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In love with animation

Time to abandon the restraints of reality

Disney's Robin Hood
Disney's Robin Hood

Ever since my first crush on Disney’s Robin Hood I’ve been in love with animation. What can I say, the fox is…a fox. Who could resist a handsome archer who's ardently dedicated to the woman he loves and to the redistribution of wealth?

Whether it’s Disney, Pixar or Studio Ghibli, animation is storytelling unbound by time or reality, that transcends all ages and cultures.

When Bambi lost his mother in 1942, this gave mainstream animation the licence to tackle more provocative subjects. The latest Incredibles movie challenges stereotypical gender roles, Disney’s Zootopia is a reflection of racism and xenophobia, while Pixar’s Finding Dory helps audiences to grasp how terrifying it can be to live with a disability.

This capability to tackle sensitive subjects can introduce new audiences to the plight of minority and persecuted groups that we might otherwise find it difficult to relate to.

In 2008, Persepolis, a film based on the comic-book series by the Franco-Iranian artist Marjane Satrapi, told the story of a girl growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. More recently The Breadwinner, exec-produced by Angelina Jolie, is a film about life under the Taliban. Both films were nominated for an Academy Award and were notably written and directed by women.

All of these films are a progressive reflection of the world today. By abandoning the restraints of reality and releasing unapologetic imagination, these storytellers can take audiences places that only animation allows. And make a lot of money in the process.

This creative freedom and ability to connect with an audience makes it the perfect craft for the small screen too.

Anthropomorphising

We love to anthropomorphise animals. This tendency can be seen in our interaction with pets and in our obsession with cute animal videos. From Mickey Mouse to Tony the Tiger and the smoking jacket-wearing Russian meerkat Alexander Orlov, these characters have gained a human-like status. But it’s not just animals we’re humanising.

To launch the latest series of the Great British Bake Off, 4Creative has created another all-singing, all-dancing, all-baked stop-frame animation. An encore to the 2017 singing cakes, the latest trailer sees a host of imperfect baked goods come together for a heartfelt version of Christina Aguilera's 2002 hit "Beautiful."

We have a constant desire to anthropomorphise robots. The festive ad ‘Christmas 2117’ from MPC and the German Supermarket EDEKA looks into a future where AI is in control and humanity lives in the woods. When one bot discovers an old Christmas movie, it embarks on a mission to find out what makes Christmas so special.

Celebrity attraction

Partnering with a beloved character is much like partnering with a celebrity, except there’s less risk of them appearing in the tabloids. Brands have brought to life our childhood friends in a bid to ignite our nostalgic instincts and garner trust. When Halifax brought Top Cat and the Flintstones out of retirement in a bid to help convince the general public to switch banks, it divided opinion. Love or hate the ads, during the period they aired Halifax were topping TNS research stats for ‘Likability’ and ‘Recall’.

For its latest safety video, Turkish Airlines has teamed up with The Lego Movie franchise to parody the celebrity-filled films now universally adopted by its competitors. Emmett and Wyldstyle, the heroes of The Lego Movie, front the film and begin by explaining they're between acting roles. The final film was made using over two million Lego bricks.

In March Mother and Moneysupermarket.com debuted the Hasbro action figure Action Man as the new star of its ad campaign. Action Man is feeling "epic" after saving at Moneysupermarket. He abandons his post as soldier and begins dancing in the desert with his troops, finally stripping off his army uniform to reveal his famous blue underpants.

Simplifying complex ideas

Kurzgesagt, German for “in a nutshell”, is a design studio that creates animations to help us understand complex ideas. From string theory to homeopathy, black holes and robot rights, the animations last between five and ten minutes each, perfect for our time-poor, on-the-go lives. Brands and media companies have been using this same idea to help make multifaceted stories much more approachable and digestible for audiences.

VICE News likes to tell stories through animation in what it calls its graphic reports. Often illustrating complex news stories, the short films cover everything from North Korea to Uber vs Waymo. The latter video on the now-settled legal tussle between Google and Uber, was created for Vice's daily television news show. The issues of corporate wrongdoing, proprietary information and the self-driving industry have all been explained in a visually compelling animation.

How does a zoo raise awareness of serious issues such as conservation? By making the conversation fun and relevant for everyone, and by celebrating the greatness and interconnectivity of life. Natura Artis Magistra and the agency Part of a Bigger Plan created a beautiful animation for Amsterdam Royal Zoo to communicate their message to viewers of all ages.

Animated Embroidery

Just when it feels like everything is becoming digitised, it’s refreshing to see a trend that harks back to a traditional craft. Embroidery may not be totally free from the clutches of the machine, but the finished result is a more tangible product. These final examples use a mixture of animation techniques where unusually, each frame is an embroidered piece of fabric.

Blinkink director Nicos Livesey and The London Embroidery Studio worked with BBC Creative transform 227,000 meters of thread into 600+ frames of animated tapestry in this formidable launch spot for the BBC’s coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup from Russia. The idea will be fully realised in a real seven-metre long tapestry that will be on public display. Moments from this year’s competition will be added to the tapestry after the tournament’s completion, creating a historical record of the 2018 World Cup.

From Threat to Thread is a campaign from adidas and TBWA\NEBOKO to promote the FW18 UltraBoost Parley shoe. The shoe is made from a recycled plastic textile called Parley Ocean Plastic, which is created from plastic removed from the ocean. The embroidered animation also supports a global running event, Run for the Oceans, where adidas runners can contribute kilometres to a global goal to raise money and awareness to fight ocean pollution.

About the author

Kara Melchers, Managing Editor, BITE

Kara has editorial control over BITE, Creativebrief’s daily insight into global marketing trends and the cultural movements driving them. She runs BITE INSPIRE sessions in the UK and US, for brands including Virgin Atlantic, A.G. BARR, British Gas and Pepsico. She also presents at our BITE LIVE events series and industry festivals in London and New York. Get in touch if you’re working on an interesting project

kara.m@creativebrief.com