Lumenas History

Lumenas Animation Studios established a base of operations in downtown Salt Lake City to take advantage of lower operating costs and a large talent pool of digital artists residing within the state.

Housed within a 50,000 square foot studio, Lumenas provides a full-service solution for feature animation, visual effects, and film property development —from the basic concept to the final film print.

Formed in 2005 by Darin McDaniel, Lumenas Animation Studios established a base of operations in downtown Salt Lake City of those lower costs and the close proximity to two notable universities —

BYU and University of Utah (Uof U). Both institutions have long histories with the arts and sciences, specifically as pioneers in 3D graphics and computer animation. Darin McDaniel had seen notable success in the distribution division of MGduring the 90’s and joined a Utah-based film company to oversee production and distribution. While in Utah, he began collaborating with a consortium of local animation companies to produce feature films which promoted positive family values. During that time period, Darin produced the 45-minute proof-of-concept film, Davie & Golimyr, based on the story of David and Goliath. Davie & Golimyr has gone on to win several awards and continues to attract attention. Later, Darin began developing the animated feature, The Legend of Santa Claus (Part 1 is in pre-production, with parts 2 and 3 in development). Meanwhile, he continues to build a slate of animated and live-action feature films which include 1) The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (in pre-production), based on the bestselling children’s book, 2) Circustyria, an animated musical about a traveling circus during World War I and 3) Roedo Bronx, a coming of age animated adventure.  Housed within a 50,000 square foot studio, Lumenas provides a full-service solution for feature animation, visual effects, and film property development —from the basic concept to the final film print.




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Our Focus

To Engaged, Entertain, and inspire global audiences through the art form of motion pictures





Make me like your character, and I will follow him to the center of the earth. I will fight with him in the trenches; I will slog through the bogs, brave tsunamis, and face down volcanoes for him. If I like your character, I won’t just read your book, I’ll ache when it’s over, buy it in hard cover just so I never have to say goodbye, re-read it until it’s dog-eared, and welcome that character to a permanent place in my heart. In short, I’ll love him forever – and you have at least one rabid fan for life.

— Author Unknown


Lumenas Creative Think-tank

To be human is to be part of a story-telling culture. Whether gathered beneath a canopy of stars by firelight, or sitting shoulder to shoulder in a modern theatre waiting for the projector to stir to life. In good times, and bad, stories hold the promise of escape, exhilaration, and the connecting of lives to something shared and universal. It is in the pursuit of such a promise that Lumenas Studios was formed. But that is only half the story. We view the filmmaking process to be like the proverbial kite: where some balk at being constrained or tied down, we know that without the string the kite can never soar. So we welcome restraint, due diligence, efficiency, and innovation. We believe such discipline only furthers our creative passion, and provides a tremendous opportunity for those who desire to take the journey with us.


Lumenas does not limit ourselves to just one technology or revenue stream. We have strict business principles and leverage them across many aspects of the Entertainment Industry. By assembling this dynamic and diverse group of industry leaders, we are uniquely positioned to bring many opportunities to market. Lumenas’ development group is a “creative think-tank” that seeks to tell enduring and meaningful stories, which will inspire and motivate patrons to see more films. We don’t limit ourselves to just one genre or story methodology. Our prime objective is to create franchise films, which will lead to sequels and strong product merchandising opportunities. Furthermore, we seek to leverage our intellectual properties across multiple verticals markets in the Content Licensing and Entertainment Industries. It is our desire to build creative bridges and prefer to foster long-lasting relationships versus quick fixes. By assembling dynamic and diverse groups of industry leaders, we are uniquely positioned to bring many opportunities to market. Telling the origin story of this great giver was a natural first choice for kicking off Lumenas’ animation films.

Over the years, we have observed studios develop films that are niche-specific (genre or R-ratings) and do not draw in a large audience demographic and thus are doomed from the start in gaining healthy box office revenue. As is discussed in in our Company Mission Statement, Lumenas’ product development philosophy targets a global appeal while focusing on the broadest age demographic possible.


The Golden Egg

Filmmakers, studios and distributors around the globe have long sought after the golden matrix to successfully guarantee audience appeal, worldwide allure and box office success of a feature film. Statistically, PG or PG-13 rated films have the greatest probability for blockbuster box office success as the whole family can see them. Also, quality animated features have consistently outperformed most live action films over the past two decades. The greatest financial gains come from capturing the broadest demographic such as parents, children, grandparents, and the young adult population. Licensing, merchandise and home entertainment are also tremendous revenue streams within this genre.


Having success securing studio contracts for both live-action and feature animated films, Lumenas has diversified its production slate to focus on 3 proven areas of revenue generation in the film industry: 1) Feature Animated Films (The Legend of Santa Claus & Bad Unicorn), 2) Children’s/Family Features (The Best Christmas Pageant Ever & Hallelujah Handel’s Messiah), and 3) Live Action Visual Effect films (TBA ).



What We Think Makes a Good Story

To consistently create a story which universally appeals to international audiences as well as all ages is a true science within the art of filmmaking. Very few filmmakers have repeatedly found such success. In order for a commercially popular film to have dramatic depth, strong pacing, humor, intrigue, adventure, and suspense it must typically:

  • Establish a universally appealing story
  • Create a likeable, but flawed hero
  • Develop a compelling Hero’s journey
  • Adhere to the popular “Buddies Film” format
  • Create a memorable villain with depth
  • Present a strong love interest that has appeal to the female and male audiences

Star Wars, Shrek, Toy Story, and How to Train your Dragon, are examples of international blockbusters that include all of these critical story elements.




All stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams and movies. There known collectively as the THE HERO’S JOURNEY. Understanding these elements and their use in the modern writing is the object of our quest. Used, wisely, these ancient tools of the storyteller’s craft still have tremendous power to heal people and to make our world a better place.

–Christopher Volger, Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screenwriters

Universal Appeal: The Most Important Element in an Animated Film is…

You said Story, right? You hear this rhetorical question all the time — what are the three most important things in an animated film? Story, story, story, goes the standard answer. Although we agree this is absolutely critical to a film’s success, we also believe there is something even more important to creating a Worldwide Blockbuster, something the audience doesn’t have to watch the entire film to appreciate. . .

It’s Appeal.

There are many well-crafted critically acclaimed films which have brilliant story structure and have high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, but lack the broad audience appeal to be financially successful. Because of the larger budgets and specialized marketing required for animated films, general audience appeal is critical. There is no internationally known character more appealing, or loved, trusted, or celebrated than Santa Claus.

There are certain expectations and perceptions of Santa Claus that must be honored in order to deliver the familiar charm and timeless Appeal of this massive commercial brand.



Animation: A Global Language

The Animation Industry / A Global Language The animation industry continues to move beyond cultural and geographic boundaries as it captures the imaginations of viewers world-wide and bridges the cultural gap. Theatrical animated films consistently generate over a billion dollars in revenue, making this medium the most successful and opportunistic segment in the film industry. Animation is synonymous with storytelling. And, similar to the many colors from a paint pallet, this ever-varied method of sharing stories can be found the world over: from the great plains of the United States to the highlands of Scotland and from the jungled rainforest of the Amazon to the ancient cities of China. No matter where you go you are certain to find wondrous yarns, fascinating histories and the most culturally cherished parables passed along through the power of animation. It is a universal language by which all stories can be told, great and small, historical and fantastic. It is the vocabulary of young and old alike, an artistic medium of expression like no other.


In the early 1990’s Judith Moncrieff coined the term “Tradigital” defining it as art that combines both traditional and computer-based technologies to create an image. Some years later, DreamWorks Studio head, Jeffrey Katzenberg, adopted the term, “Tradigital Animation,” as the merging of traditional and digital animation techniques. He identified Toy Story, Antz, Shrek, Ice Age, and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron as early examples of this medium. As the CG animated film market matures, audiences will be looking for the next big thing. That fresh look, that new technique, or perhaps a new twist to a once popular medium.


Likewise, Lumenas has embraced “Tradigital” by determining which production medium or combination mediums will truly enhance and define the character of the film versus espousing a One-size-fits-all solution to a slate of properties. Consequently, Lumenas has been developing a hybrid technique that combines two of the most successful filmmaking processes in use today — computer generated (CG) animation and stop motion. People familiar with block buster films such as Frozen, Despicable Me, Ice Age, and Toy Story will already be familiar with CG animation. Likewise, those who are familiar with Box Trolls, Nightmare Before Christmas, or Wallace and Gromit will know the charm of stop-motion and miniature sets and props. However, it is their combination where the strengths of each medium are maximized, that Lumenas has developed a production technique that takes both mediums to a new level — both for cost, aesthetic uniqueness, and quality. We call this mixing of mediums ALL-MOTION.

However, in being faithful to our philosophy, there are certain films that are custom fit for one specific medium and that is equally important to our global vision for the future.

The Business Side

While the theatrical release provides a solid profit foundation, DVD, TV, and other areas (Internet, Airline, etc.) build the house. A DVDrelease realizes roughly half of the theatrical release. On an average animated film, this contributes an additional $110 million to total film revenue. TV and other venues add almost half again the DVD release. Animated films in particular attract repeat views, especially from children. It is this repeat viewing which is widely considered to bolster DVD sales, merchandising and even box office grosses.


  • Merchandising

Merchandising has long been considered a major profit center by the industry and statistics continue to reveal that children drive this sector. Adults will buy plastic cups with Pixar’s Cars on them for their children’s parties, but similarly, not many adults would buy plastic cups with Silence of the Lambs characters on them.

  • Video Games

Animated children’s movies have provided a solid boost to gaming market profits. Many games based on animated films will sell over 600,000 copies at $50 a piece, leading to over $30 million in additional film revenue. A blockbuster movie like The Incredibles will sell over 8m copies, for $400m in additional revenue.


  • Competition

There are only a handful of animation studios in the world that are capable of producing theatrical-quality animation. Competition can be broken down into 3 classes namely, 1) Large Holly­wood Animation Studios such as Pixar, Sony Imageworks, DreamWorks, and Blue Sky 2) US Independent Studios such as Reelfx, 3) International studios such as Arc, Animalogic, Framestore, Reel Effects , and 4) Third-world outsource studios such as Pirana in India.

On average, the large Hollywood animation studios produce at least 1 movie every other year, while the rest release 1 movie every 3-4 years. With the shortage of G and PG-rated films in theatres, there is space for Lumenas to thrive and compete for big box-office returns. In recent years, the small studios have proven capable of competing at the box-office and even winning the coveted Academy Award.


Service Summary

PG-13 Ratings & Franchise Adventure films


PG-13 rated films have their place in box office, especially when focusing on film franchises. Over the past decade franchise films have dominated the yearly top 10 Box Office list. Leading the list is Harry Potter, James Bond, Batman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spiderman, Transformers, TwiIight, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, X-men, etc. These franchises have common elements which include a PG-13 rating, strong visual effects component, and explosive action. Other than Transformers, James Bond, and Twilight, the majority of these films shy away from sexual content, relying on action, humor, and in some cases elements of heavy violence such as the Dark Knight or Die Hard Live Another Day. Traditionally, moderately violent films such as Indiana Jones, the Marvel films, and Harry Potter have had a broader appeal. Worldwide, Hollywood-made adventure films have been highly successful.


Consider the following statistics:

  • 8 out of the top 10 franchises are PG-13 adventure ftIms, whiIe two were a PG-rated , Shrek and Star Wars
  • 15 of the top 20 franchises are PG-13 Adventure ftIms, each grossing over $1B.
  • 18 out of the top 50 franchises had dangerous creatures such as dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, aIiens in Star Wars, orcs, dragons, & hobbits in Lord of the Rings, and an as-sundry list of creatures in Harry Potter and Star Wars



We are now staffing

Are you interested in joining our team?


Behind the Scenes Production

Lumenas continues to put a strong emphasis on visual design our films.


Broad Range of Creative Content

Lumenas currently has two films with Walden Media and Lionsgate.

These films are either in development or ready to go into production.


Our Team

Lumenas has attracted a seasoned leadership team from from the Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, Disney and other major studios.


625 S 600 W, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

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