekness to it that looks professional and accessible to adults.
The beauty of it resonates in the NFT space.
Cab: Look at how Azuki does their branding, it’s extremely minimalistic, it’s sleek.
You can bring that into content.
Cartoons, that are catered to kids because it will work for the kids and it also makes it extremely consumable for the adults as well.