Roc Bottom Studios is located next to Heroes and Dragons, one of the biggest comic shops in the city, Corey Davis said. (Photos by Shakeem Jones)

Roc Bottom Studios has sketched itself into Columbia history as the city’s first commercial animation studio. 

The studio, located inside the graphics shop Soda City Art on Bush River Road, opened its doors Nov. 1. It focuses on animation and comics, said Corey Davis, owner of Roc Bottom Studios. 

Davis, animator and comic creator, said he opened the studio for him and other artists he has worked with over the years to have a space to develop and grow their projects. It’s convenient for everyone to have the studio in Columbia, because local creatives don’t have to move to places such as California or South Korea, where animation is most popular. 

“We’ve successfully created a safe haven for local artists and animators to come and make their comics and animations — and pretty much give them a launching pad into a much bigger universe that is animation,” Davis said. 

While he originally only worked on comics, moving to animation was a natural progression for Davis, who was introduced to animation by his friend, Michael Sofoluke, one of the animators for music videos for the band Gorillaz.

“My comfort zone is being within the realm of the developmental aspect– the pre-production, the character design, the storyboards, and you know, just overall, the direction of it,” Davis said. 

Davis said the seeds of opening an animation studio in Columbia were laid in 2014. A possible location in Rosewood was in the works but ultimately fell through. Later on, Davis revisited the idea, but the pandemic halted those plans, he said. 

“We would become close, and then something would go down, and you know, it wouldn’t happen,” Davis said. “And now here we are – it’s open and ready to go.”

Davis said Roc Bottom Studios are focusing on local talent and has several creatives it’s working with. 

Robert “Heel” Carmichael is one of the studio’s in-house writers. He is working on a comic series called “Strong Style,” which is expected to be released next year. The series will be one of the first comics that Davis is not drawing or writing that will be released under his imprint. 

“Strong Style” is about a local street racer trying to leave a criminal lifestyle with the help of a friend who’s involved with the police, all while trying to track down a criminal organization, Carmichael said. 

Carmichael said the studio is a great way to open doors for people, from writers and animators to illustrators. The ultimate goal is to have their work sold to a major streaming service.

“It is very important to have talent coming from Columbia, South Carolina,” Carmichael said.  The business “gives them the opportunity to showcase their own home-grown talent and gives them exposure not only locally, but pretty much state- and nationwide.” 

John Patrick “J.P.” Melendez is an animator working with the Roc Bottom Studios team. Davis said he and Melendez are working on a project called “Shadowclub Karma.”

“In Columbia, it seems like the art scene is growing and developing and turning into an opportunity for artists,” Melendez said. “It’s going to give many, many artists a reason to stay here and work on the things that they want to work on.”

Davis said the studio has a team of around 15 locally based comic artists and animators. It has around another 20 creatives working remotely from as far as London, Nigeria, California and New York.

“They’re scattered all over the place, all over the world, and they know they have a home here at the studio when they come over,” Davis said. 

Davis said he hopes to expand the studio’s connection with other cities. 

“So, that way, (artists) won’t feel like they have to neglect anything here in their hometown to make any type of impact on the industry that they love so much.” 

Corey Davis used his animation, graphic design and writing skills to create Roc Bottom Studios.

Roc Bottom Studios will be participating in the BIPOC Animation Festival at the University of Texas next year.

Part of Davis’ work area inside Roc Bottom Studios

Roc Bottom Studios is writing and pitching animated series to streaming platforms.