How a Vancouver Animation Company Created a Smash Hit With Amazon’s Invincible

It really should be no surprise when a local animation studio produces a major hit. After all, 2019’s Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, from Vancouver-based Sony Imageworks, set the bar fairly high.

But on the smaller screen, another Vancouver-produced effort has already achieved a level of popularity enjoyed by very few television shows, and it’s only taken five episodes.

Invincible, from downtown’s Wind Sun Sky Entertainment and its partner company, Skybound North, is about a teenager growing up in a superhero family who finally develops his powers. But like its Amazon brethren The Boys, the show often subverts the genre in creative, violent and hilarious ways.

“We typically focus on creator-driven content for the global marketplace,” says Catherine Winder, CEO and partner at Wind Sun Sky. “There’s nothing we love more than to partner with strong creative voices and visionaries around which we can build franchises.”

That’s clearly what happened here, as Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead and one of the founders of Wind Sun Sky, was able to bring another of his comic book works to life.

Much of the attention given to Invincible has come because of its all-star cast. That starts with 2021 Academy Award nominee Steven Yeun in the title role as Mark Grayson/Invincible.

It has an unbelievably deep bench, too. Sandra Oh and J.K. Simmons play Mark’s parents (with the latter turning in an iconic vocal performance), while Zazie Beetz, Gillian Jacobs, Jason Mantzoukas, Zachary Quinto and Walton Goggins fill out the main cast. It’s not finished there, though: Mark Hamill, Seth Rogen, Mahershala Ali, Jon Hamm and Mae Whitman all show up, along with countless other recognizable names and voices.

While the show was run of the company’s 50-person Vancouver office, Winder and her team set up an L.A. office of about 25 to help cast the show.

“We went after celebrity talent because this property warrants it,” Winder reasons. “And everyone connected with the material in such a positive way. You can see the results—we were able to bring in such a superstar cast and that’s really paid off in terms of the quality of the storytelling.”

Overall, reception to the show has been, in Winder’s words, “overwhelming.” The show, which took some three years to produce, has been trending in the top five on IMDb for weeks, and is holding audience and critic scores over 90 on Rotten Tomatoes.

In particular, there are a few jaw-dropping scenes, notably at the end of the first and fifth episodes that have seemed to resonate with viewers.

“They leave you out of breath, those moments, that’s what’s extraordinary about the property and source material, and the way the scripts have been thought through and written,” says Winder.

“Twists and turns that come at you from out of left field. To hit those moments and beats, the action and the pace of the storytelling is very unique, and needs a lot of attention to specific details because it’s a dramatic, real-stakes story.”

The sixth instalment of the 8-episode arc dropped today. We haven’t seen how the series ends, but it’s a fairly safe bet the show is going to be ordered up for a second season.

For those involved, it’s a source of great pride and accomplishment. “It’s such a great opportunity for the artists in Vancouver,” says Winder when asked what internal reaction has been to the show. “It’s been such an ambitious undertaking, and no easy feat. They pulled off miracle after miracle and everyone is really proud of it, and they should be.”