Fuse Group has added another pillar of its strategy to assemble a diversified collection of visual effects firms with the acquisition of Madrid-based El Ranchito, known for its work on such fantasy blockbusters as “The Mandalorian,” “Game of Thrones” and “Stranger Things.”
El Ranchito is the latest acquisition for the parent company of FuseFX, FOLKS and Rising Sun Pictures. Fuse Group, backed by EagleTree Capital, aims to be a large-scale, full-service provider of vfx services with reach and expertise in major media markets in Asia, Latin America, Europe and other markets beyond the U.S.
David Altenau, Fuse co-founder and chairman, and Fuse Group CEO Sébastien Bergeron have been building up the company with private equity backing from EagleTree, since 2018. El Ranchito brings to Fuse’s portfolio specific expertise in a high-end fantasy effects and reach in an important European market.
Fuse Group is designed to operate not as a centralized conglomerate but as a “a tightly networked group of elite (vfx) studios,” Altenau told Variety. The goal is to have a number of labels with their own management teams, specialities and client relationships. At the same time, when one firm gets into a crunch on a project, there should be plenty of help at the ready, he said.
“One thing that’s happening more and more is that projects scale and scale — there’s no end to utlizing visual effects,” Altenau said. “All the studios expect us to respond to that growth and deliver on time. For a (vfx) studio of 400-500 artists to be able to tap into potentially 200-300 artists all ultimately led by the same leadership, that’s significant.”
Bergeron emphasized that Fuse Group has sought out its acquisition targets carefully, looking for owners with similar operational philosophies.
“The artistic side of this company is driving this,” he said. “We’re looking for great brands that have their own niche.”
El Ranchito, founded in 2004, will continue to operate autonomously out of Spain, with about 200 artists under its roof. Co-founder Félix Bergés will continue to lead the group.
“We are excited to become a part of the Fuse Group,” said Bergés, who is managing director of El Ranchito. “We have a common ethos with similar longstanding approaches to visual effects work, and our shared goal is to offer top-notch VFX services wherever clients most need them. We know this partnership is the right next step for us in achieving that shared vision.”
Fuse Group’s model offers financial consistency and administrative support to its companies. The lack of business experience and solid cash-flow foundation was one of the factors that doomed a wave of vfx firms that started in the 1990s and early 2000s but were out of business within a decade. Private equity financing such as EagleTree’s investment in Fuse Group, has brought much-needed stability to the sector, Altenau asserted.
“The business is maturing,” Altenau said. “The studios have more respect for what we contribute to their storytelling. It’s a better partnership and it feels like there’s a lot of upside.”
With the addition of El Ranchito, Fuse Group has operations in the U.S. Canada, Latin America, Australia and Spain.
(Pictured: David Altenau and Sébastien Bergeron)
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