About Me

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Born in Milan, Italy, he moved to the U.S. in order to study animation at Ringling College of Art and Design. After a brief experience in Pixar and Dreamworks he graduated and started working at Blue Sky Animation Studios where he currently helps making movies. He is often found doodling or otherwise painting.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

*SCAM* Adam and Antony Murphys Imaginears - UPDATE *SCAM*

This post is intended to shed light on Imaginears Animation Studio. 

I intended for this post to be as factual and unbiased as possible and its main intent is to share my story in hopes that no more artists will get scammed by them.

This blog post was originally made on 01/23/14 and since then I created a blog specifically designed for hosting the information contained in this article as well as future developments.


The co-founders of Imaginears Animation StudioAdam and Antony Murphy attempted an elaborate scam which involved taking some of my original art and storyboards, which I shared with them during a FREE mentorship, and attempting to pass it as their own in order to crowd-fund a short film through Kickstarter for $250,000. I never signed any contract, I was never compensated nor I ever demanded to be. I agreed to mentor them for free and they never received my permission to take my work and claim is as theirs.

They contacted several artists working at major animation studios such as Pixar Animation Studios, Dreamworks Animation, Sony Pictures Animation and asked them to collaborate and appear as testimonials on their Kickstarter. 
A lot of the people they scammed were former college classmates, good friends, former-co-workers or professionals who were at the most one or two degrees of separation away from me.
None of these professionals were told that the story and artwork pertaining to the short film belonged to me, and that Adam and Antony Murphy took them without my permission and as a consequence of that, all of these artists unknowingly participated to the scam. 
Below I posted a graph of Adam and Antony Murphy’s scam associates.
When their associates and testimonials found out about the scam and withdrew their support, Adam and Antony Murphy setup a now-defunct blog, with the intention to bypass Kickstarter and use PayPal in order to receive $110,000 in funds for their short film. 
Their 2nd attempt to crowd-fund the short film failed as well within 24 hours of going live. 
Below is an incriminating video that appeared on their now-defunct crowd-funding blog that features the two of them standing in front of prints of my original art and storyboards, as they pitch a short film idea that they refer to as “Steampunk-AL”. 
A copy of their original video can be found here (click to open):

For those not familiar with them, I previously introduced their scam, on my blog, in October of 2013: here.
Long story short, they are two Scottish individuals who I mentored by e-mail at their own request for several months *at no cost* up until they scammed me by selling me what they repeatedly referred to as a "workstation" (a high performance personal computer) and instead sold me a render node (a computer intended to render images as part of a render farm *not suitable for interactive work/content creation*).

They claimed they were going to use my money to buy me a software license and instead bought themselves a software license which they temporarily leased to me and shortly afterwards transferred onto themselves without notifying me.

Afterwards Adam and Antony Murphy attempted an elaborate scam which involved taking some of my original art and storyboards, which I shared with them as part of my mentorship, and attempted to pass it as their own in order to crowd-fund a short film through Kickstarter for $250,000.
They contacted several artists working at major animation studios such as Pixar Animation Studios, Dreamworks Animation, Sony Pictures Animation and asked them to collaborate and appear as testimonials on their Kickstarter.

Above: A comparison between my original designs and Adam and Antony Murphy's.

Above: A comparison between my original design, Russell from Pixar's "UP" and Adam and Antony Murphy's

Above: A comparison between my original designs and Adam and Antony Murphy's.

When their associates and testimonials found out about the scam and withdrew their support, Adam and Antony Murphy setup a now-defunct blog, with the intention to bypass Kickstarter and use PayPal in order to receive $110,000 in funds for a short film idea.

Their 2nd attempt to crowd-fund the short film failed as well within 24 hours of going live.

On 01/22/14 I received a cease-and-desist letter from a solicitor hired by Adam and Antony Murphy. 

The cease-and-desist letter claims that Imaginears Animation Studio reputation suffered significant damage as a consequence to my campaign to expose their scam and demands compensation from me for at least $250,000 which was the amount they intended to raise through the crowd-funding campaign.

I contacted Kickstarter and inquired about the alleged $250,000 Kickstarter campaign and this was their response:
"Thank you for this information. I do see that an account with profile name "ImaginEars Animation Studio" has a started project but it has never been submitted for review and consequently has never been live on the site. This means that it is not publicly viewable at this time."

Above: Imaginears Animation Studios Kickstarter campaign was never submitted for review.

This makes their claim for damages void as their Kickstarter was never submitted for review in the first place and never was live, therefore I cannot be held accountable for its failure.

The following is evidence that Adam and Antony Murphy's Imaginears Animation Studio never enjoyed a good reputation in the first place and that any damage was entirely self-inflicted and due to their repeated misconduct regarding copyright infringement towards but not exclusively me, Disney, Pixar and Digital Tutors. 

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.

Above: A comparison between Walt Disney Imagineering logo and Imaginears Animation Studio logo.

Above: A comparison between Disney Pixar Toy Story 3 logo and Imaginears Animation Studio logo.

Imaginears Animation Studio's 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.

Above: A super-imposition of Imaginears Animation Studio logo and Pixar's Toy Story signature cloud.

Above: A comparison between Imaginears Animation Studio logo and Pixar's Toy Story signature cloud.

According to their LinkedIn, Adam and Antony Murphy graduated college three years ago (2011) and are to this day not credited with anything and don't appear to have any working experience relative to the CG industry.

Above: Adam and Antony Murphy's Experience and Education, as it appears on their linked-in profile.

Yet, less than two years ago (03/29/12) Adam claimed to still be a student and contacted me for advice.

"Can you offer me any advice on creating soft lighting effects for character animation in Maya?"

Above: Adam Murphy's very first e-mail, sent under a different last name (Wormy), for reasons I do not know.

"We would really appreciate it if you could offer us some advice on the lighting and rendering of our character animation."

Above: One of their first e-mails, where (under a different last name) they asked me for lighting and rendering advice.

Three months later Antony Murphy sent me an e-mail asking for lighting advice and he attached a render that featured the character from their first commercial project, which was commissioned by a hardware company specialized in workstations.

Above: Antony Murphy's first e-mail to me, where he too asks me for feedback.

The design of their character 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.

Above: A comparison between Adam and Antony Murphy's character and Pixar's BURN-E character.

Before their accounts on CG-talk, CG-hub and CG-architects were shut down they showcased no professional work.

Their CG-hub page, features characters from Pixar's Toy Story 3 in the background, which seems at the very least unprofessional as they fail to credit Pixar for their work:

Above: Imaginears Animation Studio CG-hub page, featuring Pixar's work in the background.

Their now-defunct website, featured striking similarities to Pixar's all the way down the font choice:

Above: A comparison between Pixar's website (above) and Imaginears Animation Studio (below)

Their YouTube channel doesn't seem to contain any professional work, only tests:


Above: Adam and Antony Murphy's youtube channel doesn't contain any professional work.

One of their movies strikes a similarity to a Digital-Tutors fluid simulation tutorial yet fails to credit Digital Tutors for the original content.

Above: A comparison between Digital-Tutors image and Adam and Antony Murphy's.
Their most recent video on their youtube channel is from two years ago.
Their only client, as far as I am aware of, was the workstation business that Adam and Antony Murphy were working for when they first contacted me about two years ago asking for lighting advice.

I contacted the business and asked about their experience working with Adam and Antony Murphy and they replied:

"Yes I remember the Murphy project from my time at WS. Total nightmare."

Above: An e-mail from Imaginears Animation Studio first and last client

Another person, who used to work for the same business described his experience in detail.

 "Yes they are deceitful, yes they are crafty, yes they are scammers, and yes they have been ripping other peoples work off as their own to get clients to 'buy' into them."

Above: An e-mail from Imaginears Animation Studio first and last client.

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.

The letter then claims that I have selectively edited and taken out of context my conversations with Adam and Antony Murphy.

Those claims are unfunded as I made a conscious effort to post complete unedited e-mails, including original typos, specifically with the intent to be as factual, unbiased and transparent as possible.

The only changes that I made to those conversations prior to posting them, were to remove personal information and to highlight passages of importance in order to dispute the claims put forth in the cease-and-desist letter.

The opposite can be said of Adam and Antony Murphy, who to this day haven't provided evidence in support of their claims of a binding agreement between us that would give them rights to copy, distribute and claim responsibility for my art.

Next the letter claims that the machine I was sold by Adam and Antony Murphy was meant to be used as a (render) node and that I knew this well before purchasing it.
It also states that the software license that they purchased for me was meant to be leased and only limited to the time that I was contracted to work with them.

This is despite lack of evidence that such contract ever existed.

In order to dispute these claim I have no choice but to post several conversations that took place between me and Adam and Antony Murphy. 

The conversations clearly demonstrate that they offered to sell me what they referred to as a "workstation" several times and advertised an incorrect graphic card (they promised a Quadro but delivered an ATI) which goes against the letter's claims that the machine was advertised as a render node before my purchase. In regards to their spontaneous offer to buy me a Renderman Studio license with a portion of the money that I would send them for the workstation, they fail to inform me that the license would be leased and only at the condition that I would produce training material for them.

Their first mention that the license was essentially only leased to me occurs three months after the money transaction, after I informed them that due to the nature of the machine that they sold me I was unable to produce any training material.

Unsurprisingly at no point in our conversations prior to the purchase, there is a single mention of a binding contract between me and Adam and Antony Murphy and in fact during several of my conversations with them they specifically write:

"we also purchase a renderman license, for you because we knew we couldn't repay the advice you continue to give us. And we thank you for that. :) "

"When we get you a renderman studio license, you'll be able to make tutorials to your hearts content :O)"

Their statements don't indicate any condition to my access of the renderman license and in fact, the expression "to your heart's content" suggests an unconditional access to it.


At this point I thought I had *only* been scammed for money and time.
Almost a whole year later, in an attempt to mentor some friends of mine back in school, I tried to use the Renderman 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 back the license onto themselves *without notifying me*.

Above:  An e-mail from a Renderman Sales associate informing me that the license was only leased to me.

I created a new message and typed in Adam's name as the recipient for the e-mail and realized his avatar was a painted rendition of one of my designs from 10/10/12.
I immediately contacted him and reminded him that he had no rights to my work.

Above:  Adam and Antony Murphy's avatar, displaying a painted rendition of my design.

On 10/24/13 I found out through a friend about their Kickstarter campaign and was able to contact their associates and convince them that I was in fact the original creator of the art and storyboards and to withdraw their support to Adam and Antony Murphy.

For almost a whole year, Adam and Antony Murphy took my art and storyboards and sent them to individuals and studios claiming it as their own and asking them to take part into a Kickstarter campaign with the intent to raise $250,000 for the production of a short film.

On 10/25/13, after I successfully contacted Adam and Antony Murphy's associates and convinced them to withdraw their support to Imaginears Animation Studio, Adam and Antony 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. 

"We will give you credit in the finished film for the work that you contributed and a small percentage of the funds we raise from kick starter. That way, you get the credit for your work and you get paid for it. "

Above: Adam and Antony Murphy's offer.
Above:  My refusal.

Shortly after I refused their offer they setup a now-defunct blog with the intent to defame me which is still available here:

In the blog, they claim once again that I am a former employee of Imaginears and that I had to be let go due to my abusive comments, yet fail to provide evidence of such "for-hire" agreement:

Once again, In order to prove that I was in fact creating my artwork without any sort of formal contract, or obligation, I have no choice but to post a conversation that took place between me and Adam and Antony Murphy 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 a mount of sketches that Adam and Antony Murphy later took without my permission and knowledge in order to crowd-fund a short film:


Above: One of the sketches that I made during my stay-at-home vacation.

"ImaginEars Animation Studio and it's Directors have been the subject of an unprecedented online attack by one artist of the CG Industry in the USA. An artist who is in fact a former employee of ImaginEars who had to be let go due to his abusive comments."

Adam and Antony continue in their attacks, claiming that I posted confidential information and that I was working for Imaginears in a consultative role yet fail to provide evidence of such "for-hire" agreement.

"The artist has taken to slandering ImaginEars by posting confidential emails omitting vital evidence to suit his own argument, which proves he was working for ImaginEars. And this is in spite of recognising that he was indeed working for ImaginEars in a consultative role. "

Adam and Antony conclude their argument stating that this is a personal attack due to the fact that I was let go, and yet once gain fail to provide evidence for such claims such as a termination notice. 

"The attack is personal he's not happy that we let him go, and he's hell bent on revenge."

Finally, the last claim contained in the letter that I intend to dispute is that I cannot provide evidence that they copied any of my material:

I have in fact clear evidence that Adam and Antony Murphy copied my work and I also purchased copyrights to my work in the US.

On 10/25/13  Adam and Antony Murphy claimed that I was working for them and that they aren't using any of my artwork.

"We haven't violated any copyright. You were working for ImaginEars Animation Studio when we were all creating the story and designs. You don't hold any copyright over the story and we are not using any of your artwork. "

To this day they haven't provided evidence of such "for-hire" agreement and as their previous mentor, who gave them drawing assignments, provided lighting training material and performed paint-overs and drawing and painting demonstrations *FOR FREE* and under no formal or established obligation, I still claim full copyrights to my artwork.

In response to their claim that they aren't using any of my artwork I have clear evidence proving the exact opposite:

I am in possession of a copy of their crowd-funding video, which appeared publicly on their 2nd attempt to crowd-fund a short film that they refer to as"Steampunk-AL".
In their 2nd attempt at crowd-funding the short film, they setup a now-defunct blog, with the intention to bypass Kickstarter and use PayPal in order to receive funds.

The blog was taken offline less than twenty-four hours after its creation and has been offline ever since.

I took snapshots of that website and also printed physical copies as well.

In the video they appear in front of prints of my original art and storyboards, as they pitch the project.

I took a snapshot of the images as they appear in the footage and compared it to my original art and it is a 100% match.
The storyboards strike a very close resemblance to my own and were created by their associates who were provided my original art and were asked to reproduce it. 

Above: The Murphy Brothers as they appear in their crowd-funding video, standing in front of my art.
Above: my original sketch for a space bus driver.
Above: my original sketch for a space vehicle.
Above: my original sketch for a space school-bus.
Above: my original sketch for a space vehicle.
Above: my original sketch for space bots.
Above:  A picture of six original sketchbooks, which I still own, laid down next to each other.

I posted the vast majority of those sketches over a year ago here on this very blog:

I still own all my original sketchbooks that contain the drawings I posted online 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.

In response to claims that Adam or Antony Murphy could be responsible for my art, Adam Wormy (Murphy) himself admits at one point that he can only draw sticks figures.

"Your drawings are amazing, the way you manage to capture the light. Are there any books or tutorials you can recommend for me to learn how to draw properly? (Basically i can draw stick men and thats it.)"

Above:  Adam Wormy (Murphy) admits he can only draw stick figures.

As much as it pains me to post work from my students online, I find myself forced to provide evidence that Adam and Antony Murphy would have not been able to produce the images they claim responsibility for, due to their lack of draftsmanship and therefore decided to post their rough composition studies for a drawing assignment that I gave them in October of 2012:

The title of the assignment I gave them was "Red Riding Hood".

Above:  Adam and Antony Murphy's drawing assignments from 10/02/2012.

In absence of evidence pointing to a "for-hire" agreement to prove that I ceded copyrights for my art, and given the quality of the work that Adam and Antony Murphy were capable of producing at the time, nobody can claim the art in question as their own, but me.

Above: Time-Stamped pictures I took of my original sketches.

Above: One of very first passes at the storyboards for my short.
Thank you for taking time to read.

Take care! 


Stirling Rank said...

Incredible to think that people have the idiocy to even attempt this in this day and age.

I'm glad you caught them out! Hopefully such cases don't occur in the industry often, this sort of stuff really unnerves me.

GeeGeeMac said...

I'm an artist and animator from Scotland, this is absolutely disgusting behavior.

Perfectly Cromulent said...

Have you considered contacting Disney about some of this? Imaginears is a rip off of Disney's Imagineers and the Toy Story stuff is pretty blatant. Mickey Mouse has an excellent legal team that could crush these guys.

Francesco Giroldini said...

Thank you for the suggestion!

I contacted Disney, Pixar and Digital Tutors and suggested they forward this information to their legal teams.

Take care!

Jonah Sidhom said...

I can't even wrap my head around this. *Everything* they do is blatant theft or plagiarism. Logos, websites, character designs, etc. Even the name "Imaginears." Like seriously, I can't even process this. Biggest "WTF" story I've heard in a long time.

Jonah Sidhom said...

By the way, I *love* your original sketches, and I'm sorry about the whole situation. No artist should have to deal with this stuff, but I think it's awesome how you're responding to it all and in the process educating other artists on the dangers of art thieves out there.

It's also awesome how you gave your time to mentor younger artists, and I don't think the fact that they ended up being completely unworthy of your time should take away from how cool that was of you to do. You definitely have my respect.


Robin said...

I am so sorry that your kind and generous mentoring of these guys who claimed to be students has turned into such a sour and stressful affair. As a student myself I am so grateful for artists taking the time to offer me advice and I really hope that this experience does not put you off helping others in the future.

I'm surprised diseny didnt get them for ripping off their Imagineers Studio (the studio responsible for designing their theme parks).

Good luck with this!

Colin Whiteside said...

I really can't do a big enough facepalm over this. It's unfortunate that so early on in their careers they pull the kind of crap that can get you blacklisted.

Francesco Giroldini said...

Believe it or not they are actually 29 years old.
I know it's hard to believe, especially given the quality of their drawings but they are a few years older than me.
In regards to their current situation, I wouldn't refer to it as"unfortunate" as there is nothing accidental in what they did. They knew exactly what they were doing all along.

Thank you!

paige said...

Wow, incredible. It always astounds me when I hear these stories...what gall people have to blatantly rip someone else off -let alone someone who was actually being nice and mentoring them. It sounds like they wanted to bypass the years and years of dedication and study and hard work it takes to be an artist in their big rush to dent the Universe. I'm sorry. Glad you're calling the out.

Alishea said...

Those guys are totally out of line, disgusting and unoriginal, and I feel so bad you are experiencing the ridiculousness of this situation.

There's a lot of lessons that can be learned from this, but I hope one of the repercussions will NOT be that artists stop mentoring other aspiring artists. Because for those of us who actually want to get better at our craft, and not be total jerks, learning from others is the best way to improve as you grow.

Thanks for sharing this. Really hope those guys are internet-shamed and take responsibility for their actions and do the right thing.

Francesco Giroldini said...

Don't worry, I won't let this experience change who I am!

Thank you for your support!

romojo said...

Hi Francesco,
Thanks so much for sharing your story! It is terrible that there are people like this out there! They don't seem to realize that while they pursue their own selfish interests, they are damaging something great in our industry. Kickstarter and collaborative short films are so important and its terrible that artists have to be so cautious, even with fellow artists. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

These people won't change my support for independent projects or trying to help aspiring artists. In the end these guys hurt themselves more than anyone. Even if one day they make great art no one will work with them.

CLo said...

Complimenti per i tuoi lavori e per la generosità che hai mostrato aiutando degli studenti.
La cosa che spiace leggendo, oltre a vedere lo stupro del tuo lavoro da parte di questi viscidesseri, è sapere che non lo farai mai più e che tanti altri artisti eviteranno.
La cosa che mi consola e che spero avvenga presto per questi bastardi è sapere che nell'ambiente dell'animazione il furto del lavoro degli altri viene considerato un "unforgivable sin" e punito con anni di esclusione da qualsiasi tipo di lavoro.

In bocca al lupo, spero tu non debba mai più incontrare sul tuo cammino persone di questo genere. Grazie per averli denunciati.

Geoffrey Hajim said...

Mahalo for sharing. I hope something awesome comes out of all this strife for you.